F1 2015 Driver Review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Sahara Force India F1 Team
Car No.: 27
Races: 18
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 6th (Austria, Japan, Brazil)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 58
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 10th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

That elusive podium failed to materialize for Nico Hulkenberg once again in 2015. The German driver has long been tipped as one of the most underrated drivers in Formula 1, yet he failed to live up to that billing this year.

Force India had its troubles that of course did not aid Hulkenberg’s efforts. The 2015 car only debuted at the final winter test in Barcelona, and it wasn’t until the British Grand Prix at Silverstone that the B-spec model arrived.

However, Hulkenberg didn’t enjoy the same upsurge in form that teammate Sergio Perez did. The fact that his highest finish of the year was sixth is indicative of that, as is the fact that he rarely went challenge en route to these finishes. He picked up big points on weekends when Force India was comfortably fourth-quickest; rarely did he out-perform the ability of the car in the second half of the year.

And yet 2015 will still go down as an astonishing year for Hulkenberg. His victory on debut at Le Mans stole the headlines, and it’s a shame he will not be able to defend his title next year. One can only hope that he makes good on the early promise of his career and finally, finally, ends that inexplicable podium drought.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Strange year for the “Hulk.” His best result came in a new discipline and I’m not sure whether to correlate the lack of results in his day job, especially by comparison to Sahara Force India teammate Sergio Perez, with the switch in machinery and re-adapting back to F1 after his 24 Hours of Le Mans win co-driving with Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber in the Porsche 919 Hybrid.

Hulkenberg beat Perez on a more regular basis in the 2014 chassis, prior to the introduction of the B-spec chassis from Silverstone that, coincidentally or not, came after Le Mans.

As it was, Hulkenberg was mired in a rut from Hungary through Austin where he failed to finish five of seven races in a single span. Three respectable points finishes at least ended his year on a productive note. On the whole though, for a driver who has traditionally outperformed his machinery and tended to end seasons on a roll, it was a largely anonymous season.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III