F1 Silly Season Could Still Leave Nico Hulkenberg Out in the Cold

Nico Hulkenberg, with two top-10 finishes as a substitute F1 driver in the coronavirus season of 2020, is not counting on a full-time Formula 1 seat next year.

There’s simply too many drivers seeking too few seats, and some teams might not see the upside in hiring a 33-year-old driver who has already had his shot.

Hukenberg has shined in his three substitute drives for Racing Point in 2020 and has become this year’s top substitute. He finished seventh at the 70th Anniversary GP at Silverstone and eighth this past week in a reserve role at Nurburgring. That role, however, is not his goal for 2021, even if the coronavirus means there are more opportunities for a reserve driver to pinch hit and actually get in the race.

“Sometimes they want you, sometimes they don’t,” Hulkenberg told German media outlet Auto Motor und Sport. “Basically, a regular seat is my priority.”

back to #hulkenback @RacingPointF1 @F1 pic.twitter.com/WvLsYW54Xf

Hulkenberg was called on just before the qualifying session for the F1 Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring to replace an ill Lance Stroll. While Hulkenberg qualified last, he turned heads with an eighth-place finish. However, the German says the effort has not turned into a firm offer for a 2021 seat.

“Unfortunately, it was the same after Silverstone too,” he said. “Maybe Formula 1 has enough quality drivers and doesn’t need me anymore. I’m still here, but it’s a process that has been going on for a long time. There is an oversupply of drivers.”

Seats that might be open include the two seats at Haas, as neither Romain Grosjean nor Kevin Magnussen are locked in for 2021. Perez, along with a trio of Ferrari juniors now in Formula 2, including Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman, have been mentioned as possibles there.

Alfa Romeo would also surprise no one if it traded in current drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Gioninazzi for some new talent. Schumacher’s name has been been regularly tied to this team in recent weeks.

A wildcard is Red Bull, which does not seem committed to Alex Albon. Perez and Hulkenberg have both been mentioned for that seat.

It’s not like Hulkenberg hasn’t has his shot at F1. Some might say has time has passed and that younger drivers have more upside and come at a cheaper price.

Hulkenberg, who has yet to reach the podium in 179 career F1 starts, knows the sport doesn’t owe him a ride. His best career finish in the season standings was seventh for Renault in 2018. His two points finishes in two starts (car issues kept him from one of the races earlier this season at Silverstone) have him 15th in the 2020 standings, which is ahead of F1 regulars Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Magnussen, Nicholas Latifi and George Russell.

“I’m very happy with the result and it was great to play a part in the team moving up into P3 in the Constructors’ Championship,” Hulkenberg said after Sunday’s race. “Obviously, there’s still a long way to go in the season, but I wish the team all the best in the coming races.”

OK, you be the F1 team boss. Would you want Nico Hulkenberg for one of your seats in 2021? Or, would you rather take on one of the up-and-coming stars from F2? Join in the discussion in the comments below;

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