The lowdown on Nico Hulkenberg
2017: 10th. Born: 19/8/1987.
Will Nico Hulkenberg finally end his long wait for a podium place this year?
For someone as talented as “the Hulk”, it’s proving a tough barrier to smash.
The German driver has started a record 135 grands prix without a top-three finish, and has yet to fulfil the promise that earned him a stunning pole in Brazil in his debut season with Williams in 2010.
A natural winner in the juniors, under the guidance of Michael Schumacher's legendary manager Willi Weber, Hulkenberg ranks alongside Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton as the only racer to claim the GP2 title in their rookie season.
However, he was dropped after one season by Williams soon after winning a shock pole position in Brazil, having managed just seven top-10 finishes in 2010.
Hulkenberg had to take a reserve role at Force India, where his impressive Friday practice form secured a 2012 race seat.
He improved to 11th overall, with a fourth-placing in Belgium, but, unable to secure a top drive, Hulkenberg moved sideways to Sauber, where after a tough start to the season, he had a similarly solid season and ended up ninth -- fourth this time at the Korean Grand Prix.
He had seemed in consideration for a step up to Lotus but the deal never materialised, perhaps in part to Hulkenberg’s taller frame, meaning a switch back to Force India.
Alongside Sergio Perez, he helped propel the Silverstone-based team up the grid with his continuing mid-table performances -- ninth, 10th and ninth -- and enjoyed success as part of the Porsche team that won the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Hulkenberg joined Renault in 2017, and his first season was another middling affair as he finished 10th overall, suffering a run of four retirements in five races. However, he ended with eight top-10 finishes – two of them coming after the late-season arrival of Carlos Sainz Jr from Toro Rosso.
With Renault aiming for more reliability this season, the duo are expected to give the team a chance of battling for fourth place with the French manufacturer’s new engine-client McLaren, among others.
And, of course, they have the big incentive of a home race as the French Grand Prix returns to the calendar after a 10-year absence.