Nico Hilkenberg starts in Singapore in his 150’s. Grand Prix, still waiting for his first podium. That he is still one of the best pilots in the field, he can soon prove
Nico Hullkenberg has another dream before his 150. And it goes like this: At some point, the 31-year-old says smiling, he still enters his first podium, and then is celebrated. Then I’ll empty one of those big bottles. But until the last drop.”
The Renault pilot would have many stories to tell in Singapore before his anniversary on Sunday (14:10 o’clock MEZ/”RTL”). 150 races, that’s almost eight years in the king class of motor sports, that alone is a feat. But of course, almost everything now revolves around this bad record: No one has ever made so many rounds in Formula One without rewarding themselves with the podium once.
Meanwhile, Hullkenberg tells us with some routine about his emotional situation. Of course I would have liked to have won a race or stood on the podium,”he says,”but we all know the story. I think I have proved myself, and that is why I am still here.”
“Hulk”is often close to the podium
In fact, his statistics, which suggest ultimate unsuccessfulness, are in stark contrast to Hullkenberg’s status in the driver’s camp. The big blonde is considered one of the best pilots. In the midfield teams he showed consistently strong performances, only the runner up just lacks. In some races “Hulk” was very close to the podium, sometimes bad luck or mistakes built the way.
The jump to a top racing stadium failed here and there briefly, so he could never confirm his good reputation in the competition at very high level. But there is a new chance, because next year this competition will sort of come to him: Daniel Ricciardo switches from Red Bull to Renault. Ricciardo, seven-time racer, two-time WM-3rd and in the year 2014 clear winner in the team fight with the then world champion Sebastian Vettel.
The scene is already happy. Hilkenberg versus Ricciardo, which sounds like a very high-level comparison, and finally the performance of the German is put in proportion. With the exception of his rookie year, he was always in control of the respective teammates, including the highly esteemed Carlos Sainz Jr. and Sergio Perez. Ricciardo is another league.
More 75 races in planning
“It is a good opportunity to show what I have done over the years, at what level I am driving,” says Hullkenberg. The other possible course, however, sounds less enticing: a clear defeat in the team-building would put Hullkenberg’s entire past work in formula 1 in a different light.
But he does not want to make these thoughts. The news of Ricciardo’s change was “consistently positive. There is a different weight to the whole Renault project,”says Hullkenberg:”It shows how serious they mean it.”Finally, the workshop team wants to rebuild a winning and even titlable car by 2020.
It is worth waiting a little longer for the podium. Hullkenberg gives himself time. More 75 races,”he says,”I’m sure I will.”