Our top ten F1 drivers of 2013
Vettel might have run away with the title, but which drivers impressed TG this season?
Posted: 01 Jan 2014
3) Nico Hulkenberg
No wins, no podiums, no poles. Yet here's Hulkenberg third in the Top Gear Sunday Afternoon Club F1 Driver Rankings 2013. Which is the biggest thing he's won in three seasons in F1.
We all know the story now of how Lotus's financial pressures forced the team to sign Pastor Maldonado and not Hulkenberg. It's a portent of things to come in F1. If Hulkenberg can't get a drive on talent alone then who the hell can? And while four teams - Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes - can still afford to pay their drivers, few if any of the other teams can.
Maybe the new team the FIA has invited to apply for membership might help. Or maybe we do now need to reconsider customer teams? Would you rather see Hulkenberg back in a Force India, as you will in 2014, or in a second Ferrari team? We know what would make for better racing.
In four years The Hulk has now gone from Williams (where he qualified on pole in his last race) to a sabbatical to Force India (where he led his last race) to Sauber and now back to Force India. If those two Brazilian GP weekend performances hadn't shown the world the talent, then surely his drives this year in the reconfigured Sauber C32 Mk II did just that: Hulk out-qualified both Ferraris at Monza, and legitimately out-raced three world champions in Korea.
It's taken a while, but the F1 community finally seemed to understand that with Hulkenberg it has not only a prodigious, precocious talent (a Vettel, Schumacher, Hamilton etc...), but one that through adversity has also matured. Too late? Maybe so, but there might just be a seat at Ferrari in 2015. We can only hope Force India give Nico every chance to earn it in 2014. For everyone's sake, but especially for the sake of F1.