In the 2019 Formula 1 season, Renault finished fifth on the Constructor Standings. With 91 points, they finished well ahead of strong midfield teams like Racing Point (73) and were competing for interesting scraps with the likes of the vastly-improved McLaren (145 points in 2019 season). But of Renault’s 91 points, Daniel Ricciardo was alone responsible for driving home 54. His teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, among the most admired talents from Germany to the highest-annals of Grand Prix racing as also among the most polarising figures collected only 37.
But from the onset of the 2017 season until the end of 2018, a period of time in which the Renault resurgent was marked by a string of respectable and consistent finishes, the ‘Hulk’ didn’t allow his teammate to usurp him on the points table. In this period, he finished as the strongman for the French racing team with the only exception being 2019 where Daniel outscored him.
A driver with great experience and noted race-craft, Nico Hulkenberg has often found himself at the epicenter of tectonic developments in teams he’s been a part of. For instance, Racing Point; the then-Sahara Force India; an outfit for whom he played a solid hand, the team looking on the driver who began with Williams as the stable figurehead to lead the team to a point of respectability in Formula 1.
Yet, 10 years into the highest level of Grand Prix racing, with several impressive performances that earned him respect, if there’s a thing that’s eluded him all this while then it’s that podium finish in Formula 1. No one but Nico Hulkenberg owns the record for the most races completed in the sport without a podium finish and it’s not the easiest of records to hold- right?
How can it be when the person behind the bittersweet F1 journey is one of the nicest men on the grid, someone with whom none have reportedly had any issues whether on and off the track.
It’s the quiet enigmatic presence that Nico Hulkenberg has carved for himself as a nice racer but one who still searches for triumph that’s has birthed the underdog image for him, one that Daniel Ricciardo offered some thoughts on.
So the question is, what did the man behind the most beautiful smile in Formula 1 have to say about his former teammate?
Speaking to the media recently on the question whether Nico Hulkenberg is still the most undersung driver in the sport, the Perth-born driver, currently racing with Renault shared that it may be so, but not amid the drivers or the paddock, and only in public!
“We drivers know exactly how good he is. At the beginning at Renault, he was faster than me, no question. But once I got used to the new team, I was able to challenge him. But it was clear to me from the start that it wouldn’t be easy for me!”
Daniel, as a matter of fact, is noted to be among the nicest men on the grid, always affable and kind on his assessment of drivers with whom he competes for the top step of the podium. One could say, the Nico-Daniel pairing in Formula 1 may have been a particularly interesting one in that in a space of a single season, the duo lifted Renault to a position of mid-field prominence, despite not having the best car a year back on the grid in the yellow livery. Yet, it was for a painfully small amount of time that one got to see the German paired with the Australian driver.