Last month Nico Hulkenberg found out that Renault would not be retaining his services for 2020, as the French manufacturer signed Esteban Ocon, so what is next for the German’s career?
When Hulkenberg arrived in Formula 1, he was the new, impressive hot-shot, and many expected him to one day challenge for victories and world championships after such an impressive junior career, but that never materialised.
In his 10 year Formula 1 career Hulkenberg has achieved one pole position and has scored 505 points, but has never made it on to the podium – despite team-mates of his doing so – and holds the unfortunate record of most race starts without a top-three finish.
Despite this, he has proven to be a strong, reliable driver, who makes few mistakes, and will bring a consistent points haul home for his team over the course of a season.
Although Renault have decided to change direction with their driver line-up for next year, it doesn’t necessarily mean Hulkenberg’s Formula 1 career is over, and there are a number of options still available to him if he wants to remain on the grid next season.
Haas is the obvious move for Hulkenberg to make if he wants to remain on the Formula 1 grid for 2020.
Although the team have had a difficult year, they have shown that they are capable of preparing a points scoring car, and last season they regularly found themselves in the top ten.
Haas appear to be growing tired of Romain Grosjean’s lacklustre performances and Hulkenberg would be an ideal choice for them, a view backed up by Haas Team Principal Gunther Steiner, who has confirmed that Hukenberg is under consideration to partner Kevin Magnussen at the team next year.
It would be an interesting line-up if Hulkenberg were to move to Haas, as it is a well known fact that
he and Magnussen do not get on, but both drivers have already said they would have no issue working with each other, and the German would be a good benchmark for Magnussen to prove his speed having completely out-shone Grosjean in their three seasons together.
Of all the options on the table, this would be the strongest option for Hulkenberg if he wants to remain a regular points scorer in the championship and keep his career intact for a few more years.
Alfa Romeo is another option for Hulkenberg to consider as Antonio Giovinazzi has not been overly convincing over the course of the year.
Kimi Raikkonen has shown that the Alfa can be a points scorer on a good day, and a Raikkonen / Hulkenberg line-up would be a great coup for the Italian/Swiss team.
The only sticking point is that Alfa would need to consult Ferrari on their driver line-up, as the Scuderia looks to place their junior drivers in the Alfa team as part of their development.
But at this stage, there is nobody in the Ferrari Academy that would be ready to make the jump to Formula 1, with Callum Illott, Mick Schumacher and Giuliano Alesi out of F2 title contention.
If Hulkenberg were to join Alfa, he may find himself towards the lower end of the grid more often than he would like, but it would be a brilliant line-up for a team currently in the process of re-building in order to move themselves further up the grid.
Hulkenberg could also consider Williams for 2020, but with the difficulties that the Grove team are
going through at the moment, it is questionable whether it would be a great move for the German or even if he would be interested.
Although Williams are hoping to make a big step forward next season, it would be a tall order for them to suddenly become regular points scorers once again, and a return to the team that gave Hulkenberg his sole pole position would unlikely to be a fairytale return that some would hope for.
Williams would no doubt love to have Hullkenberg back at the team, and his partnership with Russell would no doubt help the team to no ends, having two drivers capable of fighting each other, with Robert Kubica currently lagging behind his teammate by some margin at every race.
As unlikely as it sounds, could it happen?
Red Bull have found themselves in a tight spot with drivers recently, having ditched Gasly for Albon, and although Albon has had two respectable races in difficult circumstances with his new team, he is yet to light up the team in the same way that Max Verstappen did when he joined the team.
The Milton Keynes team won’t be expecting Albon to be as quick as Verstappen, especially as it is so early in his career, but if he cannot perform better than Gasly over the remaining races then it does pose a question about who they take on next season.
And there is Hulkenberg’s opportunity for 2020. He is a known quantity, especially as he has performed well this season against former Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, and he could provide the stability that Red Bull desire right now.
The move would also provide Hulkenberg with his final opportunity to break his podium duck and finally have a crack at the big time!