Dec 2, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT
It seems unfathomable that another Formula One silly season will come to pass without Nico Hulkenberg making the jump from a midfield squad to a perennial contender, but with Pastor Maldonado having been confirmed at Lotus on Friday, that appears to be the case.
Still, with three full seasons complete at three different teams –Hulkenberg has never raced for the same team in successive seasons – it does beg the question whether there is something abnormal at play.
Or, alternatively, Hulkenberg could just be the latest talented midfield driver who appears perpetually stuck there. It’s just that Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus would seem to have had their chance to secure his services in the last two years, and have gone different directions.
Hulkenberg was dumped by Williams after his rookie campaign in 2010, incidentally, for Maldonado. That led to a year’s testing with Force India before a race seat in 2012. Again, he outperformed Paul di Resta, and was thanked with a pink slip before switching laterally to Sauber for 2013. But his bridge may be burned there because of his wanting to investigate his options with other teams, and Lotus has now gone for Maldonado’s millions instead of talent. Hulkenberg has scored points in 28 of 58 career races (48.28 percent), while Maldonado is just 7/58 (12.07%).
The Williams and Lotus situations were understandable purely from a financial standpoint, but Hulkenberg’s being passed over by McLaren – twice – and Ferrari is very strange when you consider he’d be worth the long-term investment from both a points-scoring standpoint and a potential team leader standpoint.
McLaren went with Sergio Perez first, and now rookie Kevin Magnussen, for 2014. The Magnussen move makes sense because he’s a McLaren Junior driver and has excelled in his simulator work and first two F1 tests. If he progresses as quickly as the team expects, they’ll have made a wise choice. Additionally, McLaren didn’t have anywhere to place him among teams which they might share a technical partnership, so that opened the door at the iconic team itself.
Ferrari is more puzzling. No one doubt’s Kimi Raikkonen’s ability or his laconic, “don’t give a-you-know-what” attitude. What one would doubt is Ferrari investing in its future, and while Raikkonen is an excellent short-term prospect for the next two or three years, Ferrari may have missed its shot at bringing Hulkenberg in and, crucially, keeping him away from other squads that could hurt them in the future.
Ferrari though has rarely gone the “bold” route on the driver front. They’ve largely stuck by “their guys,” and it was a theory that cost them dearly when neither Luca Badoer nor Giancarlo Fisichella was able to get anything out of the car in substitute roles in 2009. Felipe Massa, for all the good he did for Ferrari, had dented confidence after the 2010 German Grand Prix fiasco and was never able to regain the consistent spark or form he showed in his first three seasons with the team.
The relative stagnation for the top teams in the driver market, though, has meant that we haven’t seen the same number of young talents rise from the midfield into a top seat. Red Bull, when given the opportunity, has promoted from within: Sebastian Vettel and now Daniel Ricciardo are Toro Rosso graduates making the leap to the “Mothership.” And Ricciardo jumped from HRT to Toro Rosso to begin with; that’s not exactly going from Sauber to Ferrari.
Other than Maldonado and Perez, you’d have to go back to Nico Rosberg, moving from Williams to Mercedes in 2010, as the last real example of a midfield driver moving up to an opportunity in a top squad. And even in that case, Williams has a historic pedigree, but isn’t what you would call a “tail-ender” of a team. Prior to that, you could argue Mark Webber going from Jaguar to Williams before 2005 was the last real “midfield to top” jump.
Consider Alonso started with Minardi in 2001. Raikkonen and Massa began with Sauber in 2001 and 2002, respectively. And that’s really it for the current grid as far as “midfield drivers advancing into top teams later in their careers.”
Lewis Hamilton? Nurtured by McLaren, now with Mercedes. Jenson Button never really raced with a “midfield team,” but did race with Benetton/Renault and BAR/Honda when they weren’t great. Romain Grosjean’s been with Lotus in two different guises. Meanwhile Red Bull has its factory of four drivers on the 2014 grid. But Hulkenberg? Di Resta? Adrian Sutil? Perez again? All resigned to the midfield, it seems.
Few would argue Hulkenberg, along with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Marussia’s Jules Bianchi are the “stars-in-waiting” of F1’s new generation of drivers that have already proven themselves in less than top machinery. But until they get their shot at the big teams, we can only imagine what they could do.
On the bright side, at least these drivers have made it into F1 without needing huge commercial budgets. Meanwhile drivers like Sam Bird, Robin Frijns, Luca Filippi, Davide Valsecchi, Fabio Leimer and Luiz Razia appear to have had their F1 chance pass them by.
WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 6:30 p.m. ET — Steve Letarte, Tennessee racing history, Truck race highlights
Aug 21, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT
Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, which airs LIVE at 6:30 pm ET, will cover a lot of ground, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. crew chief (and future NASCAR on NBC analyst) Steve Letarte, breaking down and the history of Bristol Motor Speedway and lots more.
Aug 21, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Russian Grand Prix set to be held in Sochi in six weeks’ time after the track is given a license.
Aug 21, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
Catch this sneak preview of Off The Grid: Budapest ahead of tomorrow’s premiere.
Aug 21, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
As impressive as many of F1’s new builds are, we must remember the likes of Spa and Monza when looking to the future of the sport.
Aug 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Ferrari’s lead driver has high hopes for the second half of the season.
Aug 21, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
The MST writing team makes its predictions ahead of this weekend’s race at Spa.
Aug 21, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT
Hard as it may seem to believe, Brad Keselowski had never won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in his career. That was before Thursday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol, where Keselowski dominated en route to the checkered flag.
Aug 21, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT
Finnish driver yet to be confirmed at Williams for 2015, but sees no reason to look elsewhere for a seat.
Aug 21, 2014, 11:20 AM EDT
All your TV times for F1, IndyCar, Red Bull Global Rallycross and more for this weekend’s motorsports action across NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.
Aug 21, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT
Chilton benched whilst his contractual issues are resolved, allowing Rossi to become the first American since Scott Speed in 2007 to race in a grand prix.
Aug 21, 2014, 10:17 AM EDT
The rescheduled UNOH 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway is underway Thursday morning.
Aug 21, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Three-time Le Mans winner to make his F1 debut with Caterham this weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Aug 21, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Sauber driver is open to the idea of a 17-year-old racing in F1, and hopes to be on the grid with him next season.
Aug 21, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Compared to F1 hopefuls and/or retreads, seeing a relative outsider in Andre Lotterer make his debut this weekend is a welcome change of pace.
Aug 21, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
After a three-week summer break, what better way to welcome Formula 1 back than with the Belgian Grand Prix?
Aug 20, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT
Wednesday’s UNOH 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway has been postponed due to heavy rain and lightning. The race has been rescheduled to 10 am ET on Thursday morning, weather permitting.
Aug 20, 2014, 8:52 PM EDT
Heavy rain showers coupled with occasional lightning are delaying Wednesday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Aug 20, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, we looked at the struggles Jimmie Johnson and his team have had over much of the last six weeks.
Aug 20, 2014, 7:24 PM EDT
On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, in the continuing absence of Tony Stewart this weekend at Bristol, it was announced that Jeff Burton will drive in his place for the second week in a row.
Aug 20, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT
Kyle Busch (who else) earned the No. 1 qualifying position Wednesday afternoon for this evening’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Video from NASCAR America
- After 62 starts, Brad Keselowski finally earns first career Trucks win at Bristol 0
- F1, IndyCar, Red Bull GRC highlight jam-packed motorsports weekend on networks of NBC 0
- Alexander Rossi to make F1 debut in Belgium, replaces Chilton 5
- It’s official: Tony Stewart to miss Bristol race, Jeff Burton to once again drive No. 14 5
- When — or will — Tony Stewart ever race again? 14
- Andre Lotterer confirmed for Caterham debut at Spa 6
- NASCAR: Joe Gibbs hopeful for eventual return of Tony Stewart 12