As if we didn’t already know it by now, Nico Hulkenberg has shown us again just how talented he is. If confounding expectations in Formula One was its own separate championship, Nico would be leading it by a lot more than Vettel’s paltry 53 points.
It was merely a pleasant result that Nico snagged third on the grid for the Italian Grand Prix. That’s fine. We know Monza can throw up some unusual results, so surprises are often unsurprising. What we, and I, did not expect, however, was for him to hold his own throughout the entire race. My goodness!
Nico made a lackluster start, fine. That was expected in a midfield car. The pressure to hold position maybe got the better of him. But he stayed with the leaders, if you discount Vettel and his god-like speed, and showed just how truly talented he is.
What I found most compelling about his drive today, though, was his pace in the closing laps. With about 12 laps of the race to go, Nico was valiantly defending from Nico Rosberg in a much faster car. That was a job in and of itself. But the way he closed down a six second gap to Felipe Massa in the small amount of time he had was staggering. The Ferrari was supposed to be even faster than the Mercedes, which was already troubling the Sauber anyways.
So, Nico is the best young talent in the field today. That much is glaringly obvious. What is less so, is the reason as to why he is at Sauber. You can site the team’s 2012 performances as the selling point, but Nico knows, just like any midfield driver, that results in a midfield team are sporadic at best. There is often no way of telling when results are just a one-off, or if they are the new norm. Nico knows that all too well.
When he left Williams at the end of 2010, he left a team that had just secured 6th place in the constructors’ championship. He had just achieved his first pole position in the most spectacular fashion possible, and he was getting better and better with every race. Sure, Maldonado’s millions were the deciding factor in the team’s 2011 lineup, but it must have been a hard decision for the team to make. I guess it was lucky he got out of there quickly, for we all know what 2011 was like for Williams.
At Force India in 2012, Nico was resting his hopes on a repeat of the team’s surge in performance in 2011, when they almost overhauled Renault (now Lotus) for 5th in the Constructors’ championship. 2012 proved less fruitful in terms of championship position, but the way Nico composed himself as he led the Brazilian Grand Prix (on sheer skill alone) was mind boggling.
He then moved to Sauber hoping, just hoping, that podiums would be on the cards every weekend in 2013. The opposite proved true, and Nico has been fighting an uphill battle every weekend this season.
His fifth place finish, on merit, in Italy is an even truer measure of his talent than his 2010 pole position on Brazil or the way he led that same race last season. Nico is a real talent that deserves a top ride more than anyone else in the field.
That much is clear; very, very clear.
Tell me what you think!