When I told my brother that Nico Hulkenberg was moving from Force India to Sauber his immediate reaction was to question this decision. “What’s the point in that?!” he exclaimed in utter disbelief. My brother may not be Formula 1 literate but does he have a point?
In the last few years Nico has repeatedly switched teams. Starting at Williams, Nico then spent a year as Force India’s reserve driver before the team’s decision to replace Adrian Sutil. This may not seem particularly crucial but relationships and continuity with a team can help the car being adapted appropriately for a driver’s style and needs.
Furthermore Force India themselves, although perhaps in a moment of bitterness, did express their thoughts on his move. The Silverstone based team believes that the untapped potential of Force India and the rewards that come from significant improvements, will be missed. After all, Force India did have a stronger finish than Sauber despite losing out to them in constructors championship.
Looking further ahead into the German’s future it is hard to pin him to a particular team. He does not belong to a Young Drivers Academy and does not have specific contacts with any of the top four teams. This is unlike his peers: Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean to name but a few.
However I have told my brother that perhaps this decision isn’t a surprise after all. His pole in a disappointing Williams helped him to fully boast his talent and credentials to the grid. That same year, Hulkenberg was not intimidated by his vastly more experienced team mate Rubens Barrichello.
Perhaps a repetition of that pole position was exactly what the German was looking for and to no avail. Podium positions from both Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez has almost certainly enticed him to a team that has close connections to Ferrari. Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikonnen have both driven for Sauber before their own stints at the coveted Italian team.
Just remember one thing: Nico may have a brilliant start, as is the Sauber way, but their performance level may drop as a lack of funding and subsequent updates make sustaining this pace extremely difficult.
Oh and before you ask my brother’s reaction to this answer was a mere shrug. I think he may have stopped listening half way through!
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