One To Watch: Nico Hulkenberg

One To WatchPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Nico H???lkenberg, F3 Euroseries, 2007 | F3 Euroseries“I can say that the boy has an unbelievable talent. So much about him already reminds me of Michael Schumacher.”

Who’s this talking? Michael Schumacher’s manager, Willi Weber.

And what potential star of the future is he pushing? Nico Hulkenberg.

A new generation of German drivers are following in Schumacher’s footsteps. Already this year Adrian Sutil, Markus Winkelhock and Sebastian Vettel have made their Grand Prix debuts. And Hulkenberg is next in line to follow them.

He was born in Emmerich, Germany on August 19th, 1987 – so he’s still a teenager for three more days!

At the age of 15 he won the German Junior Kart Championship and in 2003 he became German Kart Champion. He remained in the series for another season, finishing second overall.

After another year in the German Kart Championship, in which he finished second, Hulkenberg stepped up to the German Formula BMW championship in 2005 and won it first time.

He also finished first in the Formula BMW world final – but was demoted to third after the stewards decided he had brake-tested other drivers during a safety car period. Vastly talented and controversial? Sounds like Schumacher to me.

Formula Three followed but Hulkenberg entered the German series in 2006 rather than the more prestigious European championship. He ended the year fifth, winning once at the Hockenheimring, but not scoring any further wins after a mid-season switch from the Dallara to the new Ligier chassis.

Nico H???lkenberg, F3 Euroseries, Zandvoort, 2007 | F3 EuroseriesHulkenberg came of age in the second A1 Grand Prix championship in the winter of 2006-07. He started all but two races for the German team, and the outfit that finished 15th in 2005-06 were champions thanks to Hulkenberg’s nine victories. He collected the winner’s trophy from Michael Schumacher!

He returned to Formula Three for 2007, stepping up to the Euroseries with champions ASM. But it’s been a year of inspiration and exasperation in equal measure.

He was second in the season opener at Hockenheim, sensationally won at the Norisring from 18th on the grid and added another fine win in the wet at Zandvoort.

But he crashed out of the first Norisring race, was penalised at Magny-Cours for passing the chequered flag twice in qualifying and collided with Filip Salaquarda in the race.

With eight races to go he is fifth in the championship, 41 points behind team mate and championship leader Romain Grosjean. But Hulkenberg took an important win in the prestigious, non-championship Masters of Formula 3 race at Zolder.

Can he end his season on a high? Weber is certainly expecting him to. He reckons: “If everything goes to plan Nico should be ready for Formula One in 2008.”

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Photos: F3 Euroseries