Born: 19th August 1987
Birthplace: Emmerich, Germany
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Nico Hulkenberg’s ascent through the ranks of junior motorsport began on the German karting scene.
He won the German Junior Kart Championship aged 15 and followed that up with victory in the German Kart Championship in 2003. After another year in the German Kart Championship, in which he finished second, Hulkenberg made the transition to motor racing.
It was a successful move – he won the German Formula BMW championship at the first time of asking in 2005. But after finishing first in the Formula BMW world final he was demoted to third after the stewards decided he had brake-tested other drivers during a safety car period.
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.
Hulkenberg enjoyed a successful winter campaign in the second A1 Grand Prix championship in 2006-07. He started all but two races for the German team, and the outfit that finished 15th in the previous season became champions thanks to Hulkenberg’s nine victories.
He returned to Formula Three for 2007, stepping up to the Euroseries with champions ASM. It was 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.
In 2008 he returned to the F3 Euroseries while also joining Williams as a test driver. Hulkenberg won the title this time, and moved up to GP2 with his ART team.
At the start of 2009 Hulkenberg was the first driver to test Williams’ new FW30. He also impressed during the off-season with two appearances in GP2 Asia double-headers, setting pole position in both qualifying sessions and winning at Qatar in only his third start – stretching out a huge 45-second lead at one point.
He moved up to the GP2 main series with ART and after taking a few races to settle in he reeled off three wins in a row and rapidly ascended the championship order. He was already ahead of Grosjean in the championship when his closest rival graduated to F1 with Renault. By the end of the season Hulkenberg had become the first rookie to win the championship since Lewis Hamilton, with 100 points to Vitaly Petrov’s 75.
Williams promoted him to their race team for 2010. Hulkenberg’s maiden season went well, and in the second half of the year he was often in the hunt for points.
But his pole position at Interlagos in a damp qualifying session came as a complete shock. Hulkenberg produced two laps quicker than the best effort of the next-fastest qualifier.
Despite having put a Williams on the front of the grid for the first time in five years, it wasn’t enough for Hulkenberg to keep his place at the team. He was in favour of Pastor Maldonado, Hulkenberg’s successor as GP2 champion.
Hulkenberg moved to Force India as the team’s reserve driver, participating in most of the Friday morning practice sessions.
At the end of the year the team confirmed he would race for them in 2012.
Hulkenberg made steady progress after returning to a race seat in 2012.
His season culminated in another bravura performance at Interlagos, where he led for 30 laps in the same kind of mixed conditions he had excelled in two years earlier. He eventually lost the lead and spun into Lewis Hamilton.
This fifth place capped a strong end to the season which included fourth place in Belgium and stand-out drives in India and Korea. Even before his excellent performance in Brazil he had been signed up by Sauber for 2013.
Hulkenberg was signed by Sauber to join the team in 2013.
Nico Hulkenberg latest articles
- Hulkenberg returns to Force India for 2014
- Sauber fined for incorrect radio message
- “We punched above our weight” – Hulkenberg
- Weight no issue for picking 2014 driver – Boullier
- Hulkenberg hails “one of my best races”
- McLaren move in 2014 unrealistic, says Hulkenberg
- Hulkenberg surprised by race pace
- Half-day for Hulkenberg at Silverstone test
- Hulkenberg: Sauber problems “a difficult situation”
- Hulkenberg expects Sauber to do better in Monaco
Images © Force India F1 Team, Williams/LAT