Hulkenberg: 'Part of me is excited about closing this chapter'

Nico Hulkenberg will be absent from F1’s grid next season, but the ousted Renault driver admits that part of him is looking forward to a year away from motorsport’s furor and commotion.

Hulkenberg was forced into an unwilling retreat when Renault decided to bring Esteban Ocon back into the fray and when the few alternatives that remained thereafter for the German driver – specifically Haas and Alfa Romeo – failed to materialize.

After nine seasons and 177 Grand Prix starts, it’s an abrupt end for the 32-year-old, or perhaps it’s just a pause? Time will tell.

Regardless, the Hulk heads into the new year without a drive, but nevertheless feeling a sense of “excitement” for whatever may be on the horizon.

“Yes, I won’t be on the grid next year, but it doesn’t feel like the end,” he said, speaking to Formula 1’s Lawrence Baretto.

“2020 holds a lot more spare time for me, less travelling, Part of me is excited about that, closing this chapter of my life.

“It’s going to be a different schedule and rhythm next year, not having to go through the pre-season routine, winter testing, going to Australia. It’s going to be different.

“Part of me looks forward to that different life with more freedom. You do what you want, when you want.

“I want to take a good couple of months to myself to disconnect, take a step back, see where my interests take me, where the fire is, and then see if there are possibilities somewhere out there.

“It is exciting, that uncertainty, but I feel maybe the break will do me good.”

Looking past Hulkenberg’s unenviable record in F1 as the driver who started the most races without ever achieving a podium finish, the German will be remembered as a solid, consistent racer who was denied the big break many believe his talent deserved.

However, his longevity in the sport is more than a mere consolation according to the man himself.

“I started to chase the dream of F1 when I was seven years old and if someone told me back then you’ll have a 10-year career, I would have said you were crazy but I would have taken it,” he said.

“It’s good, I’m pleased. I’m okay with it. I’ve been pretty reliable and consistent in midfield teams. I don’t need to hide.”

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Hulkenberg feels final race 'could have been really good'

Nico Hulkenberg crossed the finish line in Abu Dhabi feeling good about his final outing with Renault, although the German believed that circumstances had deprived him of a points finish.

Hulkenberg’s first stint on the soft tyre saw him maintain his position among the top ten and trailing McLaren’s Lando Norris and teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

The German moved up the order when the pit stop rotations kicked off but lost time in the latter part of his first stint when he was passed by the charging Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas who had had started on the back row of the grid.

Unfortunately, the lost ground allowed Norris to undercut the Renault driver when the latter switched to the medium tyre, the McLaren hampering Hulkenberg’s pace thereafter.

“It could have been really good actually,” Hulkenberg said after the race.

“If it hadn’t been for Bottas who kind of overtook me too early, that made me lose two seconds. That’s where I missed to get ahead of Lando after my stop.

“If I would have had that position and clean air, I could have pulled off a great strategy. Going long on the soft would have really paid off, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible.

“Then I was 40 laps in his dirty air and that just eats tyres. The pace was very high.”

The closing laps saw Carlos Sainz and Ricciardo catch up with Hulkenberg and overhaul the German during the final round.

“Carlos and Daniel were pushing on from behind so there was no time to rest and save tyres so it was quite intense. And at the end we just paid the price.

“The tyres degraded and I couldn’t hang on to that P10.”

Despite the pointless run, the Hulk was left with a positive overview of his final outing with Renault an assessment shared by F1’s fans who awarded the ‘Driver of the Day’ accolade to the German.

“It was a worthy final race for me with the team,” he said. “I crossed the line with good feelings.

“It’s been three good years with them and we’ve grown very close like a family.

“I’m grateful and thankful towards them for all the highs and lows we’ve had together and I wish them every success for the future.”

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Hulkenberg ‘relieved that it’s all over’

Nico Hulkenberg has stated his relief at reaching the end of what could be his last season in Formula 1.

The German finished his last race with Renault in P12 after losing positions to Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo on the final lap.

He has no drive for 2020, so that could be the last time we see Hulkenberg in F1, but the 32-year-old is just “relieved” that it’s all over.

“I’m kind of relieved that it’s all over, when everyone talks about it you keep getting those questions and comments,” he told Sky Sports.

“It’s obviously a little bit tense, a strange feeling, but happy that I’ve done a good race, thrown everything at it when I could.

“It was a shame not to get that point in the end, but the one-stop was hard to pull off, and at the end my tyres were just degrading too much and I couldn’t hang on to it.

“But still I thought it was a positive race where the pace was good and we were in the fight, but unfortunately some of the others had an advantage on strategy, and always driving in traffic is really hard.

“A worthy final race for me, happy, relieved to cross the line with good feelings.

“Saying thank you to the team, three years over, good, not fantastic years, but still it was cool and fun at times. We had highs and lows together, but definitely I have to say thank you to them.”

Despite failing to take a win or podium, Hulkenberg became a respected veteran of the paddock, and he was unable to single out a best memory from his career.

“There are so many situations, it’s a hell of an environment to grow up in as a young adult, very unique and very special,” he explained.

“I’m happy and grateful for my time here, met amazing people, made amazing friends and memories, and I’ll look back at it with a smile on my face.”

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Hulkenberg: It’s been three memorable years at Renault

The curtain will fall on Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault career in Abu Dhabi this weekend and both parties are determined to achieve the “best possible result” at the season finale.

Hulkenberg has spent the last three seasons with the French manufacturer, but they have opted to go with a Daniel Ricciardo-Esteban Ocon partnership for the 2020 season.

The German won’t be on the grid next year as Williams are the only team who have a seat open, but he has ruled out a return to his former team.

With his motorsport future up in the air, Hulkenberg wants to end his Renault career on a high.

“It’s been three memorable years for me at Renault. There have been highs and lows, but I’ve enjoyed my time as a driver here,” he said.

“We’ve had some great results and some ‘nearly’ moments, all of which I’ll remember for a very long time. I’d like to thank everyone at the team including my engineers and mechanics for all their effort over the last 61 races.

“We have one more to go and we’ll be giving it our all for the best possible result.”

Hulkenberg, who partnered Jolyon Palmer, Carlos Sainz and Ricciardo during his three seasons with the team, brought stability to Renault with team principal Cyril Abiteboul saying he played an “instrumental role” in their journey.

“[Nico’s] contribution has been instrumental in our reconstruction and progression,” he said.

“We have harnessed his experience and ability to deliver strong results and he has played an important role in Renault’s Formula 1 journey. We want to ensure we end our time together with the best result possible.”

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Hulkenberg: I don’t feel I am leaving F1

Nico Hulkenberg may not have a seat on next year’s F1 grid but he says he doesn’t feel as if he is leaving the sport and will grab any opportunity the presents itself.

Hulkenberg has yet to announce details about his 2020 plans after missing out on a Formula 1 race seat.

The German was left in need of a new job when Renault announced that they were going with Esteban Ocon as Daniel Ricciardo’s new team-mate.

Next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will, at least for now, be Hulkenberg’s final race in Formula 1.

The 32-year-old will record his 177th start, which at present does not include a single podium.

“No regrets,” he said to Autosport.

“Of course I’ve done mistakes, like we all do sometimes that I would have liked to avoid, a few moves or things I’d do differently now, but that’s always easy to say with hindsight.

“So all-in-all, I’m at peace with what I’ve achieved and I don’t feel I’m retiring as a race driver.

“I don’t feel I am leaving F1, I might not be on the grid, but if there’s an opportunity I’m going to be ready.”

Hulkenberg has been linked to Formula E, IndyCars and more recently the German DTM series.

“I haven’t signed anything, and I won’t do for the foreseeable future,” he added.

“I received calls from different, let’s say racing series, teams, but nothing is really happening at the moment.

“To be honest, my state of mind is quite relaxed.

“I will finish the season anyways and I want to be as successful as possible and then after that, I want to rewind a little, take a moment for myself or two or three, and see what I want to do, what seems of interest.

“I’m certainly not having the feeling that I want to rush into something, just to race, so I am pretty relaxed.

“I feel a decade of F1 is intense, living at that high-pace, so that’s why I just need to see when the new year starts, how I feel and how things develop and evolve and in which direction.

“Honestly, at the moment, I just don’t know.”

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Ricciardo says Hulkenberg ‘still has time’ in F1

Daniel Ricciardo doesn’t believe Nico Hulkenberg’s F1 career is over despite the German failing to secure a 2020 race seat.

Hulkenberg won’t be on next year’s grid after Renault decided to instead sign Esteban Ocon as Ricciardo’s 2020 team-mate.

The German entered talks with Haas but could not agree terms while rumours linking him to Alfa Romeo also fell flat.

With only Williams still to decide their line up, and Hulkenberg ruling out returning to his former team, the 32-year-old won’t be on next year’s F1 grid.

That, though, doesn’t mean he can’t return in 2021.

“He’s cool,” Ricciardo said to the official F1 website.

“I certainly think he still has time in the sport if he wants it.

“His ability is certainly there to do it.

“I do not fear for him if he doesn’t come back to F1.

“He’s a pretty switched on kid, he’s quite business savvy so if he goes on to do other things he’ll be okay.’

Ricciardo added that this season, his first and only as Hulkenberg’s team-mate, has been easy-going given both drivers’ characters.

“Yeah it’s been pretty easy-going,” he added. “He has been easy to work with, does what he has to do and doesn’t really kick up a fuss.

“Also I do believe coming into the season we both had respect for each other and I think that helps, as far as we don’t feel the need to do anything weird.

“I don’t want to say I’ve had that in the past, I haven’t had that, but it made the transition of me coming into this team quite easy.

“Pre-season, we had a bit of a laugh, after the races we might go see each other and have a drink at a party.”

That, though, doesn’t mean he had a poor relationship with his former team-mates, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen.

“I guess I’m pretty easy going,” he said. “Yes, I’m a competitor on the track.

“With Seb as well I think there was just respect and with Max, yeah, we were competitors but I respected his talent, his ability, and I think he did the same, so I think if you have the respect then I think that’s really the main thing to keep everything together.”

As for his 2020 team-mate, he said: “With Esteban, no concerns, no fears, no doubts. I do respect him as a competitor.”

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Another door closes on Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg won’t be heading to the IndyCar series with Ed Carpenter Racing as the American revealed his team’s second driver is “not Nico Hulkenberg“.

Left without a race seat after Renault opted not to extend his contract, Hulkenberg has been linked to a move to either to Formula E or IndyCars.

Neither, though, has come to fruition.

Porsche signed Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer as their 2019/20 Formula E drivers while Carpenter has shut the IndyCar door.

“I will be continuing as oval driver in the #20 Chevy next season,” the American racer told Autosport.

“It’s amazing: every year someone starts a rumour or predicts that I’m retiring, but that’s absolutely not the case.

“Maybe we’ll have the other #20 driver confirmed just before Thanksgiving, but most likely it will be the week after.

“But no, it’s not Nico Hulkenberg.

“Those rumours had gotten a little out of control, to be honest – even though neither of us said anything!

“To be honest, I did speak with Nico a couple of times, and I think he was intrigued by the prospect of coming to IndyCar, but I just don’t think the timing was right for him.

“I don’t think he would come over if he was just filling time, waiting to maybe get back into Formula 1 in 2021.

“I think he would evaluate it more and decide whether he really wanted to make a change and then commit to IndyCar for longer – and I don’t think he’s there yet.”

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Hulkenberg jokes Leclerc is a ‘lucky b*stard’

Nico Hulkenberg with a smile called Charles Leclerc a “lucky b*stard” considering how their junior careers were so similar, yet in F1 so different.

Slowly but surely the options for 2020 have dried up for Hulkenberg since he announced he would leave Renault at the end of the current season.

Haas looked set to be his next destination, but that door would close when the American outfit retained Romain Grosjean for 2020.

A possible vacancy at Alfa Romeo also failed to materialise with Antonio Giovinazzi getting another season, while Red Bull and Toro Rosso ruled Hulkenberg out of the running for a drive with either team.

The German also made it clear that he wouldn’t be interested in a move to Williams.

Hulkenberg will depart F1 at the end of 2019 it seems and will take with him the record of most race starts (175) without a podium, though he maintains that he would walk away with no “unfinished business”.

“It doesn’t feel like unfinished business, because I’ve done my business,” he told Crash.net.

“I’ve performed well over the years, very consistently, many times when it was on the verge or other people didn’t get hired or get a job, I still was wanted and hired and paid to drive. That also speaks for some quality.

“Of course I would like to have a different kind of record, more points and podiums and victories, but I know the reasons why, and why maybe things didn’t go that way.

“I’m at peace with myself there. I sleep well at night with my eyes closed. I’d love to continue racing, but if not, then life goes on.”

Hulkenberg came close to signing with Ferrari several years ago, and like Leclerc who did sign with the Scuderia this season after just one year with Sauber, Hulkeberg boasted titles at every stage of his junior career.

Asked if he sees Leclerc as a case of what could have been for himself, Hulkenberg said with a smile: “It makes me think lucky b*stard!”

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Hulkenberg now linked with IndyCar move

The Nico Hulkenberg to IndyCar rumours have resurfaced with the German reportedly receiving a fresh offer to join the series.

Hulkenberg has one foot through the exit door in Formula 1 as his options for 2020 continued to dry up following Alfa Romeo’s decision to retain Antonio Giovinazzi.

He has ruled out linking up with his former team Williams, who still have Robert Kubica’s seat to fill, while Red Bull are set to choose Max Verstappen’s team-mate from within their own set-up.

Hulkenberg has already rubbished one particular report which suggested that he is was moving to DTM with BMW; he may feel compelled to take to social media again to call out “fake news” on another.

According to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, Hulkenberg has been offered an IndyCar seat by Ed Carpenter Racing.

Earlier this year, Hulkenberg said that IndyCar was not something that interested him.

Hulkenberg said: “Ovals are not something that attract or strike me. I have a lot of respect for the drivers who do that, but it’s just not my thing. You can count that out.”

However, Auto Motor und Sport believe that the offer on the table would see Hulkenberg just drive on the street and road courses that make up the 2020 calendar.

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Hulkenberg calls BMW DTM rumors 'fake news'

Nico Hulkenberg says rumors of his move to the DTM series with BMW have not only been greatly exaggerated, they are simply “fake news” according to the German driver.

Alfa Romeo’s announcement on Monday that it will retain Antonio Giovinazzi for 2020 blew away Hulkenberg’s last hope of remaining on F1’s grid next season.

However, several media outlets also – including Motorsport-Total.com – relayed a story placing the Hulk with BMW next year in the German DTM series.

But the 32-year-old took to Twitter to dismiss the gossip, adding a ‘FakeNews’ hashtag to his message.

“Thanks to @MST_Formel1 for the update on my future.. 👏🏼👏🏼
Next time maybe less pot-hitting?! 🥶🧐 #FakeNews”

The fact remains that barring any unforeseen circumstances, the man who holds the unenviable record for the most race starts in F1 without a podium finish could be singing his “swan song” in Abu Dhabi next month.

However, another interesting rumor was making the rounds in Austin last weekend. While Hulkenberg has dismissed a move to Williams, suggesting the timing was wrong for such an association, the former Le Mans winner could be considered as an attractive recruit for the House of Maranello.

Perhaps Ferrari wouldn’t mind having an experienced driver on its books in a reserve and simulator role. But would the Hulk agree to such a self-effacing position?

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