Hülkenberg we all know about, a driver who can be searingly quick on occasions, especially in wet or changeable conditions, a very safe pair of hands whose great experience could contribute to driving the team forwards. As recently as 2020, as a stand-in for the Covid-incapacitated Sergio Perez at Racing Point, he qualified the ‘pink Mercedes’ third at Silverstone. He ran as Sebastian Vettel’s stand-in for the first two races of this season but the Aston Martin was in a very uncompetitive state at that point. He was quicker than Lance Stroll in Bahrain, slower in Saudi Arabia.
The question marks about him surround his motivation, how much he still wants it after the hard grind of F1 and the repeated challenges for year after year. His rookie season was 12 years ago and despite setting a sensational pole for Williams towards the end of that season, he never got the break into a big team with a front-running car, never did quite enough to convince Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes that he should be there. There’s also the troubling statistic that he has failed even to score a podium in all that time, despite being at Force India at a time when Perez scored three of them. He turned down an IndyCar offer after testing one and satisfied himself with being on-hand as Aston Martin’s reserve. But on the other hand, Haas boss Guenther Steiner has been impressed at the recent relentlessness of Hülkenberg’s phone calls.
This question is likely to be resolved in the next few days and in fact a decision is said to have already been made. My hunch is that we will see the return of ‘The Hulk’ on the grid in 2023 and that Schumacher’s future may lie in sports cars.