Almost one years ago Esteban Ocon was announced as 2020's teammate to Daniel Ricciardo, meaning that Nico Hulkenberg would've been out of the grid for this season.
He's the one who holds a particular record: the driver with most GPs without a single podium finish, 178 starts in exactly 10 years. He debuted with Williams in 2010, collected one pole position and has always been considered as one of the best on the grid. During this ten years of activity he has also been linked to big teams as Ferrari, but never made the big jump.
No one would've ever imagined what the world would've faced in this crazy 2020, and that one of the F1 drivers would've been tested positive for covid-19. Obivously, the safest option for Racing Point to replace Sergio Perez was Nico: the german immediately answered the call and in less than 48 hous his seat was ready and Nico was in the car. In his first qualifying session after 9 months out of a Formula 1 car he qualifyed 13th but didn't made it to the race as his car had an engine issue. His second chance went better: Nico qualifyed 3th and finished the race in 7th position due to an extra pit-stop.
“A friend said to me: 'You know what Nico, you did 100% [in qualifying], today it’s just all: just go out there, have fun and enjoy it as well'" Nico told to the F1 Nation podcast.
“Obviously, we thought it would be a bit better but still, it’s a decent car and enjoyable. I tried to kind of inhale that too and appreciate the moment there” added the german.
Obviosuly the talk around Nico became alive in these days, as Ross Brown said in his latest column on f1.com that "I almost signed him years ago, when I was in charge at Mercedes. If Lewis hadn’t joined Mercedes when he did, Nico was our next choice.
"I’ve always respected Nico enormously as a driver. He’s a very strong driver who should be in Formula 1".
It is no surprise, then, that the driver is currently in talks with some teams to be back in Formula 1. Guenther Steiner, Haas Team Principal, already said, while talking about Vettel, that he would be happy to welcome drivers as the four time and world champion and Nico Hulkenberg.
Is he really in talks for a new deal?
“Yes, yes is the short answer,” said Hulkenberg in the podcast “I mean doing a deal, there’s several terms that play into it – it’s the whole package, I guess. I’m very keen to go racing again in Formula 1. I still love it here, it’s my passion. I’m not desperate but I’d certainly love to come back and be racing again. I’ve been talking to Fred [Vasseur, Alfa Romeo Team Principal] quite frequently in the last few months…"
Fred Vasseur has been Nico's friend for a long time, as he is the owner of the ART Team which brought Nico to victory in GP2.
Alfa Romeo is currently running with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi; whole the italian has the Ferrari seat and is aiming to earn another year with the team, Kimi might want to finally end his long career in Formula 1, since he is almost 40 years old and might want to spend some time with his kids.
The Alfa Romeo rumors are becoming quite strong, as a lot of the hot seats are already assigned for next season. Surely, Nico Hulkenberg has never entirely left the Paddock, as everyone always had a high consideration of his talent.
We will see if Nico Hulkenberg will step behind the wheel once again in Barcelona and if he will eventually come back in a Formula 1 seat in 2021.