After a sensational junior career that led to comparisons to Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher, Nico Hulkenberg's F1 stint has perhaps not panned out as would have been expected. One of F1's youngest pole-sitters in history after a superb performance in his rookie season, Hulkenberg has gone to put together a career of contrasts. Though regarded as one of the better competitors on the grid, Hulkenberg has never stepped foot on an F1 podium – with 159 starts under his belt that is an F1 record he may wish he could get rid of.
After a successful karting career, Hulkenberg secured titles at Formula 4 and Formula 3 level before winning the 2009 GP2 championship, putting together a junior career the envy of many of his contemporaries. His success had attracted interest from Williams and Hulkenberg served as test and reserve driver in 2008 and 2009, before he was promoted to the race team the following year.
The German scored points in six races before he and Williams timed things to perfection in a wet qualifying at the Brazilian Grand Prix to snatch pole position from a packed bunch of title contenders. Hulkenberg went on to finish eighth at Interlagos in that race and soon after it was confirmed that he would not be retained.
Snubbed by Williams in favour of the well-financed Pastor Maldonado, Hulkenberg joined Force India as test driver in 2011 and was promoted to the race team the following year. He came close again to that elusive podium by finishing fourth in Belgium, and ended the year outscoring and outqualifying team-mate Paul Di Resta, but switched to Sauber for the following season.
Hulkenberg scored 12 fewer points across the season for the Swiss team, once again taking a fourth-place finish – this time in Korea – but was once again on the move the following year, returning to Force India, where he raced alongside Sergio Perez. The Mexican scored at least one podium finish in each of their three seasons together, as well as finishing above Hulkenberg in the championship in 2015 and 2016.
Although Force India had largely outperformed Renault in 2016, Hulkenberg switched to the French constructor, sold on their bigger budgets and ambitions to become a champion team once again. In 2017, Hulkenberg wiped the floor with Jolyon Palmer, leading to the Brit's early departure from the team as he outqualified him at every race and scored almost all of the team's points that year. With Carlos Sainz Jr joining as Palmer's replacement at the tail-end of 2017 and into 2018, Hulkenberg again got the better of the Spaniard, finishing 2018 as the best driver outside of the top three teams in seventh place, albeit still without that elusive podium.