Race Weekend Central

Open Wheel Wednesday: Nico Hulkenberg Eyeing ALFA-Romeo Seat for 2021

Following Sergio Perez‘s COVID-19 diagnosis, former Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg stepped up to answer the call for Racing Point.

Despite heartbreak in the British Grand Prix, the German piloted his “pink Mercedes” to P3 during Q3 for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. With a seventh-place finish in the race, Hulkenberg actually sits ahead of seven drivers: Daniil Kvyat, Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovanazzi and both HAAS and Williams entries.

While it was reported Perez was “99%” likely to race the Spanish Grand Prix, it left one elephant in the room: What team might take a chance on Hulk in 2021?

That question appears to have an answer, as ALFA-Romeo Racing Orlen appears to have expressed interested in reuniting with the 32-year-old German. The match seems like one made in heaven, as ALFA-Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur worked with Hulkenberg in both F3 and GP2, winning that title in 2009.

“I mean doing a deal, there’s several terms that play into it – it’s the whole package, I guess.” Hulkenberg  told F1. “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.”

A possible ALFA-Romeo/Hulkenberg reunion means that one of their drivers has to go. Sadly, this could mark the departure of Kimi Raikkonen, a fan favorite. The elder statesman of the ALFA-Romeo team would most likely step down or be let go in order to pair Hulkenberg up with young Italian Antonio Giovanazzi.

In terms of future plans, despite ALFA-Romeo Racing serving as a Ferrari “B” team, it is unlikely Hulkenberg would have ant chance of joining the prancing horses, as both Sainz and Charles Leclerc are locked in for the near future. Both drivers are young, and in the event of any disaster, Giovanazzi would most likely receive the call up first.

Alas, stranger things have happened before in the world of F1. I can’t imagine anybody thought Luca Badoer would replace the injured Felipe Massa in 2009 or even Fernando Alonso‘s return to Renault in 2021.

Hulkenberg might be looking for a chance to just get back in F1, because at the rate ALFA-Romeo is heading, the team is nowhere near as competitive as Racing Point or even Renault. This gives Hukenburg the option, return with a backmarker, hold out for something better or just flat out retire.

In 2010, Hulkenberg joined F1, running with the Williams team. Competing in 178 races, he’s never had the chance to race with a team outside the mid-pack. Force India, Renault and Sauber have also requested the German’s services. His best grand prix finish is fourth, which he first achieved in Belgium in 2012. Hulkenberg also has one pole and two fastest lap awards to his resume as well.

ALFA Romeo might not be his only option. As it appears right now, Haas, AlphaTauri, Racing Point and possibly even Red Bull could have open seats. While it’s been reported that Sebastian Vettel might claim the open seat at Racing Point and that Alexander Albon might not be going anywhere just yet, it still serves as a question of who Hulkenberg might choose.

Former Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn said in an interview that if Lewis Hamilton had not signed with Mercedes when he did in 2013, Hulkenberg would’ve been the team’s second choice. Oh, what a life-changing move that could’ve been for Hulk.

It’s a real question to see what will happen moving forward. However, anything can happen in the wild world of F1.

About the author

Alex has been writing in the motorsport world since he was 19. Starting his career with the NASCAR Pinty's Series, Alex's work has been featured in Inside Track Magazine, TSN & NBC Sports as well as countless race programs.

Alex has also worked within the junior hockey world in Canada, appearing as a desk host for the OHL's Barrie Colts. He also got the opportunity to cover the 2018 Chevy Silverado 250 which appeared as the headlining article on NASCAR.com.

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