Did 9cm cost Nico Hulkenberg a 2014 Ferrari race seat?

Michelle Foster
Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) sports a striking new haircut as he addresses the media at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) sports a striking new haircut as he addresses the media at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

While it was never said in so many words, Nico Hulkenberg believes he lost out on a 2014 Ferrari race seat because he was “too tall”.

A star in the junior ranks where he dominated the A1 Grand Prix and won the 2009 GP2 Series title, Hulkenberg’s Formula 1 career never quite took off as had been expected.

Despite starting with Williams, and claiming a pole position in his debut campaign in 2010, he was dropped after one season and joined Force India as a reserve driver before being promoted to race driver in 2012.

‘Sorry, no – we turned you down because you’re too tall’

Points but no podiums, never mind race wins, are what followed but in his first two years with the team, he did enough to catch the attention of Ferrari who considered him for 2014 only to lose out the returning Kimi Raikkonen.

“There’s no point dwelling about it or talking about it because that’s in the past, but I’m pretty certain I came close at one stage to signing with one of the top teams,” he told a Reddit AMA earlier this year.

He’s now revealed height could’ve been the issue.

Hulkenberg stands at 1.84m in his socks, almost 20cm taller than Felipe Massa, the driver Ferrari were replacing, while Raikkonen, the one who got the seat standings at 1.75m, four centrimetres taller – and therefore a better match in the car – than Ferrari’s other 2014 driver Fernando Alonso.

“I’ve never had an answer where [teams] said, ‘Sorry, no – we turned you down because you’re too tall’,” Hulkenberg told Motorsport.com. “Probably they wouldn’t tell me straight to my face.

“But I’m pretty sure that it has, yeah, hindered the odd opportunity and occasion to jump to a top car.

“Packaging issues, less space, more weight, which is not the right way around in this business.”

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Hulkenberg stayed with Force India through to the end of the 2016 season after which he left to join Renault and then spent three years as Aston Martin’s reserve driver before rejoining the grid this year with Haas.

Making his 193rd start in Belgium, he continued to extend his record for the most race starts without a podium.

It could continue into next season with the driver telling Sky Deutschland he expects to spend another year with the American outfit. After that, who knows what the future holds.

“The stars and signs are currently in such a way that the marriage will continue,” said the 35-year-old

“A lot will happen on the driver market at the end of 2024, some contracts will expire. I will be as attractive as possible.

“At the moment I can very well imagine driving for a few more years. But I’ll take it upon myself. Everything that comes is an encore.”

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