Nico Hulkenberg: Can’t feel bad for Mick Schumacher, it’s natural in F1

Thomas Maher
Aston Martin's Nico Hulkenberg at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yas Marina, November 2022.

Aston Martin's Nico Hulkenberg at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yas Marina, November 2022.

New Haas signing Nico Hulkenberg has said he can’t feel sorry for Mick Schumacher losing his seat, as that’s the nature of the sport.

Schumacher raced for Haas in 2021 and ’22, but spent most of the latter season fighting to remain in contention to keep his seat after being involved in some hefty crashes and drawing the ire of team boss Guenther Steiner.

Schumacher and the experienced Hulkenberg became the final candidates for the seat after initial talks with Daniel Ricciardo sputtered out, with the former Force India, Sauber, and Renault driver winning out over the comparatively inexperienced Schumacher.

Hulkenberg’s welcome news is in stark contrast to Schumacher’s disappointment, but the 35-year-old says he can’t feel bad for his compatriot after being in the same position himself in the past.

“No, because that’s natural in F1,” he told PlanetF1, when asked about whether he felt bad for Mick having had to go up against Hulkenberg’s proven qualities in the battle for the final seat.

Hulkenberg himself lost his seat at Williams at the end of 2010, replaced by Pastor Maldonado for the following season, before losing out to Esteban Ocon for the Renault seat in 2020.

“We all fight for our careers, for the same piece of tarmac,” he continued.

“I think many drivers in their careers had to move for another guy, whether it’s more experience – two years more or 10 years more, I think that’s irrelevant.

“That’s just how F1 is and, ultimately, the driver, when he’s racing, he has to convince the team with performance.

“If that’s not the case, the team is going to change. Same with engineers, with all personnel. That’s why that keeps happening all the time.”

Hulkenberg returns to a full-time ride in 2023 after three seasons serving as a ‘super-sub’, in which he made two appearances for Racing Point in 2020 as well as two appearances for the same team in 2022 under their Aston Martin moniker.

After spending three years essentially fully on the sidelines, he said he was happy to have had some time away from the cut and thrust of the sport after a decade on the grid.

“Not given up,” he said, when asked by PlanetF1 if he’s lost hope about returning.

“But I have to say, obviously, 2019 I was out and I was happy that I had some distance and a breather from it.

“2021 – nothing much happened. And even earlier, at the beginning of this year, I wasn’t stressing thinking about it too much.

“But then, coming towards summer, it somehow grew in me again when I came and visited races. I saw the action and the excitement, and had the desire to come back. And then, yeah, the discussion started.”

Hulkenberg revealed that it had been he who made initial contact with the Haas squad, reaching out to Guenther Steiner during the summer to enquire about the possibility of a seat.

“After 19 I think that was what I wanted, what I needed, a break and properly – I wasn’t the third driver or anything. So I really had the time to step back, and disconnect from it properly. Everything was COVID time, so not much going on.

“Once the 2020 season started, obviously I came to Silverstone to replace Checo. But it was good for me to have time away to digest, to reflect on some things, change your perspective a little bit too. Then ’21 of course, sometimes it’s difficult when you have to watch, when you’re on the sidelines.

“But, I think, at that time it was still OK for me.This year, I think I was watching a little harder, especially when you analyse and you see and you think you can do better in places. So, yeah, I started the return project!”

Read More: Guenther Steiner confirms Nico Hulkenberg will drive for Haas in post-season test