Nico Hulkenberg identified as a perfect Max Verstappen wingman

Oliver Harden
Nico Hulkenberg on the grid. Bahrain March 2023.

Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg prepares for the race to start. Bahrain March 2023.

A respected Formula 1 commentator believes Nico Hulkenberg would excel as Max Verstappen’s wingman at Red Bull following his fine performance at the Australian Grand Prix.

After a three-year absence from a full-time seat, Hulkenberg has thrived on his return to the F1 grid in 2023 and registered his first points of the season by finishing seventh at Albert Park.

The German, who replaced compatriot Mick Schumacher at Haas over the winter, has outqualified team-mate Kevin Magnussen at all three rounds so far, reaching the top-10 shootout in Bahrain and Australia.

Speaking via his YouTube channel, former Williams and Ferrari team manager Peter Windsor has been impressed by Hulkenberg’s return to F1.

And he feels the 35-year-old must now be regarded as an ideal support driver for a leading team, classing Hulkenberg alongside Verstappen’s current team-mate Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton’s former wingman Valtteri Bottas and even Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

Windsor said: “Nico Hulkenberg, I thought, drove superbly. Absolutely superbly.

“He stopped right at the end but what a drive. We know Kevin Magnussen is pretty good but he just overshadowed him all day and Nico was outstanding. recommends

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“I mean, what would Nico do in the second Red Bull as a wingman for Max Verstappen?

“If you talk about the perfect [number two] driver, you’ve got to add him to the list with Valtteri Bottas, potentially Carlos Sainz, certainly Sergio Perez.”

Known to have a friendly relationship with Verstappen, Hulkenberg was heavily linked to a Red Bull seat on two separate occasions in the recent past.

During his final year at Renault in 2019, Hulkenberg was thought to be an alternative option if Red Bull decided against continuing with Alex Albon, who replaced Pierre Gasly for the final nine races of that season.

Red Bull’s reluctance to sign drivers from outside of their own pool of talent was cited as a reason for the decision to overlook the likes of Hulkenberg, but the team were forced to reconsider when Albon continued to struggle alongside Verstappen in 2020.

Hulkenberg’s Covid cameos for the Racing Point team, which saw him stand in for Perez and Lance Stroll at Silverstone and the Nurburgring and overcome limited preparation to score points, appeared to launch him back into contention for a drive.

However, Red Bull ultimately settled on signing Perez, who was forced to make way for four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, released by Ferrari, as Racing Point prepared for their Aston Martin rebrand in 2021.

Perez has claimed four of his five career victories in the colours of Red Bull, the most recent coming at last month’s Saudi Arabian GP where he won from pole position.

Having made his F1 debut with Williams in 2010, Hulkenberg has famously never stood on the podium despite making over 180 grand prix starts.