Monday, 7 October 2013

Further thoughts on the Korean Grand Prix

Incredible driver, incredibly shunned
Sebastian Vettel won the Korean Grand Prix at a canter, but as far as most were concerned there was only one star of the show, and without intending disrespect it wasn't Seb. 'Why has Nico Hulkenberg not been snapped up by a top team?' was a common refrain during and after the Yeongam race. And so far as I can tell there isn't an answer.

Nico Hulkenberg has been impressing us in his F1 career
Photo: Octane Photography
The quality of the Hulk's run on Sunday was hardly new either as - after an iffy first half season at Williams in 2010 - he has impressed us pretty much constantly in his time at the sport's pinnacle, as well as he entered F1 with an exemplary junior formulae CV. His drive to fourth place in the Sauber in Korea was simply a reminder that he looks to be a driver good at everything: assured, confident, robust but fair when wheel-to-wheel, avoids errors, has an intelligence which he's able to apply in the cockpit (did you hear him after the race say that he was happy to let Hamilton pass him at turn one, as he knew Lewis would get marbles on his tyres and thus he'd be able to pass him back?). And most importantly of all he's very quick and consistently so.

The F1 drivers' market doesn't always make sense; this to a large extent is inevitable when you have a strictly limited number of available seats which each become vacant but sporadically. Being in the right place at the right time therefore can be vital. Some drivers have had to wait years for a path to open up to a drive worthy of their talent - such as Keke Rosberg (and in his case his belated step-up owed a lot to chance). By extension there will have been plenty of worthy pilots who never got the chance they deserved, many of whom we'd be utterly oblivious as to what they could have done.

Some are concerned that Hulkenberg will be the latest of these, what with Ferrari passing up its option on him and going for Raikkonen instead (perhaps swayed by Alonso's wandering eye) as well as McLaren's odd lack of interest.

Add in that, of course, money brought and other commercial potential is an increasing consideration alongside talent. Add in also that seemingly a driver's weight has become an issue for teams selecting who to go with next year - no joke, with the new rules the cars will be heavier, the weight limit by common claim isn't generous enough, and as a result it's thought that Hulk, as one of the taller and therefore heavier drivers, might miss out on these grounds. But any team passing Hulk up because of this are in my view guilty of being absurd, their conclusion rather akin to not buying the home of your dreams available at a knockdown price because you discover that the bathroom is a bit smaller than ideal. In other words, I find it hard to believe that this detail will have a serious negative impact on what Hulkenberg offers.

Nevertheless, perhaps in a development that shows that the drivers' market doesn't always get it wrong, the word on the Yeongam street was indeed that Hulk's overdue step-up, to Lotus for next year, is close to being a done deal. We can only hope that the rumours are right.

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