For a very long time Nico Hulkenberg has been deserving of a works team drive. Whilst Force India have gradually improved up the order, they haven’t (yet) built a race-winner. Hulkenberg has joined Renault for 2017 and shares the ambition of the team to eventually win championships. Had he not signed for Renault, would Mercedes have an easier decision to make?
Somehow, Hulkenberg hasn’t scored a podium yet in his Formula One career due to a heavy dosage of bad luck. His last opportunity came at the Brazilian Grand Prix before suffering a puncture that ruined his podium prospects and his race.
But he is rated very highly by many, who believe he would be more than capable of doing a solid job for the top teams.
The question is, would Mercedes have snapped up Nico Hulkenberg if he hadn’t made the decision to switch to Renault? He must have been cursing his fellow Nico after the shock retirement was announced without warning and without any prior indication that Rosberg would leave the sport.
The opportunity of a seat becoming available in the top-three is very rare and Hulkenberg looks to have missed out thanks to timing and his remarkable lack of luck continues beyond the circuit.
This would have also been a safer option for Mercedes, who will more than likely put trust into their own academy and promote Pascal Wehrlein, who is promising yet untested.
Vettel isn’t an option. Alonso is being considered but the watertight contract he has at McLaren simply won’t allow it. It leaves Wehrlein as the most likely candidate and you have to say that if Hulkenberg had been available, it would have been an easy decision for Mercedes.
Wehrlein believes he is ready to step up should Toto call. He recently said,
“One season in F1 is not a lot but I feel ready for the job and confident. I’m sure Toto [Wolff]’s phone is overheating after Friday!
I’ve done most days with the 2017 tyres and I think it’s very important to have that experience.”
– Pascal Wehrlein