For many in the Formula 1 paddock, Nico Hulkenberg remains a world champion in waiting. A winner in every category he ever competed in before Formula 1 racing - and a champion in three of them - he appeared from an early age to be destined for greatness.
Winning the GP2 crown in his rookie season - a feat only matched by Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg - secured a move into F1 racing, and he duly delivered a shock first pole in an uncompetitive Williams in what was his maiden campaign. Despite such triumphs, however, a top line drive has eluded the German thus far. Even so, his incredible combination of pace and consistency has made the paddock sit up and take note.
Following the well-trodden path of most great drivers, Nico Hulkenberg began his career on the kart track. After starting at the tender age of ten back in 1997, within five years Hulkenberg was already making waves. In 2002 he was named German junior karting champion and the following year, after progressing up the ranks, won the German karting championship proper.
Sixteen years earlier, a young Michael Schumacher had clinched the very same title. It was a fact not lost on Schumacher’s legendary manager Willi Weber, who promptly signed up the young lad from Emmerich. By 2004 Hulkenberg had added an Italian Junior Championship to his list of achievements and Weber began looking for a way into single-seater racing for his young protege.
The opening came in the German Formula BMW series where in 2005, aged just 18, Hulkenberg made his debut. Racing for Josef Kaufmann, he won the championship with ease, claiming the title with eight victories from 20 starts. In doing so he followed in the footsteps of Sebastian Vettel, who’d won the series the year before, and namesake Nico Rosberg, who had taken the honours in 2002...