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Is it now or never for Nico Hulkenberg?

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Is it now or never for Nico Hulkenberg?
Jan 18, 2016, 4:33 PM

Nico Hulkenberg is hoping 2016 will be his best season in Formula 1, but says that dreaming of a move to top team is “a dangerous thing.

Nico Hulkenberg is hoping 2016 will be his best season in Formula 1, but says that dreaming of a move to top team is “a dangerous thing.”

The Force India driver will embark on his sixth season in F1 this year, but despite an impressive record in the junior categories and a debut win at Le Mans last year, he is still yet to stand on a Grand Prix podium.

The German finished tenth in the drivers’ championship last season, which was 20 points behind his teammate Sergio Perez and he had a number of incidents that cost him in the final standings, but Hulkenberg explained in an interview with the official F1 website that he expects to improve this year.

Nico Hulkenberg

He said: “Some things will always be beyond your control. But you have to constantly learn from any mistake - especially your own. This is how you get better, and this is what matters.

“I want to make this my best season in F1: in terms of points and my position at the season’s end. I want to push myself on to the podium - hopefully and finally! For that, I will just do what I do best: drive fast and enjoy what I love doing.”

Speculation regarding a switch to a top team has followed Hulkenberg throughout his career, but so far none of the big teams in F1 have opted to sign the 28-year-old. But he insisted that he remained happy with Force India and explained that dreaming of a move to a higher profile team was risky.

He said: “Right now I am very happy where I am. Force India is a cool team. And dreaming is a dangerous thing in F1 - especially dreaming in red.”

WEC Porsche Le Mans

Hulkenberg was part of the Porsche line-up that won at Le Mans in 2015, which was his first race victory since 2009 in GP2, and his form in the following F1 races improved as he finished sixth in Austria and then seventh at Silverstone.

But his form dipped thereafter and Perez moved ahead in the Force India teammate battle after the team introduced a B-spec car at the British Grand Prix. Despite that, and crashes at the Singapore and Russian races, Hulkenberg believes his Le Mans triumph was important to help him rediscover his winning form.

He said: “I must admit Le Mans was very special. Me, and the others (team mates Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber), gave our very best. What happened in Le Mans is a good example that shows the power of sport.

“Nothing is really impossible. Le Mans was not just about the title but also about the emotional experience that came with it for me - that there is still the ‘winning gene’ within me.”

Nico Hulkenberg

Force India finished fifth in the constructors’ championship in 2015, its best ever result, and Hulkenberg reckons the team can perform even better this season.

He said: “I believe that we will be competitive again in 2016, despite what happens with 2017. It´s always difficult to judge what others will do and where you will pan out for the first race, but from what I have seen of what the team is doing and developing, I think we can challenge for good results - probably even better than in 2015.

“Less testing [this year] could mean better opportunities during the first couple of races if we’re better prepared than others - and have kept the momentum. So fingers crossed!”

2016 will be an important year for Hulkenberg if he wants to finally seal a move into a race winning F1 car. He came close to signing for Ferrari in 2013 before the Scuderia opted to rehire Kimi Raikkonen. Another year without a headline result could mean the highly-rated German's dream move will never become a reality.

Nico Hulkenberg

No rebrand at Force India

In the closing part of the 2015 season Force India was linked with a potential rebrand that would see it become Aston Martin Racing, but the team’s chief operating officer, Otmar Szafnauer, says the deal won’t happen this year.

Speaking at the Autosport International show, he said: “It probably won't happen for 2016, but we're still talking. It's flattering for a company like Aston to be talking to Force India, to want to partner with us and come into Formula 1, but the story isn't final there yet."

"They have a lot of initiatives and they're changing their line-up of cars. They're a great company with very exciting times ahead of them, and you never know when they'll choose Formula 1 as a marketing tool.

"So for 2016 I don't think that will happen, but for the future there are still possibilities.”

Otmar Szafnauer

Do you think Hulkenberg will reach the podium in 2016? Has his chance to race with a top team passed? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
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