Nico Hulkenberg will make his Formula 1 comeback next year with Haas after being announced in race seat for 2023.
The 35-year-old will partner Kevin Magnussen and replace fellow German Mick Schumacher, whose departure was also announced by Haas earlier today. Hulkenberg will have an opportunity to sample this year’s car in the Pirelli test in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, with reserve driver and rookie Pietro Fittipaldi driving the team’s other machine.
Hulkenberg’s name first emerged as a potential candidate for Haas back in September, with Antonio Giovinazzi – the favoured choice of engine partner Ferrari – his main rival for the job. Team boss Gunther Steiner has always insisted that Ferrari could only advise on drivers, and a crash in FP1 in Austin ended any lingering hopes that Giovinazzi may have had.
The decision to replace Schumacher with Hulkenberg reflects a remarkable change in strategy by the team, which ran two rookies in 2021 and will now head into next season with two drivers who will have over 320 Grands Prix starts between them. Steiner made it clear that Hulkenberg’s experience was key to him getting the nod and returning to F1 full-time after three years out.
“I’m naturally very pleased to be welcoming Nico Hulkenberg back to a full-time racing role in F1,” Steiner said. “The experience and knowledge base Nico brings to the team is clear to see – with nearly 200 career starts in F1 – and a reputation as being a great qualifier and a solid, reliable racer.
“These are attributes, which when you pair them together with Kevin Magnussen’s experience, gives us a very credible and well-seasoned driver line-up which we believe will help push the team onwards up the grid. “That’s obviously the goal and it was that ambition that has prompted Nico’s return to F1 – he shares our vision and can be a key player together with the rest of the team in building on the foundations we’ve laid this year with our return to the points battle.”
Hulkenberg said: “I feel like I never really left Formula 1. I’m excited to have the opportunity to do what I love the most again and want to thank Gene Haas and Gunther Steiner for their trust. “We have work ahead of us to be able to compete with all the other teams in the midfield, and I cannot wait to join that battle again.”
Hulkenberg has a stellar junior CV, having led Germany to the 2006-7 A1 GP title before winning the European F3 championship in 2008 and the GP2 crown in consecutive years. He made his F1 debut with Williams in 2010, taking pole at Interlagos, before being dropped to make way for the well-sponsored Pastor Maldonado in 2011. He thus spent that season as Force India’s reserve before racing for the Silverstone team in 2012.
After a single year with Sauber in 2013 he returned to the Force India camp in 2014-16 and also found the time to win the Le Mans 24 Hours with Porsche in 2015.
He then enjoyed three years with Renault from 2017, finishing a career high seventh in the standings in 2018, but lost his seat to Esteban Ocon at the end of 2019 and has not raced full-time since, instead taking up reserve role with Racing Point and Aston Martin.
Hulkenberg appeared as a stand-in driver at Racing Point three times in 2020. He failed to start at the British GP, and then qualified a surprise third at the 70th Anniversary race the following weekend. He scored solid points with seventh in the race, which he followed up with eighth at the Nurburgring.
In October 2021 he had an IndyCar test with Arrow McLaren SP, but he made it clear that he had no interest in racing in the series. This year he was again called upon once again as a reserve driver by Aston Martin, starting with the first two races of the year in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia when Sebastian Vettel was ruled out due to COVID-19.