Nico Hülkenberg: Winning Le Mans Was Great, But I’ll Always Choose Formula 1

by Aaron Gillard
Hulkenberg - Porsche - Le Mans

Renault F1 Team driver Nico Hülkenberg says his 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans victory with Porsche Motorsport was great, but stated that he would always choose Formula 1 over the historical Motorsport event.

Hülkenberg, alongside Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy won the 2015 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as Porsche’s third entry. All three drivers had never raced in an LMP1 car before around the historical Circuit de la Sarthe, and would go on to the win the event in their first outing together.

The German, who at the time was racing in F1 with Force India ended a long drought lasting 24 years since a current F1 driver won at Le Mans. Johnny Herbert and Bertrand Gachot won the 1991 event together with Mazdaspeed whilst they competed in F1 that season. Fernando Alonso in 2018 with Toyota was the latest to win the race whilst racing in F1 with the McLaren F1 Team.

In the latest episode of F1’s podcast; Beyond The Grid, The German talked about his experience at Le Mans and discussed how the cars back in his only appearance in the race were compare to current configuration of F1 cars he races with today.

“Very different animal to be honest,” said Hülkenberg. “Obviously I enjoyed those six months from when I started at Porsche, the first testing was in January and the Le Mans was in June.

“Great six months. Great experience because it turned out to be great, we won the race, everyone is happy.

“But (the cars were) big cars, heavy cars, sort off like the way F1 cars are now and I don’t like that too much because cars when they’re too heavy race cars they get sort off bit lazy and clumsy in the low speed corners, bit of a handful to drive. But obviously it was impressive, it’s four-wheel drive car, big hybrid engine, two electric motors in the front axle.

“It was certainly quick, high speed it was super fast was getting close to F1 speeds. But in a way it has traction control, four-wheel drive. As a driver, depending on the circuit a bit but Le Mans is a lot of straight line and a couple of chicanes, sometimes it felt like… bit easy.”

The thirty-one year old was asked whether a return to Le Mans is possible in the future, in which he replied saying that he can’t see himself returning whilst racing with Renault and still competing in Formula 1 for the time being.

“Probably not because then I signed with Renault so I’m with a manufacturer now, in 2016 I was with a private team so it all fell in place kind off. No conflict of interest there, not sure Renault would even let me race with another brand.

“But i ticked that box so that was good, but then I changed team to Renault so my mind was not there, I wanted full commitment, full focus on Formula 1. Not saying never again Le Mans, but I think as long as I’m active in Formula 1, probably not.

“It was great, but at the end of the day I’m a single-seater guy, I’m a Formula 1 guy and I’ll always choose that.

Hülkenberg is yet to score a podium finish in F1 in the nine years he has competed in the series. The German has came close in several occasions, but has never been able to make a trip to the rostrum as of yet. Hülkenberg led the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix for some stages of the race before he crashed into Lewis Hamilton whilst attempting to pass for the lead.

Despite being the driver who has competed in the most Grands Prix in F1 without scoring a podium, Hülkenberg has said that he can’t change the past, but he is hopeful that he can achieve change this as soon as possible in the future.

“It hasn’t happened for a few reasons,” commented Hulkenberg. “I mean there were a few opportunities where it could of happened like Monaco 2016 was one of them but we made a bad strategy call or the team did at the time, and yeah it went bad and we lost out there.

“Brazil ’12 where sort off, I sort off threw it away a little bit by attacking Lewis there, but I was leading the race also within a minute before the safety car came out so it would of been like almost a guaranteed win but the safety car had me over there.

“If you go into every weekend or every opportunity there is a reason, or an issue somewhere so for one reason or another it hasn’t happened. Of course in a way it is annoying and not nice, but it’s the way it is and I can’t change the past so I have to focus on the future and try and change it ASAP.”

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