Nico Hülkenberg On The State Of F1 And What Comes Next

Nico Hülkenberg isn’t slowing down

As one of the most experienced drivers on the grid, Haas veteran and Heinemann partner Nico Hülkenberg has seen Formula 1 rise to the top of international sports. He tells Men’s Health why F1 has never been more entertaining, what makes Aussie fans some of the world’s best, and why, after a golden career, he has no intention of slowing down any time soon

TO COMPETE AT THE highest level of open-wheeled racing, nothing less than the absolute best will cut it. The competition on the Formula 1 track is nothing compared to the cutthroat nature of the battle for places on the grid. For every driver experiencing a lull in results, there are ten tearing up the lower formulae eyeing a promotion. Lasting longer than a single season in this ultra-competitive environment is an accomplishment unto itself. Niko Hülkenberg has lasted 13.

Hülkenberg has been a fixture on the F1 grid since making his debut back in 2010. The German has switched roles and teams multiple times over the years, but he’s now found a home with Haas, where he’s remained one of the most skilled drivers on the grid. “You don’t survive in F1 if you take it easy, and if you’re slow for even one weekend it can be the end,” Hülkenberg tells Men’s Health, days out from the 2024 Australian Grand Prix. “That’s not what I’m here for. I’m very focused, happy, and I still have the hunger to go full steam ahead and race for at least a couple more years.”


Nico Hulkenberg


The lifestyle of an F1 driver is one of intense devotion. The season lasts nine months, with rarely more than two weeks between races. Spare time and the preseason are spent assessing areas for improvement, running up practice kilometres on the track and keeping in prime physical condition to optimise performance. You can’t reach the pinnacle of motorsport and stay there without hard work, but Hülkenberg has had to work even harder than most.

At 184cm tall, Hülkenberg is the third tallest driver on the current F1 roster, and he’s been on the higher end of that spectrum for most of his career. In a sport where minute differences in height and weight can dramatically change the speed of a car, maintaining fitness has always presented more of a challenge to Hülkenberg than other drivers. “I’m very tall for an F1 driver, so I’ve always had to be really invested in my fitness and take it seriously. Otherwise, I’ll pay a price when I’m racing,” he says. “There are some years where the preparation is harder and my fitness regime is more intense because I have to push my limits.”


Nico Hulkenberg


F1 has undergone a mass transformation since Hülkenberg’s debut, attracting vast swaths of fans and expanding into new demographics. This growth can be largely attributed to Drive To Survive and the closely fought battle for driver’s championships between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Although, that matchup has looked increasingly one-sided over the last few seasons.

Even the most passively interested of F1 fans would have their fandom questioned if they weren’t aware of Max Verstappen’s dominance over the last few seasons. The Dutchman won all but three races last year, and the driver’s championship has begun to feel like déjà vu, but Hülkenberg doesn’t believe that makes the action any less entertaining. “Max has been the dominating force for a couple of years now, but before him it was Lewis [Hamilton], before him it was [Sebastian] Vettel, and before him it was Michael [Schumacher], so there’s always been that trend,” he says.

“F1 might be better if we had different winners on every circuit, but our sport is very technical and the most competitive car has an edge over everyone else. That’s just how it is,” Hülkenberg continues. “I think if you cut out Max and just look at everyone else, it’s still very entertaining racing. We’re in a competitive industry where everybody’s pushing hard and fighting for the same piece of tarmac, especially where we are in the midfield.”

The midfield battle that Hülkenberg speaks of might just be the most entertaining part of F1 right now. Gone are the days when viewers turned off their TVs once the first car had crossed the finish line. Now, every point matters, and drivers are fighting for them like never before. This was on full display at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last weekend, where a masterclass in team strategy was delivered by Haas. Kevin Magnussen managed to hold up nearly half the field towards the end of the race, handing Hülkenberg a tenth placed finish and his first points of the season.

The result may have only earned the German a lone point, but it could be the difference in the hotly contested constructor’s championship. “We’ve had a good start to the season, now our target is to maximise performance and get better as the year goes on,” Hülkenberg says.

This year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix also saw the debut of 18-year-old phenom Oliver Bearman, who finished in a commendable seventh place. There are already plans in place for the Ferrari-affiliated Bearman to take part in extended practice sessions with Haas throughout the rest of the season, and Hülkenberg was impressed by the youthful Brit. “He definitely did a solid job and you have to give him credit for coming in at such short notice,” he says. “He’s in a crucial year now where he needs to keep performing well in F2, but he definitely has the potential to be in F1.”

Next up on the F1 schedule is this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix – a personal favourite of Hülkenberg’s. “It’s always special here,” he says. “The track is great and I’d put it in my top five favourites on the schedule, even the drivers’ parade is really unique. There’s always a lot of good energy from the crowd and Aussie fans, too.”

Albert Park has always been a choice destination for Hülkenberg, who achieved his best result of the 2023 season at last year’s Australian Grand Prix. It is Australian fans in particular that make the Grand Prix one of the best on the F1 calendar, according to Hülkenberg. “I think Australians are quite passionate and knowledgeable about Formula 1,” he says. “Even when I first came here back in 2010, there was already a huge amount of support and they’re still one of the most enthusiastic crowds.”



Obviously, Hülkenberg is in Australia for the Grand Prix this weekend, but when he spoke to Men’s Health, the driver hadn’t arrived in Melbourne yet. Instead, he was touring Heinemann’s recently opened domestic terminal department store at Sydney airport. “Heinemann is a fantastic retailer. They have great products and provide great value to travellers all around the world,” Hülkenberg says. “They’ve been an ally of mine for a long time, I’m excited for our partnership to continue into 2024, and their new Sydney domestic store is one of the best I’ve seen.”

Heinemann is an official sponsor of Hülkenberg, and the driver recently collaborated with the brand for an exclusive competition available to members of the Heinemann & Me loyalty program, which has surpassed 200,000 Australian members. As part of the competition, members were able to enter to win a set of two VIP tickets for the Australian Grand Prix, with a package including paddock club privileges, a pit lane visit, and a meet and greet with Hülkenberg himself. Unfortunately for those hoping to snap up some last-minute tickets, entries closed on March 3rd.

You might assume that after an F1 career spanning 13 years that Hülkenberg would be ready to call it a day. The driver has had stints with seemingly half the teams on the grid, lending his talents to Williams, Sauber, Force India, Racing Point, Renault, Aston Martin and Haas over the years. He even took a brief detour into endurance racing, entering and winning the 2015 24 hours of Le Mans. But Hülkenberg isn’t ready to consign himself to a premature retirement. For the time being, Hülkenberg will continue doing what he’s always done: defying expectations and challenging the top drivers on the grid, because he hasn’t finished writing his legacy.


INSTAGRAM | @hulkhulkenberg



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Cayle Reid is a fan of everything sports and fitness. He spends his free time at the gym, on his surfboard or staying up late watching sports in incompatible time zones.

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