10 – Nico Hülkenberg
Nico Hülkenberg is the man who kicks off our top ten countdown of the stars of F1 2010.
Hülkenberg arrived in the top flight back at the beginning of the year with a glittering reputation as the reigning runaway GP2 Series Champion – and, before that, F3 Euroseries and A1GP king for good measure, too – and being touted as the second coming, or the second 'Schumi' at least.
Over the first half of the season, as Sir Frank Williams himself has since acknowledged, there was in truth little evidence of that as – a sparkling fifth position on the grid in Malaysia aside – the 23-year-old by-and-large trailed team-mate Rubens Barrichello both in qualifying and on race day and tallied a mere two points from the opening eleven grands prix.
There were whispers that Hülkenberg's seat was under threat, but if he felt under pressure, then the young German responded to it magnificently. Over the final nine outings, he made the top ten shoot-out on no less than six occasions – only two fewer than Barrichello – and for all who unfavourably compared his performances to those of his team-mate, it would be wise to remember that not only is the Brazilian the most experienced driver in the sport's long history, but also an eleven-time grand prix-winner to-boot.
That outstanding pole position at Interlagos – both reading and mastering the ever-changing weather conditions infinitely better than any of his rivals as he fully lived up to the 'Incredible' moniker that sometimes precedes his name – was the obvious highlight, but there were a number of feisty race day showings over the second half of the campaign, as well, although Mark Webber may justifiably argue that Hülkenberg was a little too
aggressive in defence of his position as the pair duelled over sixth place at Monza.
Still, for a driver who knew that the only way to even have a chance of earning himself a stay-of-execution at Williams would be to deliver on-track, his over-exuberance on occasion was more than understandable. An increasingly accomplished performer as the season progressed, that Nico Hülkenberg presently finds himself without a seat for next year due to factors outside of his control, is little short of a travesty.
Statistics – Nico Hülkenberg:
Crash.net's Top 10 F1 drivers of 2010:
10. Nico Hülkenberg
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