Formula 1 chief Ross Brawn has revealed he would have signed Nico Hulkenberg to race for Mercedes had Lewis Hamilton not made the move in 2013.

Hamilton left McLaren to join Mercedes at the end of 2012 to replace Michael Schumacher, after the seven-time world champion announced he would be retiring from F1 for good.

But had Hamilton decided to stay put at McLaren, then Force India racer Hulkenberg was the next driver on Brawn’s shortlist to fill the seat vacated by Schumacher and partner Nico Rosberg.

As it turned out, Hamilton completed a sensational switch to the German manufacturer, while Hulkenberg moved to Sauber and endured a difficult season before returning to Force India a year later.

Speaking in his latest post-race column following the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone, Brawn praised Hulkenberg’s “great performance all weekend” in what marked just his second F1 race since making an unlikely comeback to the grid.

Hulkenberg has been drafted in by Racing Point to replace team regular Sergio Perez, who was ruled out of both Silverstone rounds after contracting COVID-19. He starred in qualifying to grab a sensational third on the grid, before finishing seventh in the race.

“It was going to be an incredible physical challenge for Nico Hulkenberg and I don’t know how much he hurt at the end of the race, but it was great performance all weekend by someone who had just been dropped in the deep end,” Brawn said.

“I almost signed him years ago, when I was in charge at Mercedes. If Lewis hadn’t joined Mercedes when he did, Nico was our next choice.

“I’ve always respected Nico enormously as a driver. He’s a very strong driver who should be in Formula 1.”

Many of Hulkenberg’s rivals, including race-winner Max Verstappen, were equally complimentary of his performance, with the Dutchman leading the praise and stressing he deserves a place on the grid.

Ahead of the weekend, Hulkenberg revealed that he has already held talks with a number of teams about the potential of securing a full-time return to F1 in 2021.

 

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