It has been announced this morning that Le Mans 24 Hours winner and Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg will team up with Sebastian Vettel to make his debut in the Race of Champions this year.
Hulkenberg who won at Le Mans with Porsche in June, will join forces with Vettel to represent Team Germany in London’s Olympic stadium, before competing in the individual Race of Champions tournament on the second day of the November 20-21 event.
In an interview with the media this morning, Hulkenberg said he was honoured to be replacing Vettel’s previous long-term RoC team-mate Michael Schumacher; who won the Nations’ Cup title six times with the current Ferrari F1 racer before suffering serious injuries in a skiing accident in 2013. Hulkenberg stated the following:-
‘I’ve always wanted to take part but it never worked out so now I’m really happy and looking forward to it. I’m obviously stepping into big shoes to replace Michael Schumacher, which is a huge honour as well.
‘The cars are all quite different so I don’t really know what to expect. But I guess I’ll get dumped into the cold water and then I’ll have to figure out how to swim.’
It is clear that Hulkenberg is looking forward to taking part in ROC later this year and is delighted to have been chosen as Schumacher’s replacement and believes that he will learn as he goes at the event and will do the best job that he can for his country.
In his own interview with the media today, Ferrari driver and ROC team mate Sebastian Vettel added the following about being partnered with Hulkenberg as follows:-
‘It’s obviously very sad that Michael can’t join us again but in his absence it’s great to have Nico as a partner on Team Germany this year. I have massive respect for what he did in the Le Mans 24 Hours – to win it on his first attempt is very impressive.
‘The Race of Champions is at the other end of the scale in terms of distance but I can assure Nico we push just as hard.’
Even though both echo the sentiments of wishing that Michael was here racing with them, he believes that Hulkenberg is a great replacement for him. It is great to see Vettel showing his respect to Hulkenberg on winning Le Mans this year and knows that Nico will push as much as he can to help his team mate.
Meanwhile, Race of Champions president Fredrik Johnsson said Hulkenberg was overdue an appearance at the head-to-head event. Johnsson added the following:-
‘If Nico was from any other country he would have made his RoC debut long before now, but of course Team Germany has long been about Michael and Seb.
‘Everyone at RoC is sad that Michael will be missing as he continues his recuperation from his skiing accident but Nico is a first-rate replacement.’
As Johnsson has stated in his interview today, Team Germany has been based around Vettel and Schumacher for many years and of course I echo the sentiments that we wish Michael well with his recovery from his injuries and that Hulkenberg is the best replacement for him. I wish Nico the best of luck later this season with the ROC and there is no doubt that he will show why he is one of the best drivers in F1 and how talented he really is.