F1 drivers dream of matching Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg’s triumph in the 24 Hours Le Mans has made other Formula One drivers dream of taking part.

Hulkenberg, back this weekend for Force India at the Austrian Grand Prix, was among three drivers who helped Porsche seal a record 17th Le Mans last weekend.

The German won at his initial attempt, the first active F1 driver to win since Britain’s Johnny Herbert in 1991.

“It was quite amazing – a very intense and long week. I flew from (the Canadian GP) to Paris, and then straight to Le Mans. But to come there, first attempt, and to win it with my team and my teammates has just been incredible.”

Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, two-time champ Fernando Alonso and Australian Daniel Ricciardo have expressed strong interest in following Hulkenberg.

“All of us are a little bit jealous. He made it look easy, and this is good for us as he made us F1 drivers look very good,” Vettel said. “Massive respect to him. Being capable of doing anything on the side, and doing it so well, and even winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans is an extraordinary achievement.”

Alonso said: “Yes, I considered to race in Le Mans. So maybe next year.”

Ricciardo was up long into the night watching the race.

“I watched quite a lot of it actually, about 18 hours. It’s nice to have a weekend off but, when I was watching it, I was obviously thinking it would be nice to be racing as well … like they did in the old days, drivers jumping from categories.”

F1 leader Lewis Hamilton had no intention of taking part.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Le Mans. It’s not been something I’ve ever wanted to do.”

His Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg replied curtly: “No, not really,” when asked if he would consider it.

Hulkenberg’s Le Mans success comes at a delicate time for F1, which is facing much criticism.

Since changes to engine rules, the deafeningly loud roar – once the trademark of the series – has gone. There is an over-reliance on technology, much less overtaking and more emphasis on saving tyres, coasting and fuel loads than aggressive racing.

At last month’s Monaco GP, drivers launched an extensive survey in 12 languages as part of increased efforts to make the series more exciting by seeking input from alienated fans.

“The championship itself and Formula One itself is not in great shape,” said Australian former F1 driver Mark Webber, who was runner-up for Porsche at Le Mans. “All the drivers that I’m talking with, we’re disappointed with what’s going on with the cars, the lap times – it’s just not stimulating.”

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