One of the Porsche F1 driver rumours previously reported on Ferdinand was confirmed this morning, when Porsche announced that Nico Hülkenberg would drive for its LMP1 squad at Le Mans 2015. While there is no further news on Jenson Button, it proves that the third LMP1 car is not set aside for works GT drivers.
“The Hulk” currently drives for Force India on Formula 1 (based just down the road from us in Silverstone) and enjoyed a solid start to the 2014 F1 season. Recently confirmed with Force India for 2015, the Porsche drive will give him something else to do next summer.
“Porsche and Le Mans: this combination probably attracts every race driver,” said Nico. “I’ve been a Porsche fan for a long time and have been watching their return to the LMP1 class closely. The desire grew to drive that car at Le Mans. I am very pleased the 2015 Formula One calendar allows for it and I’m grateful for Sahara Force India’s generosity in letting me go for it. Now it’s up to me to work hard to satisfy both commitments.”
Nico Hülkenberg Porsche Drive Le Mans 2015
When Nico takes the start of the 2015 Le Mans on June 13, he will be the first active F1 driver to race at Le Mans since 2009. While The Hulk is no stranger to Porsche (he previously tested the 997 Hybrid at the Nürburgring), Porsche is bedding him into racing the 919 at the 6 Hours of Spa on May 2.
Quotes from the Porsche race personnel read like every other press release – “this proves our 919 Hybrid is a worthy race seat etc” – but there is no doubt that Porsche has pulled in another exceptionally quick race driver who has dominated most of the championships he has raced in. After some really impressive F1 race drives in less than stellar machinery, Hülkenberg missed out on a works Ferrari seat by the barest of margins and has always qualified well: his pace should put down a challenging benchmark.
Also important is Hülkenberg’s long-term Dekra sponsorship and experience with F1’s new drivetrain technology. Very few people have raced the latest generation of F1 cars and ,while there is little outward similarity between the two series, driving quickly with hybrid power demands a specific approach. Nico’s intelligence and understanding of high-level hybrid racing could give his car a distinct advantage: who knows until we go racing.
While this deal is just for a driver, it may also be that Porsche could somehow explore connections to Force India’s technical know-how and commercial activities. Vijay Mallya knows how to make a buck or two and India has a proper F1 circuit doing nothing. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to bring WEC to that part of the world. I’m just throwing it out there.