Nico Hulkenberg once again served as a replacement driver for Racing Point at the Eifel Grand Prix, this time subbing for a ill Lance Stroll. Earlier in the season, he had subbed for Sergio Perez after Perez tested positive for COVID-19. Hulkenberg was forced out of F1 after his contract with Renault expired.
Hulkenberg is more than capable of an F1 seat. In the 2 races he subbed for Perez, he had a DNS (Did not start) due to a power unit issue for the British GP, and for the 70th Anniversary GP he finished 7th after qualifying in a brilliant 3rd. At the Eifel Grand Prix, no driving was allowed for the first 2 practice sessions, as heavy fog and rain carried on throughout the day. When FP3 was happening, Hulkenberg had no idea he'd be driving later in the day, as he was in Cologne having coffee with a friend. About 3 hours from the start of qualifying, he was called by Racing Point Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer, who told him he was needed at the Eifel Grand Prix. Understandably, he qualified 20th out of 20 cars and started the race from last on the grid.
Below I will break down the possible landing spots for Nico Hulkenberg if he ends up with a 2021 seat.
This is the most unlikely scenario, as Lewis Hamilton will almost certainly sign a new deal with Mercedes. Should Hamilton decide to move on and sign with another team, Nico Hulkenberg or Sergio Perez would be obvious options for a seat here.
Red Bull has 1 spot open next to Max Verstappen. Although the current predictions have Alex Albon staying at Red Bull,that could change as Albon has had a couple of poor performances recently. Interestingly, Hulkenberg almost subbed for Albon this weekend, as Albon's COVID-19 test was inconclusive and was retested, but luckily it came back as negative. Red Bull recently confirmed they talked to Hulkenberg about a 2021 seat, as remains an option for them.
The other Red Bull owned team on the grid, AlphaTauri, has 2 seats open. It is very likely that Pierre Gasly will stay for another season with AlphaTauri if he doesn't get a promotion to Red Bull. Daniil Kyvat has had some very poor outings recently, and Honda junior Yuki Tsunoda remains as a heavy option for a 2021 seat. With that being said, this is the second least likely seat on the grid for Hulkenberg, not only because of the crowded driver market, but also because AlphaTauri prefers younger drivers to develop and promote to Red Bull.
Haas remains in option for Hulkenberg, and is probably the most likely scenario for him. Haas recently revealed that they have 10 drivers they are looking to add, with Perez and Hulkenberg on the list. Ferrari Junior Callum Ilott and Perez remain strong candidates for a seat, and with current Haas drivers Magnussen and Grosjean literally playing Drive to Survive, Hulkenberg's return to F1 via Haas seems rather far out.
This seat was originally the most likely seat, but with Kimi Raikkonen deciding to not retire and continue racing for Alfa Romeo in 2021, a Hulkenberg move to Alfa Romeo seems unlikely. Because of Ferrari's contract with Alfa Romeo, Ferrari gets to choose 1 driver for Alfa Romeo. Since Raikkonen was Alfa Romeo's choice, the second seat is Ferrari's choice. With Mick Schumacher being promised a seat if he finishes top 3 in Formula 2, Hulkenberg or Perez or even Robert Schwartzman driving for Alfa Romeo in 2021 seems unlikely.
As you can see, there are many options for the German in 2021, but none of these options are too likely. He may end up having to make a Daniil Kyvat or Esteban Ocon type of comeback into F1. Nico is a fan favorite driver, and most would love to see him in a seat full-time for 2021, but I hate to say, I doubt he will see a seat in 2021.