Hulkenburg signals intent for 2013
Nico Hulkenberg on Monday gave clear notice that there will be more than one German pushing for Formula One glory in the wake of Michael Schumacher's retirement following Sunday's stunning Brazilian Grand Prix.
The 25-year-old was widely praised for almost upstaging everyone in a tumultuous race won by Britain's Jenson Button of McLaren and in which Germany's Sebastian Vettel became the youngest triple champion in Formula One history.
Hulkenburg was in his final race for the unfancied Force India team and managed not only to finish fifth but also to lead the race, fight to take the lead again and survive a crash with Briton Lewis Hamilton's McLaren.
The collision appeared to have cost the Englishman a convincing victory when he slid into him on the wet circuit at the first turn.
But Hulkenberg still left the Interlagos circuit feeling proud of his efforts and ready to take on a new challenge next year with the Swiss Sauber team.
"I'm not too disappointed," he said. "Fifth place is still a good result. I think I've learned a lot in this race. My first kilometres leading a race and fighting with the top guys, so it was pretty eventful and a hell of a race.
"I'm proud of what we've done and my drive. It's not perfect but I'm still happy."
On the collision with Hamilton, he said it was a simple racing accident.
"It was quite unfortunately, obviously," he added. "We were challenging and we had Timo (Glock) and Heikki (Kovalainen) into turn one as well.
"I think Lewis ran out of space with Heikki and was a bit irritated there. I obviously decided to make a move into turn one and was on the damp side of the track and lost the rear a little bit. Unfortunately we collided.
"Looking at the incident I think it's just one of those things in racing. I think he could've turned away a bit. But the way it worked wasn't good for either of us."
Hulkenberg was given a penalty for the crash that left Hamilton fuming.
The Briton said he was disappointed that an apology was not immediately forthcoming after the race, although his McLaren team later said that Hulkenberg did eventually say "sorry".
In a wild conclusion to a chaotic contest, Hulkenberg's Force India teammate, Paul di Resta, crashed two laps from the end, causing the race to finish behind a Safety Car.
Di Resta said: "When we went back to the intermediates in the closing stages, we were more competitive and I was up in eighth place. Unfortunately, with a lap to go, I aqua-planed in the final corner.
"It was a big hit with the wall but I'm alright."