As Nico Hulkenberg closes in on a move to Haas, Aston Martin performance director Tom McCullough has waxed lyrical about the German driver.
Since dropping off the Formula 1 grid at the end of the 2019 campaign, Hulkenberg has served as a test and reserve driver for Racing Point and then their current incarnation Aston Martin.
But it appears he is now set to return to the grid, Haas expected to announce Hulkenberg as the replacement for Mick Schumacher in 2023.
And he comes highly recommended by Aston Martin, McCullough describing him as a “class act”.
Hulkenberg contested the first two rounds of the 2022 season with Aston Martin and so, asked how long it took for him to get back up to speed, McCullough replied: “Not very long at all. He was thrown right in at the deep end at a time we were scratching our heads a bit with the car.
“He obviously turned up in Bahrain and not a lot of time – seat fit, compromises, straight in there.
“He’s a very talented, naturally gifted driver. You put him in a qualifying or race situation and ask him to go and extract the most from the car…he’s pretty good at doing that, whatever he drives and has driven over the years.
“He’s a class act. He’s very talented. He’s got solid experience. And that helps him to jump in a car and drive quickly.”
McCullough has worked with Hulkenberg extensively in the past, McCullough becoming his race engineer at Williams having previously tracked his progress in the junior ranks.
Hulkenberg went from there to Force India, the previous incarnation of Racing Point. McCullough explained one of the biggest challenges with Hulkenberg at times is actually getting him to slow down a bit.
“Back in the Williams days, when he was actually racing in Formula 3 and I was a test engineer and working on the young driver development programme, I followed him through Formula 2 and then through Formula 2, and then all his testing and ultimately race-engineered him at Williams as well,” said McCullough. “Our paths have crossed several times over the years.
“One thing he’s always been able to do is drive very quickly right to the peak of a rear slip angle, really natural car control. Whether it’s in the wet, low grip, he straight away can go to where the grip is. Over the years, he learned how to get on top of the Pirelli tyres, which I think frustrated him a bit at the start.
“He’s a driver who just wants to drive fast. You spend half your time trying to slow him down. In the earlier, higher-degradation era of the Pirelli tyres he had to get on top of that.
“I think working alongside Checo [Sergio Perez], the two of them helped each other I think with strengths and weaknesses. And with experience, he learned how to handle race weekends well.
“When he stepped back in our car, in particular in 2020, having never driven it and you put him at somewhere like Silverstone, which has low, medium and high-speed corners and he qualifies up at the front, you know he’s just a class act and a really solid driver.”