Nico Hulkenberg described his whirlwind return to F1 as like “being thrown into cold water” after a promising debut practice outing for Racing Point.
The German, without a full-time drive this year after being dropped by Renault, has been drafted in for the British Grand Prix by Racing Point as the stand-in for Sergio Perez, who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Less than 24 hours after receiving the call-up from Racing Point team boss Otmar Szafnauer, Hulkenberg finished P7 in FP2 at Silverstone, just 0.636sec behind his temporary colleague Lance Stroll who surprisingly topped the timesheets in the afternoon session.
“The last 24 hours has been a bit special,” said Hulkenberg. “Crazy and wild. I only got the call at 4.30pm yesterday, took a plane here and was up till 2.00am getting my seat fitted.
“Then I was in the simulator at 8.00am but I got to grips with it pretty quick. It was a short night but all worthwhile.
“I want to thank the team and the FIA who turned around my super-licence so fast. We didn’t have heaps of time because I had to be tested as well.
“It was like being thrown into cold water, a huge challenge – especially when it’s 35 degrees on the hottest day of the year – but I’m not shy of that. It was the real deal today but we got many laps in.”
— BWT Racing Point F1 Team (@RacingPointF1) July 31, 2020
Hulkenberg is no stranger, however, to the Racing Point team because he competed for them in 2011-12 and 2014-16 when they were known as Force India before their rebrand – and he admitted that familiarity had helped him.
“Many of the old faces are here so that helps to feel at home,” said the 32-year-old. “Going to a place with people you know is obviously a small benefit.
“I tried to take it step by step today, to get up to speed in the car. It’s quite different to last year and it takes time to inhale everything, understand it and know how you have to drive it.
“I’ll get more time out of it tomorrow. You can see there’s huge potential and the car is massively fast. I didn’t exploit the soft tyre and I’ll have to work on that.”
Nico Hulkenberg on F1 return
‘Last 24 hours have been crazy and wild’ Hulkenberg on his last-minute call up to replace Perez