Nico Hulkenberg’s shock return to Formula 1 has been confirmed, replacing Sergio Perez at Racing Point for the British Grand Prix weekend.
Hulkenberg has been drafted in by one of his former teams after Perez became the first Formula 1 driver on the grid to test positive for COVID-19. His first test returned inconclusive and his second ensured that he will have to spend the next 10 days in self-isolation.
Racing Point said the plan was still to run two cars at the Silverstone circuit, sparking a sudden wave of rumours as to who would possibly replace the Mexican.
The team usually have Mercedes reserves Esteban Gutierrez and Stoffel Vandoorne to call upon, but Gutierrez’s lengthy spell on the sidelines was a turn-off while Vandoorne had not initially travelled to Silverstone because of his Formula E commitments.
That paved the way for Hulkenberg, who left the grid at the end of the 2019 campaign following a spell at Renault, to return to action at very short notice.
The German driver, who holds the unwanted record of the most Formula 1 races without a podium (179), was spotted arriving at Silverstone on Friday morning.
The worst kept secret in Formula 1 was out of the bag.
HULK IS BACK! #F1
🎥 : lucasjavabrito/Instagrampic.twitter.com/RZtuR3eaL8
— Planet F1 (@Planet_F1) July 31, 2020
After he tested negative for COVID-19, Hulkenberg was officially announced as Perez’s replacement.
It was close call, though, to get him confirmed ahead of FP1. His name replaced Perez’s on the official timesheet with just seven minutes left until the first practice session.
— BWT Racing Point F1 Team (@RacingPointF1) July 31, 2020
“I was on my way to the Nürburgring for another racing project when the call from Otmar came,” Hulkenberg said.
“That was less than 24 hours ago, so it feels a bit surreal for me right now, but I like a good challenge and this is certainly one.
“It’s obviously a difficult situation for Racing Point and Checo. He’s a buddy of mine, an old team-mate and I wish him a speedy recovery. I’ll step in and try do the best I can for the team!”
Team boss Otmar Szafnauer added: “Having to find a replacement for Sergio at short notice is no easy task, but in Nico we’ve got a fantastic supersub who the team knows very well. He’s certainly being thrown in at the deep end, but he’s a fast learner and I’m sure he will get up to speed quickly.”