Nico Hulkenberg revealed his last-gasp call-up for the Eifel Grand Prix had given him – metaphorically, at least – “a heart attack”.
The German insisted Saturday’s events had been even “crazier” than the previous time he deputised for Racing Point.
There was a distinct sense of déjà vu as, for the second time this season, ‘The Hulk’ arrived at a Formula 1 paddock to stand in for one of Racing Point’s regular drivers because of health reasons.
At Silverstone, for the British Grand Prix and the following week’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, it was after Sergio Perez had tested positive for COVID-19.
But at least on that occasion it was before the race weekend had begun. This time, on the morning of qualifying, Hulkenberg had to dash to the Nurburgring and his very first laps were in Q1 after Lance Stroll was ruled out of action before FP3 due to feeling unwell.
Hulkenberg had been planning to make the journey to the circuit anyway – but in rather more leisurely fashion to carry out some TV work on race day.
We're bringing #HULKENBACK (yeah)
Them other drivers don't know how to act (yeah)
We think it's special when he's out on track (yeah)
If he scores points we'll pat him on the back (yeah)
— BWT Racing Point F1 Team (@RacingPointF1) October 10, 2020
Unsurprisingly, the 33-year-old was off the pace in qualifying due to his last-minute arrival and set the slowest time in Q1.
“I feel good considering I had a heart attack about 11am,” said Hulkenberg. “But I’m actually all right and alive!”
On Sky Sports, he explained. “It was even wilder and crazier than last time.
“I was in Cologne, which is kind of an hour from here. I was due to come here this afternoon anyway to do some TV stuff for RTL tomorrow. I was sat with a friend having a coffee at 11am when I see Otmar [Szafnauer, team principal] rings me and says ‘hurry, we need you here’ so I stepped in the car, came here and the rest is history.
“It felt quite different to Silverstone – a completely different circuit, the car has moved on too so I had to adjust around that a bit and find my feet again. In four laps that’s not so easy.
“But all in all, even though we are last I’m quite pleased with the laps we produced. I think the gap to the main field was not that big.
“Tomorrow will be very difficult and a hell of a challenge, but we’ll do what we can. I have the four laps in the pocket now, those will sink in and tomorrow we’ll just go racing and see what we get.
“You have to expect the unexpected and that’s what happened again today.”