Nico Hulkenberg at first thought it was a joke when Racing Point boss Otmar Szafnauer suggested he could be needed for the Eifel GP.
Hulkenberg replaced Sergio Perez for both rounds at Silverstone after the Mexican driver tested positive for COVID-19, and he reminded everyone of his talents by qualifying P3 for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
That was the last F1 event which Hulkenberg expected to contest this season, but when Racing Point’s other driver Lance Stroll fell ill, Hulkenberg was rushed in for qualifying and the race.
Explaining how the call-up came about, Hulkenberg told Auto Motor und Sport: “I was with a colleague at home in Cologne. He was on the slopes on Friday evening. I almost went with them and then didn’t do it. So I was fresh.
“We are having coffee when the phone rings. I had already received a Whatsapp from Otmar (Szafnauer) who wanted to know where I am and whether I have my helmet with me.
“I thought what is he texting? Then he called and said I had to come as soon as possible. At first I thought it was a joke. It can’t be that it will happen again. But he said that Lance is not doing well and that he probably cannot drive. In short: I should come.
“I wanted to go to the Nürburgring in the afternoon anyway because I had a few other appointments there.”
Hulkenberg qualified last on the grid for the Eifel GP, hardly a surprise considering he hadn’t driven a lap in the RP20 at the Nurburgring prior to Q1.
He was able to go on and score a points finish though with P8, while team-mate Perez crossed the line in P4.
Asked if a major upgrade for Racing Point between Silverstone and the Nurburgring had altered the RP20, Hulkenberg replied: Yes, yes. Something has changed in the steering.
“That was a completely different steering feel than at Silverstone, the steering speed was also different, so I had to adjust to it at first. It takes a couple of laps to get acclimatised.”
— BWT Racing Point F1 Team (@RacingPointF1) October 10, 2020
So having now competed for Racing Point at Silverstone and the Nurburgring, did Hulkenberg find the latter to be an even tougher assignment?
“Yes, even more difficult. I had the Silverstone experience in the back of my mind and it was the same team, basically the same car, but something had changed since my two outings at Silverstone,” he said.
“It’s a different racetrack. Straight into the qualification, it’s not a dip in the deep end, it’s a dip in an ice bath. It was clear to me from the start that I would not get past last place on the grid. Anything else would have been a miracle. I was very happy with the lap time and the increase in the four laps that I had.
“I tripped myself up in the chicane. I could have caught Kimi. It was a huge task. You either have to do it or you don’t. And when you do, don’t think a lot, act and react.”