Having spent three seasons out of Formula 1, new Haas man Nico Hulkenberg feels he is a better man for it.
When the drivers line up on the grid for 2023, few will have raced in as many grands prix as Hulkenberg has and yet, there is some rustiness he needs to shake off after a long time out of the sport.
The German was let go by Renault at the end of the 2019 season, appearing at fleeting intervals as a reserve driver for Racing Point and then Aston Martin, but other than that, Hulkenberg has been kept out of a Formula 1 seat.
But in 2023, at the age of 35, he has been given another chance with Haas opting to replace Mick Schumahcer with his compatriot in the hope the latter’s experience will prove beneficial.
In terms of the benefits of a break, Hulkenberg need only look to the other side of the Haas garage with new team-mate Kevin Magnussen also taking some time out before returning in 2022.
Hulkenberg has been speaking on the gap and said that it has actually been “very positive” for him,
“Obviously, I can only talk about my own case,” he told Motorsport.com. “But yeah, 2019 was not always great. I felt I wanted that time away at that point.
“And then once you step away, you also develop a different understanding and new perspectives on how things went, what you’ve done.
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“You reflect on many things, and process the whole thing. Even a winter break, you think three months is a lot – it’s actually not, because you’re still connected, you still do work. And the time properly away has I think helped me a lot.
“I got married, I became a father. I mean, that all happened, that’s just life. I think that doesn’t influence me. I mean, it influences anyone in a way obviously, because it does something, but it was more the disconnection in the professional sense.”
With an ever-expanding calendar, it is not just Hulkenberg who has felt the need for a break with his former team-mate Daniel Ricciardo rejecting the Haas seat in order to switch off after a turbulent two years at McLaren.
Hulkenberg said he had missed time in the car but also had time to reflect on the career decisions he had made up until this point.
“It was a very different role to what I used to do,” he said. “If you’re not in the car, if you’re not in the hot seat, and you don’t have to perform day in, day out, it’s a very different feeling.
“You’re much more relaxed, because you just cut out the bad days that you get in the car.
“I think I’ve said it before, the benefit of hindsight is a beautiful thing. Of course, I would have done a few things differently. But no point in dwelling on the past. Learn from it, try to correct it in the future, and do the right thing.
“What I said earlier about this time away, when you reflect on things, when you see things from a different angle, there are certainly some things that I will change how I will do them in the future. But there are very personal things that I don’t want to go into detail.
“And frankly, there were a few missed opportunities to set the highlights that were necessary to do the final step to a top team, that’s a fact. But I guess Haas want me for a reason – and they believe I’ve still got it and that I’m quality material.”