Nico Hulkenberg has started his duties as reserve driver, confirming in Bahrain he has spent “a day each” with Aston Martin and Mercedes.
Hulkenberg has been without a full-time drive in Formula 1 since his Renault days in 2019, but did get the chance to race at three events last season due to the illness of Racing Point drivers Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez, although an engine failure meant he did not start at the British Grand Prix.
He showed his qualities in the other two races, though, qualifying third for his first start of the season before going on to finish P7 and then climbing to P8 from bottom of the grid later in the year.
Some tipped him for the Red Bull seat, which looked like it was set be open as the team looked for an Alex Albon replacement, but they instead went for Perez.
That then left Hulkenberg without a permanent seat, so he will this season again fill the role of reserve driver, sticking with his team from last year – albeit they are now known as Aston Martin – but he is also now part of the Mercedes set up, too.
He revealed, during his punditry duties with Austrian broadcaster ServusTV, that he has already got to work with the two teams, spending a day each in the simulators.
“You already get a feeling there for how such a car can be driven,” said Hulkenberg, as quoted by Motorsport-Total.
“That’s a first impression, which is also important. The Aston Martin is already different to drive than last year. But when it really becomes reality, it’s always another feeling on the track and another learning process that you then have to go through quickly.”
If Hulk is to race in F1 this season, it is likely to be Aston Martin if either Stroll or Sebastian Vettel become unavailable, given that Mercedes already have two reserves in the form of Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries.
They both do have Formula E commitments, though, and the two series do occasionally clash which could give Hulkenberg the opportunity to jump in the W12.
The German driver may have been snubbed by Red Bull over the winter, but Helmut Marko did at least have praise for his ability with a microphone.
Marko said: “Now we have a super TV commentator. He’s a reserve driver for Aston Martin and Mercedes. Maybe he’ll blab something about those cars that we can use!
“But he’s come on very well [as a TV commentator]. I haven’t watched it yet, but the ratings have been sensational.”