Hulkenberg ‘wasn’t ready for brutal’ return

Michelle Foster
Nico Hulkenberg 'wasn't ready for brutal' return

Nico Hulkenberg concedes physically he “wasn’t ready” to return to Formula 1 at the British GP, saying his first qualy in seven months was “really brutal”.

Seven days later, though, he qualified his Racing Point RP20 third for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg made a surprise return to the Formula 1 grid ahead of the British Grand Prix, called up to replace Sergio Perez after the Mexican driver tested positive.

The call up was a surprise too for Hulkenberg.

The German, though, was quickly up to speed despite a sore butt on the Friday and even worse neck pain on the Saturday.

He qualified 13th for the first of the two Silverstone races but unfortunately never took his place on the grid as the RP20 would not fire up on the Sunday.

“It’s been a very special week to say the least, very dynamic, very eventful,” he told Sky F1.

“It was totally out of the blue and by surprise when I got the phone call last Thursday afternoon.

“I was in a café in Cologne having a pastry and a coffee and two hours later I was on a plane heading to the UK.

“I wasn’t ready enough for sure. Body-wise it was all okay but it was all about my neck and shoulder which is so specific here in these cars.

“Last week that was really a limiting factor, especially in qualifying when we go the fastest and the forces are the highest.

“It was really brutal to the point that I didn’t have enough strength to keep the car safe and go ultimately to the limit.”

A week later, though, Hulkenberg’s neck and shoulders were a bit more used to the speed and the G-forces with the German qualifying third for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

The German says he is very happy with the RP20.

“There certainly feels like a lot of grip in the high-speed corners, it’s very solid and very fast,” he said. “This week I’m more used to it again, to the speeds and the feeling.”

Hulkenberg will, hopefully, have his 178th chance at a first Formula 1 podium when he lines up on the Silverstone grid on Sunday.

It could, however, be his last shot wit Perez expected to return for the Spanish GP.

The 32-year-old is hoping that it won’t be his last with reports claiming he is in talks with teams about a full-time return in 2021.

But he won’t accept a seat just for the sake of being back in Formula 1.

“I’m not desperate but certainly keen to be back on the grid,” he said.

“This is a big opportunity, the car is strong and having strong performances will only help and boost my chances, so I’m obviously trying to do as well as I can and boost my chances for the future.”

As for Perez, Hulkenberg has been in contact with the Mexican driver and says he is doing well.

“Sergio is in good spirits, he doesn’t have any symptoms, he’s feeling good, he seems healthy.

“It was funny, I called him and when we saw each other we were both cracking up laughing! It was when we were waiting for his test result and we were just seeing who would go through.”

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