Mercedes test driver Stoffel Vandoorne would have been Racing Point’s “fallback” guy if Nico Hulkenberg hadn’t been able to get to the Nurburgring on Saturday.
With Lance Stroll falling ill, Racing Point was on the phone to Hulkenberg early Saturday morning, asking him if he could get to the circuit to fill in for the Canadian.
Stroll had been feeling ill since the Russian Grand Prix but the team had hoped that he would recover in time for Saturday’s running. He didn’t.
Instead the team was forced to turn to Hulkenberg, who had subbed earlier in the season when he replaced Sergio Perez at the two Silverstone races.
The German was close by in Cologne when he received the call, making it possible for him to arrive at the track in time for qualifying.
If he hadn’t, Mercedes test driver Vandoorne would have been handed his Racing Point debut.
Confirming that the Belgian racer was the “fallback”, team boss Otmas Szafnauer told The Race: “He was in the paddock so he had a negative COVID test and he was ready to go.
“Just with Nico, we had his seat here. We know exactly where the pedals go. We don’t have to adjust pedals or some of the other things that we would have had to go through with Stoffel.”
Vandoorne last competed in Formula 1 in 2018 before he was dropped by McLaren and headed to the Formula E series.
Mercedes, though, snapped him up as their reserve driver, opening the door for Vandoorne to sub for any of the Mercedes-powered teams in this year’s championship.
Hulkenberg will start Sunday’s 60-lap grand prix from the very back of the grid.
The German, who did just 10 laps in Q1, qualified P20 but was only four-tenths away from a Q2 berth.
Szafnauer reckons just getting the car onto the grid was an achievement in itself.
“It was a huge ask,” he said, “and we’re just thankful that he got within 107 percent rule.
“A decent racecar underneath him, he’s done a few laps now, and if he gets a good start, he’s got a chance at points.”