Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point, Silverstone, 2020

Hulkenberg sees “huge potential” after first run in “massively quick” Racing Point

2020 British Grand Prix

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Nico Hulkenberg raved about his first day in Racing Point’s RP20 following his 11th-hour call-up to drive for the team this weekend.

He ended Friday practice sixth quickest after flying back from Germany yesterday to take over Sergio Perez’s car.

“The last 24 hours have been a bit special,” said Hulkenberg. “Crazy and wild.

“At 4:30pm yesterday afternoon I got the call, took a plane here. Had a seat fitting until 2am last night. Then 8am this morning into the simulator for an hour, a bit of prep work, so it was a short night. But all worthwhile.

“It was a great effort by the team, I want to thank the team and the night shift guys that did an amazing job to fit me in the car and even quite comfortably and the FIA for turning it around so fat on the superlicence. It’s been very special.”

The brief simulator session gave Hulkenberg a chance to learn the basics of the RP20.

“I got to grips pretty quickly with things. It was just a little bit to get used to the steering wheel and some of the functions. We didn’t have heaps of time because I had to be tested as well.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point, Silverstone, 2020
Hulkenberg is standing in for Perez this weekend
Hulkenberg hasn’t driven an F1 car since December last year, and he admitted he felt the strain on his body after his first day in the RP20.

“We got the programme in, many laps, which I feel. I’ve been really thrown into the cold water here. I think my body will feel that tomorrow and the day after. It’s obviously a huge challenge but I’m not shy of that.”

“The G-forces are tough to train for because it’s so unique and so special,” he added. “Even though I’m in decent shape these kind of G-force and especially around here, one of the fastest, high-speed tracks. And 35 degrees, I also choose the hottest day of the UK so far. I’ve got the best of everything.”

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He said the car felt “quite different” to the Renault he drove last year. “I tried to take it step-by-step today, get up to speed with the car, understand it,” he said.

“It just takes time to inhale everything, understand it, know how you have to drive it and learn. Obviously there’s more time to tonight to focus on learning. All I can say is it’s pretty quick around here nowadays.”

Having ended his first day of practice six-tenths of a second behind team mate and pace-setter Lance Stroll, Hulkenberg says there is more to come from him tomorrow.

“You see the huge potential,” he said. “The car is massively fast.

“I didn’t exploit the top tyre that well, I think I have a bit more in the bag and I need to use that tyre better. But that’s what we’re going to work on, obviously, through the night and trying to get the best possible from the car this weekend.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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28 comments on “Hulkenberg sees “huge potential” after first run in “massively quick” Racing Point”

  1. The physical aspect is not something I’d thought of. I assume Hulk has been training in the offseason on the chance he landed a drive somewhere, but I do wonder if he’s at a physical disadvantage here.

    1. I think yes, he is at a physical disadvantage. Although, it’s effects are probably marginal. Has he driven a real racecar since Abu Dhabi?

    2. Also strolls car would no doubt have the faster set up

  2. You could tell he didn’t expect that much rear security, a bit tentitive. Stroll stands out in commitment, he is fast on a fast car.

  3. He’ll get faster and faster as the weekend goes on. Imagine he’ll be behind Stroll this weekend, but who knows next weekend.

    Lots of pressure on Stroll to be faster

  4. Hulk has two races to score a podium. No pressure at all.

    1. @david-beau maybe more. some people test positive for SARS-CoV2 for months. PER could be one of them.

      1. @naylamp it could even be one of Mercedes drivers, then Hulkenberg can get podium as many as he like.

        1. Maybe even a win. I also made this comment on one of the other articles, but as someone replied to me, perhaps Russell would step up from Williams if that happened to Hamilton or Bottas.

          Hulkenberg could revisit all his old teams by the end of the season.

  5. I expect more from hm next weekend rather than this weekend. He’s had almost no experience with the car, the steering wheel, a proper fitted seat, etc etc.

    To be 0.5 secs being the other driver is to be expected for less than 24 hour notice.

    1. the proper seat fitting is interesting and a valid point, because I’m not sure RP got a chance to make a mould out of the Hulk yet. And since the height difference between Checo and Nico is very big, he definitely couldn’t have used the car as is. So yes, there might be a big improvement in the next couple of sessions.

      1. It says right in the article that they got him fitted and it’s quite comfortable.

        1. It was a foam insert and not a proper seat fitting.

  6. I am actually very impressed by Nico. I’ve used to call him overrated, but now I’ve changed my mind. With less than 24 hours to travel and get prepared to drive this car for the first time and be so on pace at one of the most demanding circuits – really, really impressed. Remember Felipe Massa crash and how much Gene and Fisichella were struggling, having much more time and resources to ready themselves.

    1. He has the advantage of a balanced and stable car (which Gene and Fisichella did not) but still, mighty impressive day from him. I doubt a podium is possible this weekend, but top 6 on race day seems doable.

    2. Ferrari was a very demanding car to drive, in 2009 for sure. Apparently Force India in 2009 was a very easy car (I remember reading this back in the day). I argue that this might be valid every year, and not just 2009

    3. What did Marc Gene do? I thought it was Luca Badoer who finished a lap behind teammate and winner of the Belgian GP 2009, Kimi Räikkönen.

    4. I don’t think Hulk is, or was, overrated as such. He truly was an exceptional driver in the junior categories. He won pretty much everything first attempt. In his earlier F1 career, he showed flashes of absolute brilliance, Stuck a Williams on pole by over a second in his first season and should have won a race in a Force India in his second season. His season with Sauber was also exceptional, where he regularly had it up fighting with far quicker cars, 10 points finishes in a season his team mate only got 1.

      Back at Force India, often through sheer bad luck or timing, he narrowly missed out on several podiums.

      I always felt the more the whole talk of never getting a podium grew, the more it seemed to weigh on him and the less ‘special’ he became. If he’d managed to have gotten one earlier in his career (and he did have a few chances), he’d have gone on to have a totally different career IMO. Probably a shot at a top seat where the chances were more regular. Instead, he sort of got pigeon holed as a midfield man who couldn’t convert big chances when they opened up and the big teams didn’t want to take a chance on, because he hadn’t had the big final result to prove he could. So he has been stuck with midfield machinery and having to hope to be in the right place at the right time. It just never happened.

      I’m pretty sure the incident in Germany last year when he would 100% have got a podium ended his career at Renault too. Another chance missed. The truth is though, Renault have been nowhere and even Ricciardo, a genuine front line driver couldn’t drag it anywhere. Which shows what Hulk had been working with there….

  7. So I read about Eurofins from the link provided by @coldfly

    For a company who claim to be the world leader in covid management, Eurofins really need to learn from other health services. If Korean since two month ago already have drive-through PCR testing with one hour result, why they need to send the sample back to Germany and having result in 24 hours? Mobile Bio Safety Level-2 is not that expensive.

    I rated letting Hulk to start working with RP team before clear covid-test result as reckless.

    1. I don’t think Hulk was working with anyone in the bubble at the circuit, but down the road at the RP factory, where they have the simulator as well.

  8. Huge potential to further expand on his mediocrity. What a waste of a seat this guy is.

    1. Given how the seat would be empty without him, I fail to understand how he is wasting a seat

      1. @darryn I rate Hulkenberg over Stroll any day of the week

  9. I don’t know if Hulk was present when Netflix recorded Abiteboul saying that “maybe he was cursed”. I think it was after that lost podium in Germany. I imagine that echoed in his mind for some time.

    What now? A fast car in a driver’s circuit, and an impossible opportunity materialized

    All he has to do is deliver. Third place behind Hamilton and Verstappen, or better. Two shots at it in two weeks. Pressure? What pressure?

  10. Nice job but would honestly have preferred to see Vandoorne try it. Last time he subbed was impressive and I believe he has untapped potential despite being trounced by Alonso.

  11. I’m really happy for Nico, I hope he gets a points finish in the race and that his cramps aren’t too painful. I was disappointed he didn’t get the seat at Haas, mind you if he had it might have been Romain getting to drive for Racing Point.

  12. He’s done a good job so far, hope tomorrow he gives Lance a bit more trouble. Temps should be down so the tyres shouldn’t be as difficult to manage.

  13. I remember reading an article on here saying that Mercedes will offer/allow their test and sim drivers race for other teams in this eventuality.

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