Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point, Silverstone, 2020

Hulkenberg’s return was approved just 15 minutes before practice began

2020 British Grand Prix

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Nico Hulkenberg was only given the all-clear to take part in this weekend’s British Grand Prix 15 minutes before first practice began.

He was contacted by Racing Point yesterday after doubt arose over Sergio Perez’s participation at Silverstone. When Perez was found to have tested positive for Covid-19, Racing Point opted to appoint Hulkenberg as his replacement.

Racing Point CEO Otmar Szafnauer said the team began discussions with Perez and Mercedes reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez after Perez’s first Covid-19 test produced and inconclusive result.

“When I started thinking about this when Checo’s first test was inconclusive, [I was] hoping that the next test was negative but you’ve got to hope for best and plan for the worst. So we started that planning and we did it in parallel with Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez at the same time.

Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point, Silverstone, 2020
Hulkenberg made it to the track in time to test
We also have Stoffel Vandoorne but he couldn’t be here this weekend as he’s got a Formula E commitment. So it was Esteban or Nico.

“Our engineering team, after we discussed, thought Nico would be more appropriate for our team because he knows us really well, he knows all the engineers, he knows our systems, our processes, he’s driven our simulator, it’d be easy for him to get in the simulator again. And also he has relevant experience from having driven in Formula 1 last year. We just needed somebody that could score points for us so we thought Nico would be the best guy for us.”

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Hulkenberg decided to make a quick return from Germany and cancel an appearance at the Nurburgring after Szafnauer called him.

“He had just landed in Germany,” said Szafnauer. “I think he was flying to Germany to do some kind of sports car test or something. I don’t know what category of racing.

“But he landed there and said ‘I just landed here, I’m going to do a test’. And I said ‘well, maybe you should jump in a Formula 1 car’. So he said ‘yeah, absolutely’.

“I think he spent an hour on the ground in Cologne to grab his boots and a helmet. I think the helmet he grabbed isn’t to spec anyway. And then he flew into Birmingham so he landed here about 7, 7:30 last night.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point, Silverstone, 2020
Hulkenberg only just made it in time
Hulkenberg required a negative Covid-19 test before he could enter the F1 paddock. This was only confirmed by F1 test supplier Eurofins a quarter of an hour before the first practice session began.

The Racing Point driver had to dash to the team’s garage in order to get behind the wheel of his RP20. Szafnauer said Hulkenberg began the session five minutes late as a result.

“We got the ‘go’ from Eurofins at quarter to 11 saying that his test came back negative. So then we had to quickly get him in the car.

“But he quickly came up to speed and his feedback was as it always is. So there’s more improvement in the car, there’s things he doesn’t like, there’s things he does like. So we will make those improvements between now and FP2 and we’ll see how we go but I think he was ninth and pretty comfortable.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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15 comments on “Hulkenberg’s return was approved just 15 minutes before practice began”

  1. enjoyed this sort of a thriller, rush story, fits well with this crazy season

  2. I enjoyed this quite a lot. :D I hope it was as good for him as it was for us. He’s like a baby Kimi.

  3. on the practical side, if the seats in F1 cars are custom made and fitted to each driver how do they handle fitting a last minute driver change like this? Is he just making due the best he can in Perez’s seat or can they make a new one quick enough?

    1. Maybe it’s a touch easier to get things done since the team is based in Silverstone!

      Not sure how much benefit being nearby the factory is regarding getting a seat made, but it surely can’t hurt!

    2. Given he drove for them in the past, they may have his old seat in storage. If his physique hasn’t changed much, then they might have been able to pull that out of storage and slot it into the car.

    3. @lancer033

      on the practical side, if the seats in F1 cars are custom made and fitted to each driver how do they handle fitting a last minute driver change like this?

      Hulkenberg said he had a seat fitting the night before, which went on very late:

      https://www.racefans.net/2020/07/31/hulkenberg-sees-huge-potential-after-first-run-in-massively-quick-racing-point/

      1. @keithcollantine Thanks. It’s pretty impressive they can get that done overnight.

  4. Not sure why this appointment made me so happy but it sure did. A podium would probably send me into a frenzy.

  5. This is a good surprise. Racing Point might become likeable.

  6. One might wonder if RP had an old Hulk seat from earlier times.?
    The mounting and basic design of the seat (assembly) is now fairly standardized for safety and extraction requirements so it might not be as big an issue as in the past. There are loads of videos out there on how the process is done.
    Would be nice if there will be some follow on presentation from RP on the process and hopefully …. great results.

  7. @keithcollantine

    That is a great photo, if I read the attribution correctly a Racefans photo.

    I hope this means you got negative Covid results and are attending.

    1. XPB image (watermark) taken by James Moy I guess.
      @slotopen

      But all kudos to the RF team to allways pick the best images.

    2. @slotopen It’s an XPB picture – the copyright indication is in the bottom-right.

      Yes I got the all-clear this morning and was at the track all day. Thanks for asking!

  8. Hottest day of the year’s not a time to be running around too much, but I would too for a race (or two, or more?) in what’s clearly a competitive car.

  9. Sorry for the use of inappropriate word in the unpublished comment, I meant to say – come on, Nico , you have to score a podium on one of those two races. A film made out of it would be massive. Starring you – a beautiful blonde playboy in the main role.

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