Nico Hulkenberg was only given the all-clear to take part in this weekend’s British Grand Prix 15 minutes before first practice began.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.
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.”
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.”
2020 F1 season
- Pictures: Wrecked chassis from Grosjean’s Bahrain fireball crash to go on display
- Bottas vs Rosberg: Hamilton’s Mercedes team mates compared after 78 races each
- F1 revenues fell by $877 million in Covid-struck 2020 season
- Hamilton and Mercedes finally announce new deal for 2021 season
- F1 audience figures “strong” in 2020 despite dip in television viewers