Aston Martin name super-sub Hulkenberg as official reserve and development driver

2021 F1 season

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Nico Hulkenberg will serve as the official reserve and development driver for Aston Martin this year, continuing his long association with the team.

Last year Hulkenberg joined the team, then called Racing Point, as a substitute for three races, though he was unable to start the first of those at Silverstone due to a power unit problem. He stood in for Sergio Perez at both rounds on the British track, and returned to take Lance Stroll’s place at the Nurburgring, each time due to the drivers testing positive for Covid-19.

“In these difficult times, the requirement for a capable and experienced reserve driver is especially important,” said CEO Otmar Szafnauer. “Nico proved last year that he could jump in the car and perform superbly at a moment’s notice; now, with additional scope for preparation and integration, we know that we can rely on Nico to do an excellent job.”

Hulkenberg originally joined the team in 2011, when it was known as Force India, as a reserve driver. He raced for them the following year, and came close to winning the Brazilian Grand Prix. Following a year at Sauber he returned to Force India for a three-year stint.

“It’s great to get this deal signed up with plenty of notice,” joked Hulkenberg, “last year, I didn’t have quite as much time to prepare before jumping in the car!

“I’m really pleased to once again work with this team – with whom I have driven many times during my career. Obviously, I’m hoping that Sebastian [Vettel] and Lance enjoy uninterrupted seasons this year, but the team knows it can rely on me to step in and do an excellent job, and I’m fully prepared to take on that challenge.”

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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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41 comments on “Aston Martin name super-sub Hulkenberg as official reserve and development driver”

  1. Sush Meerkat
    8th April 2021, 12:33

    If he has to stand in for Vettel I see him doing better

    1. If he has to stand in for either driver… he’ll do better.

      1. Espesially, if the goal is to finish between P4 and P10 ;)

        1. ohhh savage

        2. Which is significantly higher than anything Vettel will achieve this season ;)

          1. Sush Meerkat
            9th April 2021, 14:04


  2. I’ve said before I think Stroll is a good midfield driver, but the Hulk is much better. Just swap them and AM will have a much better chance of scoring points consistently.
    Having said that Vettel is still an unknown isn’t he.

    1. Nico is more consistent than Lance, but I wouldn’t say he’s much better. While Lance grabbed almost every opportunity for a podium, Nico threw all of them away. The 2012 Brazilian GP was the decisive moment in Nico’s career. Had he won it or at least finished on the podium (and I believe many drivers would’ve done so that day), he could’ve landed a top drive for 2014, most likely Ferrari. Instead he ruined his own and Hamilton’s race.

      1. @srga91 I don’t think many drivers on that day would have been able to overtake both McLarens on merit.

        That’s what is so frustrating about him. He could have been a superstar, but I think he started losing faith in himself and became his own worst enemy.

        1. @wsrgo
          The half wet/half dry conditions were helping Nico, but I agree, he did an impressive job up until he spun the car. But the fact that he was still in 2nd place after the spin and yet he still binned it, taking an unnecessary risk into T1 on Hamilton, was a rookie mistake.
          I think a lot of drivers would’ve brought a safe 2nd or 3rd place home that day.

          He was definitely his own worst enemy. Who knows, that exact race in 2012 might have caused him to loose belief in himself, to be able to deliver when it really matters.

      2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        12th April 2021, 17:28

        @srga91 yeah, I do wonder how things would have turned out for him if he had done better in Brazil 2012.

        Amazing, how an entire career can be determined by 1 race. Gasly can win 10 races this year and all Horner is going to remember is Gasly being lapped by Verstappen at the Red Bull Ring

  3. Has Vettel been tested positiv for Covid already? Don’t wish anybody bad, but I am desperate to see a comparison between the three.

    1. No, Vettel has never tested positive for COVID-19 – though some of the new variants are almost as capable of re-infecting people who’ve already had an “original variant” as people who haven’t.

  4. Reading the runes it looks like very soon Hulk IN, Vettel OUT.

    1. I tend to agree. If Vettel doesn’t/can’t perform, I can’t see him wanting to stay, and the team would do well to put Hulkenberg in his place if that situation did arise.

      Ultimately, they should have kept the same driver pairing as last year, or perhaps have had Hulk and Perez…

      1. Vettel wasn’t hired for his driving skills, otherwise they would have kept Perez. So, no, Vettel is going to stay unless he himself quits with the reason that he is not enjoying the racing anymore.

        1. Or if he gets beaten by Lance.. that will crush the ego of any driver on the grid.

      2. As I understand things, Vettel owns part of the team, I don’t think he’s going anywhere unless he wants out.

        I’d take the Hulk anyday over red mist sir crash a lot Vettel.

  5. I don’t have a high hope of him becoming a regular F1 driver again, albeit stranger things have happened in F1.
    More likely than not, the only chances of driving in any race (even longer-term) would, like last year, occur by substituting a regular.

    1. @jerejj I have to agree, at least this role keeps him in the loop and the possibility of an appearance at a round, but there aren’t many who’ve spent two years on the sidelines and made it back and he’ll be 34 by the end of this season. I can’t help but think his career has largely been a ‘what could have been’.

      1. @bernasaurus Alonso did return after two seasons away, but the difference is he’s achieved something in F1, which makes returning easier (the same for Kimi). Nevertheless, not many have returned after two seasons (Grosjean to an extent has, but most likely won’t come back), albeit some have after a single season (Hulkenberg before, Gutierrez, Magnussen, Ocon, Kvyat). Gutierrez definitely won’t become a race driver again, and I’ve got doubts about Magnussen and Kvyat because of how little success they’ve achieved in F1, even after their respective returns. Ocon as well, should he end up without a drive again because of either Gasly or one of the Zhou-Lundgaard-Piastri trio. I wouldn’t be surprised if Albon (like JEV, Buemi, and co.) faced a similar fate and ended up in another series, such as FE.

        1. @jerejj There’s also that Michael Schumacher bloke, but he had scored a podium or two beforehand.

          1. @bernasaurus Yes, I should’ve included.

          2. Ahah, he scored almost as many podiums as the races hulkenberg drove I guess!

          3. Oh, and lauda also came back after being several years out of the sport.

  6. Only Facts!
    8th April 2021, 13:43

    Will Hulkenberg travel to all races? Like a real standby driver?

    If not, the situation will not change much for the Hulk, money aside. In case one of them is not feeling well, Hulkenberg will receive that wake up call friday morning again.

    Pack, drive, fly, track, pratice, qualifying, P5, hotel, race. I’m sure he won’t mind, but I believe he would prefer being trackside with headphones on, Ocon ’19 style.

    1. I doubt that he will be. At least he wasn’t there at the last race in Bahrain. He is now part of the ServusTV-team, who are sharing the broadcasting rights in Austria with national TV ‘ORF’. Instead ServusTV send their other former driver, Christian Klien, to Bahrain.
      Nico will be also commentating for RTL in Cologne for the next race at Imola (and possibly for the other 3 rounds, that they are broadcasting, too).
      It’s probably a cost saving ssue too. The team would have to cover the costs for the flight and the hotel for Nico (for the whole time he is there), just in case he will have to substitute one of their drivers. Aston Martin might not want to pay those, possibly unnecessary, bills.

      1. I thought there entry fees went some way to cover transport costs for the teams and their gear.

        Some drivers obvious prefer private transport and often share the costs between mates.

  7. The time of Hulk is gone, he is not going to be a revolutionary driver, nor a competitive/interesting racer that we will enjoy, so, it’s better that some new blood joins the F1, stop getting excited for Hulk.

    1. To be honest there never was a time of Hulk. Incredibly mediocre. No podiums in 10 years. Is it his great hair? I still don’t know why he is even talked about now, much less having a potential seat.

  8. I’m not a fan of Hulkenberg, but I still find it funny that Aston Martins reserve driver is better than both of their race drivers.

  9. I don’t see how anyone can find Hulkenberg better than Stroll.

    But agree the writing is on the wall for Vettel if the troubles continue for long.

    1. They had two weekends together in Silverstone last year and that was a quite impressive performance IMHO given that Nico didn’t have enjoyed pre season testing, three complete race weekends and was driving another car for the last three years. On the 2nd weekend (after some modifications to the car which were not possible to do in time for race 1) he put the car on P3 in qualifying. I guess that is how some can find him better than Stroll…

    2. someone or something
      8th April 2021, 18:05


      I don’t see how anyone can find Hulkenberg better than Stroll.

      Your optometrist would like to have a word with you …

      1. @zomtec @someone or something It was a good qualifying, but he overcooked his tyres in the race and dropped behind Stroll in the end. This is anyway a team that Hulkenberg is very familiar with so it wasn’t like Russell parachuting in a new team + car that didn’t fit and knocking people’s socks off.

        But basing a comparison on one race is of course not good enough. Hulkenberg has a long history of mediocrity just like Stroll, but factor in the age and experience, and Lance’s 3 podiums and 1 pole compared to the guy with the record for most races without a podium puts paid on any notion that Hulkenberg is better than him.

        1. someone or something
          8th April 2021, 21:26

          I’m throwing the towel. Not worth the effort. Even though it makes me a bit uneasy.

          1. so it wasn’t like Russell parachuting in a new team + car that didn’t fit and knocking people’s socks off.

            I’m throwing the towel. Not worth the effort. Even though it makes me a bit uneasy.

            It’s truly not worth trying to out smart that logic.

      2. Or psychologist.
        At the end of the year money isn’t paid to teams on lucky podiums or one pole but points.

  10. so here’s your name for the in-season or infra-season replacement

  11. Is this actually recent news or old?
    If recent, why did Green Merc sign him so late, or more importantly, why didn’t any other team sign Super-Sub first??? He is still a decent driver.
    Dad is not stupid. Could be that he is actually after a good driver for ’22. In a stroke of luck for dad, Seb became free. Paddock consensus is that Seb is on a lo-o-w wage with bonuses for podiums/wins. In the interim, Seb is excellent for AM branding + he can help son progress.
    If Seb fails, buying shares in AM could well be an ace for after F1 life.

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