Nico Hulkenberg admits the past 24 hours have been wild after he was called up to replace Sergio Perez at the British Grand Prix.
Perez tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, leaving Racing Point searching for a replacement at late notice. Although the team had access to Mercedes reserve drivers Esteban Gutierrez and Stoffel Vandoorne, Gutierrez did not have recent Formula 1 experience and Vandoorne was unavailable due to Formula E commitments, so Hulkenberg was approached to return to his former team.
“The last 24 hours have been a bit special, crazy and wild,” Hulkenberg said. “4:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon I got the call and took the plane here, seat fitted at 2 a.m. and got into the simulator at 8 a.m. this morning for an hour to do some track work. So it was a short night but all worthwhile.
“A great effort by the team — I want to thank all the night shift guys for doing an amazing job to get me into the car quite comfortably. Also want to thank the FIA for turning it around so fast on the Super License. It’s been very special.”
After finishing FP2 in seventh place, Hulkenberg admits he is impressed by the performance of the RP20, with teammate Lance Stroll topping the second session.
“You can see there’s huge potential. I didn’t exploit the soft tire as well and I need to use that tire better. That’s what we are going to work on through the night and try and get up to speed in the best possible way.”
However, Hulkenberg sees a further challenge coming from the physicality of driving an F1 car for the first time in eight months at Silverstone.
“Simulator is simulator,” he mused. “I think I got to grip pretty quickly with things. It’s just a little bit getting used to the steering wheel and some of the functions. We didn’t have heaps of time because I had to be (COVID) tested as well. The real deal today, we got the program and many laps in — which I feel. I’ve really been thrown into the cold water here. I think my body will go through that tomorrow and the day after. It’s obviously a challenge but I’m not shy of that.
“It’s tough to train for, it’s so unique and so special. Even though I’m in decent shape, this kind of G-force around here and the high-speed tracks, in (hot weather)… I felt the neck already.”