Nico Hulkenberg admits he is struggling to take in his “crazy” comeback to Formula 1 after securing third on the grid at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
Racing Point turned to Hulkenberg when Sergio Perez tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the British Grand Prix, but after a difficult qualifying session the German failed to start the race due to a reliability issue. With Perez again testing positive this week, Hulkenberg got confirmation on Friday morning he would be back in the car once again and this time excelled with third place on the grid, outqualifying teammate Lance Stroll by over 0.3s.
“Crazy huh? What can happen in life and how quickly things can change,” Hulkenberg said. “Last week Thursday to Friday, an F1 comeback in 10 hours, just nuts. Starting at ground zero, obviously the low on Sunday, and now back here … a bit lost for words but very amazing, very special days.
“Over one lap I was always much more comfortable and confident, after some days off and some preparation work, but I didn’t expect top three to be honest, that is a bit of surprise. The team has done a lot of analyzing as Lance’s race didn’t go to plan; hopefully we’re better prepared, we’ve made some mods and changes.
“For me it is all the other shebang — the start, I haven’t done this for a while, and in a new car, this is going to be my challenge for tomorrow.
“I’m sure (Verstappen and Ricciardo) will think, ‘Let’s have this German guy right away, he’s a bit rusty,’ but I need to do what I can, I’ll throw everything at it I have and let’s see what happens.”
Having never had a podium in his F1 career before, Hulkenberg admits he has an opportunity to end that drought on Sunday given the potential of the Racing Point.
“I knew this was going to come up now, obviously. To be honest, it’s very challenging and difficult circumstances but I know I have a fast car beneath me. So it’s just trying to make sure to do everything right.
“It’s starting lap one. It’s going to be also new for me but I think I’ll just try to get it right with all the experience that I have and then we’ll race. Obviously a couple of races behind the other guys but I still remember what it feels like. Just try not to think too much, keep my head down and have a good race tomorrow.”