Nico Hulkenberg was sounded out as a potential replacement for Alex Albon if the Red Bull driver failed a COVID-19 test before ultimately driving for Racing Point at the Eifel Grand Prix.
Lance Stroll’s illness led to the Canadian being unable to drive in FP3 on Saturday, resulting in Hulkenberg being called up by Racing Point to take part in qualifying and the race. After a remarkable climb from 20th on the grid to finish eighth, RACER has learned the German was also sounded out about his availability to drive in place of Albon after the Red Bull driver returned an inconclusive COVID-19 test result.
Red Bull was just being cautious, and Albon subsequently returned a negative result and was able to drive, paving the way for Hulkenberg’s impressive performance for Racing Point on Sunday.
“It was a fun race!” Hulkenberg said. “It was difficult to expect very much from the race with so little preparation and the other guys are in their season and in the car, and then here I am being thrown into the ice bath and try to swim and survive somehow.
“I feel quite happy and relieved that I managed this kind of performance. Halfway through the first stint things were falling into place and I was getting into a groove and a good rhythm with the car, and I think that was key for us to then pull off the rest of the strategy and stay out of trouble. We obviously had a bit of help along the way from some people dropping out, but still, a good strategy and a solid drive.”
Despite another impressive substitute performance – and Red Bull’s interest earlier in the weekend – Hulkenberg said he is still no closer to knowing if he will make a full-time return to Formula 1 next season.
“It’s difficult to say,” he said. “Obviously this is the best I can do, or the maximum I can do to promote myself and advertise. But after Silverstone nothing really changed dramatically, immediately. I think it’s still a process. People obviously know I’m around, but we’ll just have to be a bit more patient to see what’s happening.”