Hulkenberg's desire for F1 "sort of crept back" in 2022

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Hulkenberg's desire for F1 "sort of crept back" in 2022

Formula 1

Hulkenberg's desire for F1 "sort of crept back" in 2022

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Nico Hulkenberg says his desire to “kick ass” in Formula 1 returned during the summer and led to him pursuing the Haas seat for 2023.

The German lost his drive with Renault at the end of 2019 and joined Aston Martin as reserve, making a number of substitute appearances in 2020 and at the start of this season. While he initially felt comfortable with his position on the periphery, he said that the desire to return full-time became increasingly strong during 2022.

“After 2019 I think that was what I wanted, what I needed also – a break,” Hulkenberg said. “Obviously I wasn’t a third driver or anything. So I really had the time to step back, disconnect from it properly. Then it was COVID time, so not much going on.

“Once the season 2020 started, soon after that I came to Silverstone to replace Checo (Sergio Perez). But it was good for me to have time away to digest, to reflect on some things. Change of perspective a little bit, too. And then 2021… sometimes it’s difficult when you have to watch, when you’re on the sidelines. But at that time it was it was still OK for me.

“This year, watching a little harder, especially when you analyze and you see and you think you can do better in places. So I started the return project.

“For two years I wasn’t too stressed about it, I was also enjoying the life out of the driving seat. It’s much more relaxed, there’s other benefits, but then it sort of crept back – the desire to come back on the grid, to go racing, to kick ass! To be in the driving seat. So there was no fear.”

Hulkenberg will drive the Haas for the first time during the Pirelli tire test in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, and says it will be a crucial day of running ahead of 2023 due to the lack of pre-season testing.

“You never know until it’s signed … but let’s say, I think the last month, it got more and more concrete and serious and I was getting more optimistic, and confident that we can agree a deal,” he said. “I’d say the last couple of weeks.

“The most important thing for tomorrow is just for me to obviously get my head around F1 and especially this Haas car, to understand it – it’s a bit of a head-start for next year. Three days of pre-season testing is not a lot before the first event.

“So that’s just a little teaser, to get a feel for this car and how the systems works, driver fit stuff, a lot of basics as well that you can already clear and get out of the way. And also, obviously have a look at the car; know where the performance is, what is good, where we need to maybe focus on, all these kinds of things.”

In joining Kevin Magnussen at Haas, Hulkenberg is paired with a driver he famously criticized for being unsporting in the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix – promoting a response from the Dane of “suck my balls, mate”– but Hulkenberg said all that is in the past.

“I expect to have a good relationship [with him]”, he said. “We’ve cleared that incident, and broken the ice beginning of this year actually. I said hello to him with his exact same words from 2017, and he found that quite funny and amusing. I have absolutely no worries working and racing alongside him. We’re both grown-up adults, we respect each other and we’ll race for the team. So, no problems whatsoever.”

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