Nico Hulkenberg on Friday reflected on a “special, crazy and wild” 24 hours that saw him make a dramatic overnight return to Formula One at the British Grand Prix.
The German driver, whose F1 career appeared to be over when he was dumped by Renault at the end of 2019, was called up to replace Sergio Perez after the Racing Point driver tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday.
“I got the call at 4:30 yesterday afternoon (Thursday),” he explained after finishing seventh in second free practice in sweltering conditions at Silverstone.
“I got the plane here and then a seat fitting until 2 am.
“Then at 8 am this morning I was into the simulator for an hour and did a bit of prep work – so it was a short night, but it was all worthwhile.
“The last 24 hours have been a bit special – and crazy and wild.”
He added his thanks to the Racing Point team for their part in his swift preparation for the unexpected call-up.
“It was a great effort by the team,” he said. “I want to thank them. The night shift guys have done a great job to fit me in the car and even quite comfortably!
“And I want to thank the FIA for turning it all around so fast on the super-licence. It’s been very special.”
Hulkenberg was due to be taking part in a GT car test at the Nurburgring, but abandoned those plans to accept Racing Point’s offer and fly to Silverstone.
In addition to a seat fitting and his final preparations to drive the controversial ‘pink Mercedes’ car, the driver popularly known as ‘The Hulk’’ had to pass a Covid-19 test.
The result came through only shortly before the start of opening practice on Friday morning enabling him to reach the paddock with a little more than 10 minutes to spare.
After two sessions in high temperatures – up to 35 degrees Celsius in the afternoon – and a gusty cross-wind on a high-speed circuit, Hulkenberg admitted he had felt the physical strain.
“The G-forces,” he said. “It’s tough to train for this because it’s so unique and so special. Even though I am in decent shape, this kind of G-force, especially around here – one of the fastest high-speed tracks – and in 35 degrees, I am going to feel it for the next few days.
“And the hottest day of the year in the UK – yeah, I’ve got the best of everything.”
After finishing ninth in opening practice, Hulkenberg improved to seventh, but remained six-tenths off the pace set by Racing Point team-mate Lance Stroll who topped the times in FP2.
“You can see the huge potential of this car, it is massively fast,” he said of the machine that has provoked protests from Renault, challenging its originality and integrity, after the last two Grands Prix.
Hulkenberg has never managed to claim a podium finish in his previous 177 Grands Prix and, in a car widely envied by rival teams and drivers, has a chance to break that record this weekend.