LONDON – Nico Hulkenberg stood out as a stand-in at Formula One’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix on Saturday, qualifying his Racing Point as best of the rest behind Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton’s dominant Mercedes cars.
Sunday’s race at Silverstone will be the German’s 178th start and his third place on the grid allowed fans to dream that maybe, just maybe, the 32-year-old might be on the brink of a first podium.
“I knew this was going to come up now, obviously,” he said when the dreaded P word that has haunted him through his career was mentioned.
“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.”
If he does, it would be an incredible turnaround for the ‘Hulk’ after he lost his seat at Renault last season and failed to secure another.
— BWT Racing Point F1 Team (@RacingPointF1) August 8, 2020
He was sitting in a cafe at Cologne airport last week when his phone rang and team boss Otmar Szafnauer asked if he was available to replace Mexican Sergio Perez, who was suspected of having Covid-19.
The German flew to England, had a late night seat fitting and, after getting clearance, walked into the paddock 10 minutes before the start of first free practice – which he took part in wearing a set of overalls borrowed from team mate Lance Stroll.
Qualifying 13th, he failed to start the race due to an engine problem but was given a second chance this weekend after Perez again tested positive.
“Obviously I’m just here as a temporary guest so naturally expectations are a bit different and I’m just going with the flow,” said Hulkenberg.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 8, 2020
“Emotionally, the high coming back on Friday and then Sunday the big low not being able to make it to the race and now, back here, so yeah, it’s been a pretty wild week in a positive way.”