Nico Hulkenberg has said “it has been a really special 24 hours” after making a last minute return to Formula 1 to stand in for Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
Sergio Perez was forced to withdraw from this weekend’s British Grand Prix after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week.
Although Perez doesn’t have any symptoms, Government rules means he has to go into isolation and it meant that Racing Point were left with an empty seat on Thursday afternoon.
A last minute call was made to Hulkenberg, who was on his way to test a touring car, and the German flew in to the UK to stand in for his former Force India team-mate.
Due to superlicene requirements an the need for Hulkenberg to pass a negative COVID-19 test, it went down to the wire to be ready for Friday Free Practice One, but the required paperwork was completed on time and the 32-year-old was able to make it into the paddock for the start of the session.
“It’s been a really special last 24 hours,” said Hulkenberg when talking about how the opportunity to race this weekend came about.
“At 4.30pm yesterday, I took the call from Otmar and got on the plane.
“I arrived at the factory and had my seat fit until 2am. I got in the simulator at 8am this morning and had some useful prep work.
“I want to thank the team for their amazing work to get me into the car today, and the FIA for their help with the superlicence and turning it around so quickly.”
Despite not having sat in a Formula 1 car since the final round of the season at Abu Dhabi last year, Hulkenberg was immediately on the pace and ended the morning practice session ninth fastest, before following it up with the seventh quickest time in Free Practice Two.
And, although the German has had limited time in the car, he can already see the potential of the RP20.
“The main positive today is that we completed our programme and that I completed plenty of laps.” he added.
“It was a jump into the deep end, but I was able to see the potential of the car – even if I feel like I could have got more out of the soft tyre today.
“It’s been great to work with some old faces again and that’s been a help in getting up to speed too.
“I’m looking forward to working with everyone tonight to make sure we extract everything from the car tomorrow.