What a day it must have been for Nico Hülkenberg! The Emmerich-born driver could hardly expect to receive the opportunity this year to get behind the wheel of a Formula One car, but that has now become a reality.
After having been ousted by Renault at the end of 2019, Nico Hülkenberg was left without a race seat for this season despite his stellar on-track results. For this weekend, the one-time pole-sitter was preparing himself for a drive to German RTL station’s Köln studio where he was due to work as a pundit as he had done it during the Hungarian Grand Prix just two weeks ago.
However, the fate has massively changed the German’s schedule for the weekend. After Sergio Perez was tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus, things have suddenly become rather intense for the former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner.
“It’s been a really special last 24 hours. 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.”
Asked about his first outing in 2020, Hülkenberg said that it has been a positive day, albeit he needs to put some pieces of the puzzle to their right place in order to get the best out of the Mercedes-inspired RP20.
„The main positive today is that we completed our programme and that I completed plenty of laps. 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.”
Racing Point’s Canadian driver Lance Stroll topped the afternoon session by posting the day’s fastest lap with a 1’27.274 on Pirelli’s soft rubber.
“It’s been a positive day and it feels great to be on top in FP2. The car was strong on both the short and long runs today, so it’s a promising start to the weekend for us. We knew coming into the weekend that Silverstone could suit the car and it looks like we’ve got a good shot at some big points this weekend, although qualifying and the race are where it really matters!"
In his post-practice assessment, the Belgian-Canadian racing driver mentioned his regular team-mate Sergio Perez who will need to spend seven or ten days in self-quarantine.
„My heart goes out to Checo: we’ll definitely miss having him around, but it’s great to welcome Nico back to the team. I’m sure he’s enjoying driving this car – and he’s looking competitive, which is great."