Nico Hulkenberg was having coffee with a friend in Cologne, an hour’s drive from the Nuburgring, when Racing Point asked him to step in for the unwell Lance Stroll at this weekend’s Eifel Grand Prix.
Hulkenberg’s participation in the weekend was confirmed just half an hour before qualifying started on Saturday afternoon. The German driver had been due at the circuit to be a pundit for German broadcaster RTL, but when Stroll was too poorly to take part in Saturday morning’s practice session Racing Point had to make other plans.
It is the third time Hulkenberg has stepped in for the Racing Point team. He deputised for Stroll’s teammate, Sergio Perez, at F1’s two races at Silverstone earlier this year when the Mexican driver tested positive for COVID-19.
Asked how the experience compared, he said: “It was even crazier and wilder than last time.
“I was in Cologne, about an hour from here. I was due to come here this afternoon anyways, I was going to do some TV stuff with RTL tomorrow. I sat with a friend at 11 AM for a coffee when I seen that Otmar [Szafnauer, Racing Point team boss] is ringing me. He says ‘Hulkenberg hurry, we need you here’. I stepped in the car, came here and the rest is history.”
It left Hulkenberg to learn on the fly, with his rivals all having one hour of practice to acclimatise to the Nurburgring circuit, hosting an F1 race for the first time since 2013.
The German driver would qualify 20th out of 20 driver. As well as learning the circuit, he said the Racing Point car has changed a lot since his last appearance.
“It felt quite different to Silverstone, completely different circuit, the car has moved on too. There’s a couple of technical bits that are very different that give the driver different sensations, so I had to adjust around that a bit and just find my feet again. Obviously in four laps, that’s not so easy. All in all, even though I’m last I’m quite pleased with the laps we produced just now.”