Last-minute replacements are not usually the ideal way to get into a Formula 1 car, but at the same time, sometimes, they are the only option to prove yourself in the great world of motorsport. In the course of the years, there have been several cases. Some successful, others not so much. And many quickly recall the one that allowed Michael Schumacher to debut in F1, replacing the arrested Bertrand Gachot at Spa in 1991 with Jordan. And so did David Coulthard's hasty debut at Williams after Ayrton Senna's death in 1994. But in both cases, they were young men who had never raced in F1, and a whole race ahead of them.
So, to look for some similarities with the current situation that Nico Hulkenberg is experiencing, given the unexpected chance of returning to Formula 1 replacing Sergio Pérez at Silverstone, let's go through a number of examples that could be compared.
Ricardo Zunino climbed onto Niki Lauda's Brabham BT49 at the 1979 Canadian Grand Prix, when training was in progress prior to the first qualifying round on Friday. The reason was that Lauda suddenly retired from F1, and the Argentine stepped in without even knowing the track. His performance was good enough to be confirmed for Watkins Glen, the last race of the year (at that time, Canada and the US were closing the championship), and to start as starting driver for the Bernie Eccclestone team in 1980. Afterward, the lack of financial support, prevented him from continuing as Nelson Piquet’s teammate and was replaced by the Mexican Héctor Rebaque. The similarity to the Hulkenberg case is that it occurred within the race weekend, just as it does today in the case of Checo and his positive COVID-19 test.
The other case we want to cite happened in 1982. After Gilles Villeneuve's tragic accident in Belgium, Ferrari decided to race in Monaco, Detroit and Canada only with Didier Pironi's car, and only in Holland did he get on Patrick Tambay in the 126 C2 number 27. Tambay, who had run out of a car at the end of 1981 (like Hulkenberg) and could not win until Germany, that weekend when Pironi had an accident and vacated his place at Ferrari. So yes, Tambay was able to show himself in a good F1 car. Since 1977, he had run without even being able to get on the podium, partly because he did not have the right tool.
Thanks to that unexpected substitution, he stayed one more year at Ferrari, and won again in 1983 in San Marino, which earned him the offer of Renault to race for them since 1984. He did not win again, it is true, but Renault did not have in those years, the level he had been up to that moment, and after two unsuccessful seasons, he retired from F1 for the first time. Tambay continued another year running in Lola, and then also retired as a Formula 1 driver.
Paradoxically, Tambay had run out of a car at the end of the previous year, and returned to the track after seven months without climbing into an F1. Hulkenberg too.
What can happen to the sports life of this German if this last wink of fate allows him to achieve what he had not achieved before? Will it be his second life in Formula 1?
What if Hulkenberg puts Racing Point higher than Perez and Stroll could in the three races they have run this year?
What will happen if Racing Point shows, with this driver, to be a better car even than what could be seen in Austria and Hungary?
Hulkenberg has nothing to lose. Nothing. And you can win a revenge-smelling prize.
He will go out on the track in the pursuit of glory, without a doubt.
Author: Diego Zorrero