It is another extraordinary weekend for Nico Hulkenberg as F1’s 2020 super-sub has been called up to replace Lance Stroll at the Eiffel Grand Prix after the Canadian couldn’t take part due to feeling well.
Hulkenberg explained he got a call from Racing Point Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer just four hours ahead of qualifying; luckily for the team, the German was due at the Nurburgring to be a part of RTL’s coverage.
“I feel good considering I had a heart attack at about 11am.”
“It was even wilder and crazier than last time,” he said. “I was in Cologne which is an hour from here. I was due to come here this afternoon anyway, I was going to do some TV stuff from RTL tomorrow. I was sat with a friend having a coffee at 11am when I see that Otmar rings me and says ‘Hulkenberg, hurry we need you here’.
Unsurprisingly, Hulkenberg struggled to get to grips with the car after absolutely no running for him before qualifying. He ended up last on the grid thanks to some errors on his lap as he finished 0.9s behind teammate Perez. It was a good attempt considering the circumstances.
“I stepped in the car, came here and the rest is history. We saw what happened here. You saw what happened now, obviously. A 2.0 return in the moment of a heartbeat.”
“It felt quite different again to Silverstone, obviously a completely different circuit, the car has moved on too, there’s a couple of technical bits that are very different and give the driver a very different sensation, so I had to adjust around that a bit and find my feet again.
“In four laps that’s not so easy. All in all, even though I’m last, I’m quite pleased with the laps we’ve produced right now.”
As well as no low fuel runs before qualifying, the 33-year-old heads into tomorrow’s race with no high fuel running under his belt and with a car that he was unable to try and tune due to Parc Ferme regulations.
“Tomorrow is going to be very difficult and a hell of a challenge, but we’ll do what we can,” he said. “Obviously I have the experience, the four laps in the pocket now, those will sink in and tomorrow, yeah, we’ll just go racing and see what we get.
“You have to expect the unexpected and it’s just what happened again today.”
On the other side of the garage, Sergio Perez managed to make Q3 but ended up in a lowly P9 as he only did a single lap in the final segment of qualifying.
"I think we messed up a bit with our strategy, we thought we had a bit more pace and we tried the medium in Q1 which meant we lost basically a set for Q3," said Perez to Sky Sports F1.
"We only had one set (of softs) in Q3 and I reckon the track changed a lot in that final run. The wind picked up a lot so the balance was pretty bad and unfortunately I only had one set.
With Leclerc, the Renaults and Lando Norris all ahead of him on the grid, the Mexican was downbeat after qualifying as Racing Point look set to lose a lot of points to their main rivals in the race.
"It isn't looking great for tomorrow to have both the Renaults ahead, the Ferrari [of Charles Leclerc in P4], it can be a painful day in the championship tomorrow," he said.
"It all changed very quickly with Lance not coming in this morning, I could see some stress in the team.
"I didn't know what was happening, so I just hope health-wise Lance is okay and we can have him back soon."