Ahead of the end of the 2022 Formula One season, Haas F1 Team has announced that Nico Hulkenberg will replace Mick Schumacher after two years.
Hulkenberg becomes team-mate to Kevin Magnussen after losing his seat with Renault at the end of 2019 and spending a year working as a reserve driver for Aston Martin. He has slotted in for Perez, Stroll and Vettel during his time with the team when all three tested positive at different points for COVID-19 over the course of the past two years.
The German has confessed that he was initially at ease with leaving the grid when speaking during a media session in Abu Dhabi today.
"Obviously [after] '19 I was out and I was happy, I had some distance and a bit of a breather from that."
"In '2021 nothing much happened, and even at the beginning of this year I wasn't stressing or thinking about it too much.
"It's a lot more relaxed, there are other benefits, but then it kind of crept back in: the desire to get back on the grid, to go racing, to kick ass, to be in the driver's seat. So there was no fear."
During this time, the 35-year-old had he opportunity to get married and become a father. However, the restlessness to have a seat on the grid again grew and as the summer approached, he decided he had to have a position in the top class again and that's how the contact with Haas began: "But then, as the summer came, it somehow grew back in me. When I came and visited the races, and saw the action and the excitement, I had the desire to come back. And then the talks started."
The American team took a long time to decide who would be their driver for 2023, their options were: retain Mick Schumacher, give Antonio Giovinazzi a chance or invite Nico Hulkenberg. They opted for the third and after much deliberation, the former Renault driver's contract was finally signed last Wednesday.
"You never know until you sign, but I think in the last month it was becoming more and more concrete and serious, and I was becoming more and more optimistic and confident that we could get a deal done."
Tomorrow is the day when the number 27 on the grid will be back in the car to test the VF-22 in Abu Dhabi. The German commented that the biggest thing at the moment is for him to familiarise himself with the car and added that this is just a teaser for him: "The most important thing for tomorrow is for me to familiarise myself with F1 and especially with this Haas car, to understand it, as it is a bit of a head start for next year.
"Three days of pre-season testing is not a lot before the first event. So for me it's just a little bit of an appetizer, to get an idea of this car and how the systems work, the driver set-up stuff, a lot of basic stuff as well that you can already clarify and get out of the way."