Playing sports in 2020, and his hopes for a drive in 2021 look slim after Renault decided to sign Fernando Alonso, Nico Gulkenberg’s hopes for the return of F1 in the near future looked bleak. And yet this weekend, after a positive result from Sergio Perez Covid-19, he finds himself on the grid, driving perhaps the most competitive car he has ever had. Here is a wonderful story about how the German returned to action from Racing Point in Silverstone …
When did Racing Point approach Hulkenberg?
On Thursday, the head of the Racing Point team Otmar Szafnauer jumped on Gulkenberg’s phone. The German received the call and in the next few minutes his heart began to beat faster.
He was ready to go to Germany to study on RTL. Then he had to do a test run in a GT4 car for fun at the Nurburgring this weekend.
But the failure of Halkenberg, who made a short circuit in Mallorca ̵1; an unexpected route returned back to F1, ironically, his former teammate Force India Sergio Perez.
READ MORE: Perez eliminated from the British Grand Prix after testing positive for Covid-19
All F1 employees must pass the Covid-19 PCR test before walking, a procedure that has been in effect since the start of the season. Perez did it, as always, only this time, his test result was unconvincing.
As required, he isolated himself – as did a small number of members of the team he came in contact with – and waited for the results of the retest. Meanwhile, his Racing Point team needed to make a backup plan.
Why Hulkenberg and not a Mercedes reserve?
Ahead of the season, Racing Point agreed with Mercedes, with whom they had a close relationship through the use of their engine and several other components, including their gearbox and suspension, to borrow one of their backup drivers in the Perez case or teammate Lance Stroll. was able to take part in the race.
Since Stoffel Vandorn is unavailable, due to his Formula E commitment, Schfanauer named another reserve – Esteban Gutierrez – as well as Hulkenberg, with whom he already has a good relationship, to check their availability.
According to the team, Hulkenberg made the most sense for several reasons.
Not only does he know most of the staff well, pre-competing for the team when they ran under the banner of Force India, but he remains a very fast and competitive option. And he is the best available driver in terms of the recent experience of F1, which competed for Renault last year, along with Daniel Riccardo.
READ ALSO: What will happen after the positive test of Sergio Perez Covid-19
Gulkenberg has not left F1 because of a choice, and still feels he has a lot more to offer. He is pushing for a return to 2021, first with Reno – before they crashed into Fernando Alonso – and then with Alpha Romeo, competing for the team when they were Sauber, and Fred Wasseur’s team boss praised him.
So when Schaffnauer called on Thursday, Gulkenberg did not hesitate. He packed the bag and was on the plane for hours. After landing in the UK, he tested the Covid-19 and then headed to the Racing Point plant, opposite Silverstone.
UK 2020: Nico Gulkenberg returns for first practice
Meanwhile, the team began to arrange overalls. Fortunately, he fit – perhaps a little cozy – in a pair of Arrows.
Has Gutierrez ever been an option?
At the same time as Gulkenberg was traveling, Gutierrez made his way to Silverstone with his helmet – a Mexican resident of London – and joined the detachment on Thursday evening. The 28-year-old drove thousands of miles on a Mercedes, but a little rusty on the front track, last competing in the season that ended the 2016 season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
However, A Racing Point’s plan was Hulkenberg.
“Nico knows the team a lot better than Esteban does, and in the short time we’ve had between training, Checo couldn’t drive a car and someone was driving. We had one day. It was key to finding someone, who understands the Safnauer command.
“Nico has been with us for a long time, so he knows the engineers. He used to be in our simulator. He knows how we work, and that will be key to the speed of debugging.”
He added: “You had to take him to England, go through the process of convincing him that he doesn’t have the virus, get a super-license form – and it’s not that simple – you need to go to a contract recognition commission, and then a super license.”
Nico Hulkenberg: “It’s not like the end”
How prepared was Holkenberg to drive the RP20?
The German was expected to arrive at the circuit at 8 am, three hours before RP1. But there had to be another twist, as Gulkenberg was nowhere to be seen at the time.
It turned out that he did another test that morning and was waiting for these results. Without him, he was not allowed to enter the chain, let alone walk, according to Covid-19 protocols.
He followed a few hours of waiting, which gave the team time to fill out the relevant documentation to allow Gulkenberg to drive, and allowed the German time to run through protocols such as spending 45 minutes studying the wheel.
And when the test center delivered some paper, confirming that it was negative, the German ran to the detachment, grabbed his overalls and made a bee line for the garage.
READ MORE: Why does Halkenberg not regret when he says goodbye to F1 “say goodbye”
Does Hilkenberg solve the problem?
This is a huge opportunity for Hulkenberg, and the kind that very few drivers are ever lucky enough to get, especially when it’s with a team that has the second-best car on the grid and is hoping for a podium this weekend.
This is also a big request. Silverstone is a fast and demanding chain. Hulkenberg has maintained a good level of fitness, but it will be a huge challenge physically this weekend, after so much time getting out of the F1 car. Just ask Lando Norris, who suffered bruises in Austria without missing the recent F1 run.
But Gulkenberg will deal with it as soon as he arrives. He knows that he now has this weekend – and almost certainly – in Silverstone to achieve his two ambitions: score the girls’ podium after the weekend 179 Grand Prix as a race driver and prove to those who matter in the paddock that he deserves full-time place in 2021.