Nico Hulkenberg says he has been “thrown into the cold water” during his remarkable return to Formula 1 action at the British Grand Prix following a whirlwind 24 hours.

Hulkenberg was called up by Racing Point to act as stand-in for Sergio Perez at this weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone after the Mexican tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to undergo a period of quarantine, ruling him out of the race weekend.

Following a seat fitting and coronavirus test, the 32-year-old German - whose last on-track outing in F1 came at the 2019 finale in Abu Dhabi - was only cleared to take part 15 minutes before opening practice was due to get underway.

Despite the hectic nature of his F1 comeback, Hulkenberg finished FP1 with the ninth-fastest time, before rounding out Friday practice in seventh-place in the afternoon session.

“The last 24 hours have been a bit special, crazy and wild,” Hulkenberg explained.

“4.30pm yesterday afternoon I got the call and took the plane here, seat fitted until 2am and got into the simulator at 8am this morning for an hour to do some track work. Bit of prep work, so it was a short night but all worthwhile.

“A great effort by the team, I want to thank all the night shift guys for doing an amazing job to get me into the car quite comfortably. Also want to thank the FIA for turning it around so fast on the super licence. It’s been very special.

“I think there I got to grip pretty quickly with things. It’s just a little bit getting used to the steering wheel and some of the functions. We didn’t have heaps of time because I had to be tested as well.”

After his spell away from the sport, Hulkenberg revealed he was already feeling the effects of modern-day F1 machinery, coupled with the high G-Forces experienced around the fast and flowing Silverstone circuit.

Adding to what Hulkenberg described was already a “huge challenge”, the drivers also faced temperatures of 35 degrees celsius on what proved to be the hottest day of the year so far in the UK.

“We got the programme and many laps in, which I feel,” he said. “I’ve really been thrown into the cold water here. I think my body will feel that tomorrow and the day after. It’s obviously a huge challenge but I’m not shy of that one.

“The G-Forces are tough to train for because it’s so unique and so special,” he added. “Even though I am in decent shape, this kind of G-Force around here, one of the fastest high-speed tracks, in 35 degrees…

“I also chose the hottest day in the UK so far, so I got the best of everything.”

Teammate Lance Stroll continued to demonstrate the potential of this year’s RP20 as he topped FP2 to end the day with the fastest time.

Asked for his impressions of Racing Point’s much-debated 2020 car, Hulkenberg replied: “You can see there’s huge potential, the car is massively fast.

“I didn’t exploit the Soft tyre as well, so I think there’s a bit more in the bag and I need to use that tyre better. That’s what we are going to work on through the night to try and get the best possible from the weekend.

“I tried to get up to speed with the car today, step-by-step, to understand it. It is quite different to last year and it just takes time to inhale everything and understand how to drive it. It’s a process of learning.”

 

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