After completing three races as a super-sub for the Silverstone team last season, Nico Hulkenberg has officially been announced as the reserve and development driver for Aston Martin. The German who replaced their COVID-19 infected drivers for three races last season, will now be on standby as a reserve. He will also carry out development duties behind the scenes.
Apart from the cameos last season, Hulkenberg is well acquainted with the Silverstone-based team. The German raced with them when they were branded as Force India F1 between 2012-16. Speaking about the announcement, Hulkenberg said:
“First of all, it’s great to get this deal signed up with plenty of notice – last year, I didn’t have quite as much time to prepare before jumping in the car! I’m really pleased to once again work with this team – with whom I have driven many times during my career.”
In a ten-year-long stint in Formula 1, Hulkenberg held the unwanted record of being the only driver to score no podiums in 176 races. The German lost his drive to the musical chairs of the driver market after a strong midfield campaign for the Renault factory team in 2019.
Often underrated for his driving and questioned over his unwanted record, many in the Formula 1 paddock hailed the German for his cameos last season, where he substituted for Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll. His successful performances earned him respect and the title of a “super-sub.” He was then watched closely for a potential drive at Red Bull Racing.
Speaking about his new role, Hulkenberg said:
“Obviously, I’m hoping that Sebastian and Lance enjoy uninterrupted seasons this year, but the team knows it can rely on me to step in and do an excellent job, and I’m fully prepared to take on that challenge. It will also be interesting to help develop the team through the season, and I’m really looking forward to pulling great lap-times out of my arm sleeve.”
An experienced driver like Hulkenberg is very important: Szafnauer
On Hulkenberg’s return to the sport last year, the former Mercedes boss Ross Brawn said:
“I’ve always respected Nico enormously as a driver. He’s a very strong driver who should be in Formula 1. I almost signed him years ago, when I was in charge at Mercedes. If Lewis hadn’t joined Mercedes when he did, Nico was our next choice.”
Aston Martin’s team principal, Otmar Szafnauer, said:
“We’re delighted to be able to welcome Nico back to the team in an official capacity, as reserve and development driver for Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team. In these difficult times, the requirement for a capable and experienced reserve driver is especially important.”
Szafnauer witnessed Hulkenberg’s skills and experience while he was COO of Force India. Since then, he has shared a close rapport with the German and has continued to believe in his driving skills. He said:
“Nico proved last year that he could jump in the car and perform superbly at a moment’s notice; now, with additional scope for preparation and integration, we know that we can rely on Nico to do an excellent job.”
Ideally, a top team drive would do justice to Hulkenberg’s talent and serve his goal to end the podium-less record, juxtaposed to returning with smaller teams where bagging podiums would be farfetched. Nevertheless, a reserve role might keep him close to the sport, as he has also been hailed for giving insightful feedback to develop the Racing Point car last year.
Along with the current announcement, the Formula 1 paddock is rife with speculation that Hulkenberg might also be announced as a joint reserve for the Mercedes F1 team for 2021. Therefore, fans shouldn’t be surprised if the German gets an outing not just with Aston Martin but also the reigning champions.