(Motorsport-Total.com) – It has been more than six months since Nico Hulkenberg last raced in Formula 1. In the past as a short-term replacement for Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin after Vettel was confirmed to have the corona virus. Hülkenberg is now set to return as a regular Formula 1 driver for the 2023 racing season at Haas.
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Nico Hulkenberg during his commitment to Aston Martin 2022 in Jeddah
Tom McCullough is not surprised that Haas team boss Günther Steiner has someone like Hülkenberg on his roster. The chief engineer at Aston Martin gushes about Hülkenberg, which he got to know and appreciate when he was in Formula 3.
“Our paths have often crossed over the years,” says McCullough, Hülkenberg’s race engineer at Williams. “What he always does well: He quickly went to the limit with the car, he has a natural control of the car, especially in the rain and with little grip. He looks for the line where the grip is.”
This ability brought Hülkenberg one of his greatest successes: a good position in the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix, achieved in mixed weather and as a big surprise because it was the end of his first Formula 1 season.
How Hulkenberg has changed
And over the years, Hülkenberg has not lost any of these skills, on the contrary: According to McCullough, the German racing driver has gotten better and better. For example, he did not get along well with the Pirelli tires used in Formula 1 at the beginning. The high rate of wear “frustrated” Hülkenberg, says McCullough.
“As a driver, Nico always wants to drive fast. Half the time, you had to slow him down,” he explains. “But over the years he has learned to control these tires. Checo [Perez] and he [als Teamkollegen bei Force India] I think they helped each other with their strengths and weaknesses.”
Always speed up as a backup
That made Hülkenberg the better driver. A driver who can be relied on, as McCullough insists: “In 2020, for example, he did a great job when he flew at Silverstone and immediately qualified well at the front without moving the car beforehand.”
During that time, Hülkenberg represented the corona-stricken Sergio Perez at Racing Point in two Grands Prix at Silverstone, immediately taking 13th place on the grid and a week later even an impressive P3 in the same place. Once the tech cost him the finish, the rest of the race finished Hülkenberg in P7 in points.
And Hülkenberg also did well as Vettel’s replacement at the start of the 2022 Formula 1 season. “He was thrown in when we didn’t have our car. And when he got to Bahrain he had to go straight into the car. There wasn’t much time, it had to be fast. , ” says McCullough.
Which, according to McCullough, Hulkenberg does very well
In the failed Aston Martin AMR22, Hülkenberg failed to win World Championship points in two races, but the German was still convincing. McCullough says: “He is a driver who has a lot of natural talent. He will qualify or race and you tell him to give everything out of the car and he does it well.”
“Nico is just a professional and has a lot of experience. That helps him get on the car and be fast straight away.”
It is still uncertain whether Hülkenberg will be able to show these qualities in Formula 1 in the future. Haas team boss Steiner has announced that he has already made a decision for 2023, but has yet to say anything about how it happened.