Last to eighth - 'Super-sub' Hulkenberg's impressive drive at the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix
• Nico Hulkenberg was a last-minute replacement for Racing Point's Lance Stroll.
• Hulkenberg qualified last, but finished the race in eighth place.
• It is not yet known if Hulkenberg will sign with any F1 team for 2021.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
Nico Hulkenberg impressed friend and foe this past weekend when he participated in the Eifel Grand Prix as a last-minute replacement for an ill Lance Stroll.
The German driver, who was supposed to be on television duty presenting the event, was called up by the Racing Point team (at around 11am Saturday, 10 October) when it became clear that Stroll was not all too well.
Having coffee in Cologne, just an hour away from the track, the Hulk got the call and made his way to the track in his Porsche 911 GT2 RS. He arrived while Third Practice was still underway, but only got laps under his belt when qualifying came around.
He did what he could
The first and second practice sessions were cancelled due to bad weather on Friday, which left drivers with only the third session and qualifying to get to grips with the track and how their cars would behave and perform. Hulkenberg, though, had none of that and would go out on the track, for the first time, when qualifying got underway.
He was one of the first drivers out on track and would use the next four laps to understand the car. He was about 3.5 seconds off the pace. Back in the pits, Hulkenberg and the team set about fine-tuning the car's setup before he'd go out again for a faster lap.
Hulkenberg was faster, but at the start of his final run, going into the first corner, he locked up. It happened again two more times throughout the lap, which led to him qualifying in 20th - dead last. However, Hulkenberg missed out on progressing to the second part of qualifying by 0.4sec. And given his limited running, this was bloody impressive.
Mover and shaker
When the lights went out to signal the start of the race, Hulkenberg found himself a few positions higher by the end of the first lap. He had a tough time getting by the Williams of George Russell but soon managed to climb up the order. He had a longer first stint than many of the drivers on track, which helped him get into the top ten.
When he eventually made his pit stop, he dropped down to 14th place again, but again began clawing his way back up to the top ten. In the end, Hulkenberg finished the race in eighth place; a fine position for someone who had far less time to prepare than any other driver. Little wonder fans voted him the 'Driver of the Day'.
It is the third race this season that Hulkenberg came onboard as a 'super-sub' for the Racing Point team. He stood in for Sergio Perez earlier this season when the Mexican caught Covid-19, and now again for Stroll. It would undoubtedly have caught the eye of several teams looking to confirm their driver line-ups for 2021, as Hulkenberg himself is not ruling out a return to the sport next year.
What Hulkenberg proved, though, is that he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level of motorsport. And it would be a massive shame if he is overlooked when positions need to be filled.
Should one of the Formula 1 teams consider Hulkenberg as driver for 2021? Email us with your thoughts.