Racing Point Formula 1 team technical director Andrew Green says that substitute driver Nico Hulkenberg settled in so quickly at the British Grand Prix it was “like he’d never left”.
Hulkenberg was called up at short notice to replace Sergio Perez following the Mexican testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, making his return to F1 after losing his Renault drive at the end of 2019.
The German driver last drove for the team formerly known as Force India in 2016 prior to joining Renault and his familiarity with the Silverstone outfit meant that he was quickly able to get to grips with the RP20’s systems.
However, he failed to progress from Q2 and will start the race from 13th place, seven spots behind team mate Lance Stroll.
“We’re not aware of the procedures that went on at Renault, but he’s got a good memory,” said Green.
“And I think a lot of the procedures that he was used to when he was driving for us for quite a few seasons haven’t really changed.
“They might have evolved a bit, but the general principles behind them are all very similar.
“He did slip into it incredibly seamlessly, it was like he’d never left, which is the reason why we wanted him in the car in the first place.
“It’s such short notice we wanted someone who we knew we could get the maximum out of in a very short space of time, so in that respect, it wasn’t that arduous for him.
“I think the switch was relatively simple.”
Inevitably a lack of race fitness means that Hulkenberg has had some neck issues, with Green admitting that he was “a bit rusty” having not driven an F1 car in anger for nine months.
However, Green said Hulkenberg “hasn’t really complained about the comfort in the car at all” and said the biggest thing that will benefit him is spending more time in the car.
The team remains uncertain whether Hulkenberg will be required for next weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, as it awaits clarification over how long Perez must quarantine for.
“The biggest thing is just time in the car,” he continued.
“I think if he has a good race and gets 50 odd laps under his belt, he’ll come out of that probably a bit tired for sure and a bit sore on Monday, but with a lot more knowledge.”
Green said the team had to compromise its planned weekend test programme so that Hulkenberg could focus on getting himself up to speed, and made “a conscious effort to reduce his workload”.
“We haven’t put a big emphasis on him doing tests and big set-up changes, compares and things like that, we just concentrated on the basics,” he said.
“We changed our plans completely after Thursday of how we were going to approach the weekend.
“It was all about just doing the simple stuff, not doing experiments and just making sure we don’t make too many mistakes.”
Green admitted that the team as a whole had underperformed on Saturday after Stroll topped the times in FP2 on Friday, citing “a change in climatic conditions” as a prominent factor.
“There are lots of areas we didn’t get right and we can see that we have underperformed for sure,” he said.
“With Nico, you can expect that, it’s day two and he hasn’t done that many laps.
“So, I think he’s done a great job to get to where he’s got to in such a short space of time.
“I think with Lance, we were definitely expecting a little bit more.”