Racing Point may offer reserve role to Hulkenberg for rest of 2020

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Racing Point may retain Nico Hulkenberg as reserve driver for 2020 after returning for the British Grand Prix.

The German driver only received a call on Thursday afternoon to replace Sergio Perez, this after the Mexican tested positive for Covid-19 following a trip to Mexico between races.

Normally, in such a situation, Racing Point would call on one of Mercedes' reserve drivers, either Stoffel Vandoorne or Esteban Gutierrez.

However, while that agreement is still in place, the circumstances that led to CEO Otmar Szafnauer contacting Hulkenberg means the team could now simply keep him on their books. 

“The probability of us needing both reserves or them [Mercedes] needing both reserves is close to zero, which is why we decided to share,” he said, explaining why Racing Point haven't simply hired their own third driver.

“Stoffel was not available, Esteban was but so was Nico and so our choice was between Esteban and Nico. As for having our own, maybe after these two races or so perhaps Nico will want to become our reserve! I’ll have to ask him.”

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As for why Racing Point went with Hulkenberg, who only left the grid at the end of last year, over Gutierrez who hasn't competed in F1 since 2016, Szafnauer was pretty clear.

“We thought Nico would be more appropriate for our team because he knows us really well, he knows all the engineers, he knows our systems, our processes, he’s driven our simulator," he explained.

“It would be easy for him to get in the simulator again and also he has relevant experience from having driven in Formula 1 last year, and we just needed somebody who could score points for us so we thought Nico would be the best guy for us.”

The news pleased Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen who both welcomed Hulkenberg back to the grid, indeed the Dutchman even suggested he should have never left and "still deserves his spot" in F1.

However, they also noted the physical challenge he was facing around one of the fastest circuits on the calendar.

"[Silverstone is] definitely not the best one to come to, your first practice, your first race, for the neck," the world champion said.

“Copse is flat-out so it’s a pretty intense combination of corners. So I wouldn’t be surprised if this morning he woke up with quite a few bruises and sore, but he’s generally always been really in good shape."

As for the challenge of returning to F1 at the last minute, Lewis added: “Probably the prep is a big part, your understanding of the car, that’s probably the biggest part.

“When you don’t know the car, you don’t know the tools you have or the simulations that the team uses. I can’t even tell you how far behind he is with that.

“But he is a great driver but if anyone can do it. It will be him, for sure.”

Hulkenberg is expected to race in both Silverstone races at least with Perez now in 10-day mandatory isolation following his positive test.