33-year-old German driver launched into full-time role for Silverstone-based team
By Marcus Rebelo
Following his three substitute appearances for then known Racing Point, Nico Hulkenberg has now been confirmed as the Aston Martin reserve and development driver for 2021.
Hulkenberg was called into action three times last season for drivers Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll when they tested positive for COVID-19. The 33-year-old was forced out of the British Grand Prix before it even began due to a power unit issue. At Silverstone again for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, the German driver finished seventh after an outstanding qualifying performance in P3.
The Eifel Grand Prix saw Hulkenberg in the points again finishing eighth in place of Stroll.
“First of all, it’s great to get this deal signed up with plenty of notice,” said Hulkenberg, following the announcement. “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.
“Obviously, I’m hoping that Sebastian (Vettel) and Lance (Stroll) 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.”
Aston Martin Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer was impressed with Hulkenberg’s ability to jump in the car short notice in 2020.
“Nico proved last year that he could jump in the car and perform superbly at a moment’s notice,” said Szafnauer. “Now, with additional scope for preparation and integration, we know that we can rely on Nico to do an excellent job.”
In 176 race starts, Hulkeberg has raced for Williams, Sauber and Renault along with the Silverstone-based outfit under previous leadership in 2012 and then from 2014-2016.
According to Sky Sports F1, Hulkenberg is also in line to fill in at Mercedes this season, should their official back-up Stoffel Vandoorne not be available.
Four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll are the Aston Martin drivers in 2021. If either driver is unable to compete this season, Hulkenberg would be available to step in.
The 2020 season has renewed the importance of teams having a solid substitute ready to race in a Grand Prix weekend, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In early March, Alpine announced former Red Bull, Toro Rosso and AlphaTauri man Daniil Kvyat as their reserve driver for the 2021 season.
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