Nico Hulkenberg stunned the regular’s when he popped the Racing Point third on the timing screens at the end of qualifying for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix on Saturday and setting himself nicely to get rid of the no-podium bogey that haunts him.
The German’s fairytale-to-nightmare-to-fairytale rollercoaster continues for the driver called up to replace COVID-19 afflicted Sergio Perez.
With a DNS six days ago dealing a cruel blow to The Hulk’s comeback, good fortune smiled on him today as he found the sweet spot in a fine car and set his best time of 1:26.082 in Q3 and good for third, albeit around nine-tenths off of the incredible pace of the Mercedes duo who annexed the front row with ease.
Notably, the #27 car was three-tenths up on his teammate Lance Stroll in the sister pink car which will line-up sixth on the grid.
“A crazy seven or eight days!” exalted Nico, a veteran of 177 Grand Prix starts after a satisfying afternoon at Silverstone.
“Obviously last week, with the big high to come back and the low on Sunday [not starting the race], it was very extreme. This weekend I felt much better in the car, much more prepared. Qualy was still tricky and in Q2 I made life hard for myself a bit and I was scared I’d damaged the car.
“Q3 was just head down, full beans, whatever I had – and a bit surprised to stand here. But obviously a big smile on my face and a lot of respect for the race tomorrow.
“It’s definitely going to hurt tomorrow not having last week’s experience and not having gone through the motions there with the start and everything. But we’ll do what we can, I’ll try to learn fast, and keep the car where it deserves to be.
“Once we got through to Q3, it was about getting my head down, giving it full beans, and giving my all for the lap time. I have a big smile on my face, but it’s only Saturday and it’s tomorrow that really matters.
“It’s going to be a challenge, because I haven’t been through the motions of a race start and going wheel-to-wheel for a while now, and I’m still learning the car.
“But I’ll give everything I’ve got to make sure we get a strong result. We’ll enjoy the qualifying result, but all focus is on the race now,” added Hulkenberg.
Interesting F1 career stats for the 32-year-old:
- one pole position at the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix;
- qualified second at the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix;
- finished fourth three times but never had a podium in 10 years of trying.
Mercedes, who supply power units to Racing Point, were impressed with Nico and Tweeted:
RESPECT 🖤💖 pic.twitter.com/bGZCz6Hoyh
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) August 8, 2020
While his new team were equally taken by the performance:
— BWT Racing Point F1 Team (@RacingPointF1) August 8, 2020