In what can be interpreted as a move to cover Sebastian Vettel’s out of control poor form, Aston Martin have signed Nico Hülkenberg as a safe pair of hands in the role of reserve driver.
Vettel suffered a woeful weekend at the 2021 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix continuing a streak of poor performances stretching back to the 2018 German Grand Prix when he crashed out of the lead.
Last year was the German’s worst season in F1, and Lawrence Stroll’s ambitious Aston Martin project the only lifeline he had. No doubt both parties convinced Seb would flourish in racing Green but after his shenanigans at Sakhir some heavy hitters are questioning his mojo.
Thus Hulkenberg, who is well familiar of the workings at the Silverstone base where he plied his trade for four years on and off, would be the perfect driver to step up to the breach. In fact, one would safely hazard a guess that The Hulk might’ve been the option had Seb not been available this year.
Hulkenberg said of his appointment: “First of all, it’s great to get this deal signed up with plenty of notice – 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 and Lance enjoy uninterrupted seasons this year, but the team knows it can rely on me to step in and do an excellent job.
“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.”
Team boss Otmar Szafnauer added: “We’re delighted to be able to welcome Nico back to the team in an official capacity, as reserve and development driver for the team. In these difficult times, the requirement for a capable and experienced reserve driver is especially important.
“Nico proved last year that he could jump in the car and perform superbly at a moment’s notice; now, with additional scope for preparation and integration, we know that we can rely on Nico to do an excellent job.”
Apart from driving for Force India until 2016, before joining Renault, Hulkenberg also contested two Grands Prix for Racing Point in 2020, deputising for Sergio Perez (Anniversary GP, at Silverstone) and Lance Stroll (Eifel GP, at Nürburgring).
The team will benefit from the 33-year-old’s F1 pedigree – 176 race starts, with Williams, Sauber and Renault, as well as his stints at Force India and Racing Point.