Ross Brawn says Mercedes came close to signing Nico Hulkenberg for the 2013 season, insisting the German was the former Silver Arrows squad chief’s second choice after Lewis Hamilton.
Hulkenberg’s performance as Sergio Perez’s substitute at Racing Point for Silverstone’s double-header remined the F1 community that the 32-year-old’s place should be on the grid full time rather than as a luxury reserve driver.
On Sunday, the Hulk followed up his remarkable P3 in qualifying with a seventh place finish in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, the Racing Point charger running among the top-five for most of the afternoon before blistered tyres forced the German into a late pit stop.
Racing Point ‘99% sure’ Perez will return in Barcelona
But Hulkenberg had proved a point that Brawn was happy to confirm.
“It was going to be an incredible physical challenge for Nico Hulkenberg and I don’t know how much he hurt at the end of the race, but it was great performance all weekend by someone who had just been dropped in the deep end,” commented Brawn in his Monday race debrief.
“I almost signed him years ago, when I was in charge at Mercedes. If Lewis hadn’t joined Mercedes when he did, Nico was our next choice.
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“I’ve always respected Nico enormously as a driver. He’s a very strong driver who should be in Formula 1.”
Unfortunately, according to Racing Point team boss Otmar Szafnauer, Hulkenberg’s interim is unlikely to continue this week in Barcelona as the pink squad anticipates a negative COVID-19 test for Perez and the Mexican’s return to action.
“I don’t know the full picture to be honest yet,” Hulkenberg said after yesterday’s race. “I think we’ll find out more in the next couple of days, and as we get closer to the weekend, it will develop.
“I guess I’ll be present just in case he’s not able to race. I guess I’ll be there to replace him again. I think it will come down to again a late decision on Thursday.”
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