Nico Hülkenberg remains on high alert to step into the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team seat again this weekend in Saudi Arabia as the availability of Sebastian Vettel remains uncertain.
Hülkenberg jumped into the AMR22 at short notice for last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix after four-time World Champion Vettel tested positive for COVID-19, and there is no word yet to whether he will return to the seat this weekend.
Hülkenberg qualified ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll in Bahrain despite only driving the car for the first time in free practice, although he was seventeenth and the last of those who saw the chequered flag on Sunday as Aston Martin struggled for performance.
“We don’t know yet [if Vettel will race],” said Hülkenberg on Formula1.com. “I think it’s a matter of waiting a couple of days, seeing how Seb is.
“If he’s fit to race or not, I’ll be in the area anyway, to be ready and on standby.”
Last weekend’s race was Hülkenberg’s first for over twelve months in any category, and he admitted it was difficult to jump into a new racing car without any real preparation.
At least he had more preparation than the last time he jumped into a Formula 1 seat, with the Eifel Grand Prix of 2020 seeing him make his first appearance of the weekend in Qualifying after he replaced an ill Stroll.
“It was interesting. It was difficult, very difficult to be honest – first time [racing] obviously in a long, long time,” said the German. “There’s so many things happening in the race, it’s so dynamic, the car balance is changing, the fuel load is changing, so it’s difficult to keep up with all these changes and stay on top of things.
“So, it was difficult. I didn’t really have one big mistake – I think I out-braked myself once trying to overtake someone and from then onwards it seemed to get a bit more difficult for me. But yes, it was always going to be tough to expect much more than that.”