British Grand Prix: 'Cold shower' for Hulkenberg, stark reminder for F1

Walking away from Formula 1 after 2019's season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hulkenberg had not driven a Formula 1 car in more than seven months when he hopped into the Racing Point RP20 at Silverstone on Friday 31 July.


The German had been called up by the team at the last minute, asked to replace Perez following the Mexican driver's positive COVID-19 test.

Hulkenberg finishes impressive P7


While Perez was in self-isolation, calling it the "saddest moment" of his career, Hulkenberg finished an impressive P7 in practice.


The former Renault driver was only 0.636 seconds slower than his temporary team-mate Lance Stroll, who topped the day's time sheet.


"The last 24 hours has been a bit special," said Hulkenberg. "Crazy and wild.


"I only got the call at 16:30 yesterday, took a plane here and was up till 02:00 getting my seat fitted.Then I was in the simulator at 08:00, but I got to grips with it pretty quick. It was a short night, but all worthwhile.


"I want to thank the team and the FIA who turned around my super-licence so fast. We didn't have heaps of time because I had to be tested as well.

'It was the real deal'


"It was like being thrown into cold water, a huge challenge – especially when it's 35 degrees on the hottest day of the year – but I'm not shy of that. It was the real deal, but we got many laps in."



Racing Point boss calls for changes to protocols


With Perez out of action for the British Grand Prix, and potentially also the following weekend's 70th Anniversary GP, Racing Point team boss Otmar Szafnauer reckons F1 may need to tweak its protocols.


Perez did nothing wrong when he returned to Mexico for two days to visit his mother who had been in a bad accident.


He did not break the protocols and took a privately chartered flight across the Atlantic.


Szafnauer said everything the driver did was within the rules.


He told Autosport: "We've got no clauses in the contract where he's got to ask permission to go back to his family.


"I think his family was in Mexico and it's not a surprise that he went back to Mexico, that's what he's done forever while he's been driving for us.


"We did, though, discuss how he was flying there and back and it was always by a private flight, never commercially. There's no issue with that.


"Hindsight is a wonderful thing. There are many people in hotspots all around the world. So our philosophy is we take all the precautions necessary in light of where we are travelling. And if we do take those precautions, I'm confident we won't get the virus.


"We just need to now forensically look back and try to ascertain how Checo became infected, and make sure we cover that off in the future."


The team boss feels perhaps Formula 1 needs to now change its code of conduct regarding COVID-19.


"In between Hungary and Silverstone, because we had that weekend off, I think everybody went to wherever their families were," he added.


"Perhaps we should look at that…change the code and say throughout the season, you stay within your bubble? I don't know, that's something for the FIA to consider.


"I read through the code a couple of times now and it's a living document. So they say at the very beginning: from time to time as we learn, this will change, so perhaps that will change.


"But I don't think Checo did anything wrong, going back to his family – he takes all the precautions."

'Stark reminder' to Formula 1, says Horner


Christian Horner has applauded the FIA and Racing Point's handling of Perez's positive test, saying it is a "stark reminder" to the sport as a whole about how prevalent the coronavirus still is around the world.


Although Formula 1 has laid out a schedule that consist of triple or double headers in order to keep everyone in the paddock in a bubble away from the rest of the world, stepping out of that bubble — even for two days as Perez did to see his unwell mother — comes with risks.


"It's a stark reminder," the Red Bull team boss said during Friday's FIA press conference at Silverstone.


"Sometimes in Formula 1, we feel we're a bit isolated and we all live in our own bubbles anyway.


"But I think that when it happens to somebody like Perez, a driver who is affected like that, it's a stark reminder that these procedures are here for a reason.


"The procedures we take as a team and collectively as Formula 1, we do everything that we can to ensure that as little unnecessary contact is made either at the race event, away from the race event, or within the factory.


"It is very difficult, but it's a stark reminder that this thing hasn't gone away yet. It's still out there.


"We're going to be travelling to countries where there are second waves and peaks that are still bubbling away.


"That's where as a group, as Formula 1, we do need to keep that discipline with the procedures that are in place.


"I think it was handled well, and it's been executed well by the FIA and by the team."

Gutierrez shrugs off Racing Point snub


Esteban Gutierrez has wished Nico Hulkenberg and Racing Point all the best for the British GP weekend despite losing out on the opportunity to drive the car himself.


The Mercedes reserve drive was reportedly into the running to replace Perez given Racing Point's links to Mercedes. The RP20 is not only powered by a Mercedes engine but is effectively a 2019 Mercedes F1 car.


That led to speculation that Gutierrez's experience in the Mercedes simulator put him at the top of the list to fill Perez's seat.


Racing Point instead went with Hulkenberg with Gutierrez sending the German a message of support.


"First, I want to wish you a soon recovery to my compatriot and friend Sergio Perez, as well as to all those who are in a similar circumstance," the Mexican racer said on social media.


"I would have liked to go up to run this weekend. I am always prepared, focused and at the disposal of my team to compete.


"I so appreciate all the support messages I have received. Today I was on the track with Mercedes following the practices and how I am always committed in responsibilities with my team.


"I wish Nico Hulkenberg and Racing Point a very successful weekend!"