Aston Martin claim Nico Hulkenberg learned from former team-mate

Nico Hulkenberg's last season racing full-time in Formula 1 was in 2019 for Renault.

Aston Martin Performance Director Tom McCullough has hailed the team’s former reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg as a “class act”, with Haas having received a “naturally gifted driver” for 2023.

Following his departure from Renault at the end of 2019, Hulkenberg moved to Racing Point in 2020 to become their reserve driver, which actually resulted in him stepping in for both Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The German remained with the team as they rebranded to Aston Martin, and even replaced Sebastian Vettel for the first couple of races in 2022, after Sebastian Vettel contracted COVID-19.

Hulkenberg performed admirably and even finished P12 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, despite having a lack of experience of driving the new cars.

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With Hulkenberg having performed so well at such short notice, McCullough rates the new Haas driver as a “very talented” individual with “solid experience”.

“He was thrown right in at the deep end at a time that we were scratching our heads a bit with a car,” McCullough said, quoted by

“He obviously turned up in Bahrain, just straight into FP3, I think. [There was] not a lot of time, seat fit, compromises, straight in there.

“He’s a very talented, naturally gifted driver. You put him in a qualifying or a race situation and ask him to go extract the most out of the car, [and] he’s pretty good at doing that, whatever he drives and has driven over the years.

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“He is a class act. He’s very talented. He’s got solid experience, and that helps him jump in a car and drive quickly.”

Hulkenberg will, of course, be returning as a full-time driver for Haas in 2023 after being chosen to replace fellow German Mick Schumacher, with the Americans preferring Hulkenberg’s experience over Schumacher’s youth.

Whilst experience is one of the German’s strong points, McCullough believes his “really natural car control” is one of his biggest strengths.

“One thing he’s always been able to do is drive very quickly right to the peak of a rear slip angle. [He has] really natural car control,” McCullough explained.

“Whether it’s in the wet, low grip, he straightaway can go to where the grip is. Over the years, he learned how to get on top of the Pirelli tires, which I think frustrated him a bit at the start.

“He’s a driver who just wants to drive fast. You spend half your time trying to slow him down. In the earlier, higher degradation era of the Pirelli tyres, he had to get on top of that.”

Interestingly, McCullough believes Hulkenberg learnt some of his skills whilst alongside Pérez at Force India (now known as Aston Martin), with the German just being a “really solid driver” overall.

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“I think working alongside Checo, the two of them helped each other with strengths and weaknesses,” McCullough continued.

“With experience, he learned how to handle race weekends well. When he stepped back in our car, in particular in 2020, having never driven [it] and you put him at somewhere like Silverstone, which has got low-, medium-, high-speed corners and he qualifies up at the front…

“He’s just a class act and a really solid driver.”