The Saudi Arabian GP will be the toughest race of my F1 career
Hulkenberg was confirmed Friday morning as the replacement for COVID-hit Sebastian Vettel for the second race in a row.
He qualified in 18th place for the Saudi Arabian GP, ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, who was unable to set a lap time in qualifying due to a fuel issue, although both earn a place on the final grid as Mick Schumacher’s Haas was retired after its heavy crash in qualifying.
Hulkenberg said he felt better prepared than in Bahrain, where he parachuted in without a test, but conceded the Jeddah trail is much tougher.
The German also revealed that racing in the team simulator at Silverstone last week was of limited help as the actual experience of the Jeddah circuit is so different.
“More preparation, more time,” he said. “But this track is something else, it has nothing to do with the tracks I raced on.
“It’s so fast, for a street circuit, it’s quite mind-blowing, very demanding, so very difficult.
“It was difficult this weekend to find the right confidence, to find the rhythm. And it continued in qualifying. There was more in it, I had a few tenths in me. But unfortunately I didn’t manage to chain.
“Obviously the seating position and everything is a bit more known, it’s not so new anymore. But coming here to this track, despite racing in the simulator, it’s still quite new and fresh.”
Nico Hulkenberg, Aston Martin AMR22
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Comparing the actual track with the Aston Martin simulator, Hulkenberg explained how the experience was different in several ways.
“It’s nothing to compare, honestly,” he admitted. “Because in a simulator you don’t get that feeling of speed, you don’t get the forces on your body. It’s just not the same thing.
“Also, in the simulator, if you run offline, there’s no dust, there’s no low grip. So it’s a very different feeling. And in reality, it’s quite intense.
“I mean, the race is going to be amazing. Probably the toughest race of my career is coming up, physically but also very demanding. So I want to push through it and help the team as much as possible.”
Asked about the safety aspects of the track, Hulkenberg said it was up to the rider to judge how hard he pushed.
“It’s tricky. Dangerous? I don’t know. But at high speeds things can happen, there are risks associated with racing, especially on a track like this.
“I always think if the drivers are scared or scared, we don’t have to. If you don’t feel safe, you have a choice to take off and not go where you don’t feel safe. It is therefore also in the hands of a driver.
“Baku is obviously also high speed, but it’s more in a straight line than anything, the cornering speeds are far from what we see here. So it’s really unique and special.”