As Nico Hulkenberg closes in on a move to Haas, Aston Martin performance director Tom McCullough has spoken lyrically about the German driver.
Since leaving the Formula 1 grid at the end of the 2019 campaign, Hulkenberg has served as a test and reserve driver for Racing Point and then their current incarnation Aston Martin.
But it looks like he is now set to return to the grid, with Haas set to announce Hulkenberg as Mick Schumacher’s replacement in 2023.
And it comes highly recommended by Aston Martin, with McCullough describing it as a “class act”.
Hulkenberg has played the first two rounds of the 2022 season with Aston Martin and so, asked how long it took him to get up to speed, McCullough replied: “Not very long at all. It was thrown into the thick of it at a time when we were scratching our heads a bit with the car.
“He obviously arrived in Bahrain and not a lot of time – seat adjustment, compromise, straight there.
“He is a very talented driver, naturally gifted. You put him in a qualifying or race situation and tell him to go and get the most out of the car… he’s pretty good at that, whatever he drives and has driven over the years.
“It’s a class act. He is very talented. He has solid experience. And it helps him to jump in a car and drive fast.
McCullough has worked extensively with Hulkenberg in the past, with McCullough becoming his race engineer at Williams after tracking his progress through the junior ranks.
Hulkenberg then moved on to Force India, the previous incarnation of Racing Point. McCullough explained that one of the biggest challenges with Hulkenberg sometimes is getting him to slow down a bit.
“In the days of Williams, when he was racing Formula 3 and I was a test engineer and working on the young driver development program, I followed him to Formula 2, then Formula 2, then all of his testing and eventually racing – also engineered it at Williams,” McCullough said. “Our paths have crossed many times over the years.
“One thing he’s always been able to do is drive very quickly to the apex of a backslip angle, really natural control of the car. Whether it’s wet, low grip, it can go straight to where the grip is. Over the years he learned to master the Pirelli tyres, which I think frustrated him a little at first.
“He’s a driver who just wants to go fast. You spend half your time trying to slow it down. In the previous era, with greater degradation of the Pirelli tires, he had to take care of it.
“I think working alongside Checo [Sergio Perez], the two helped each other I think with strengths and weaknesses. And with experience, he learned to manage race weekends well.
“When he’s backed into our car, especially in 2020, having never driven it and you put him somewhere like Silverstone, which has low, medium and high speed corners and he qualifies at up front, you know he’s just a class act and a really solid rider.
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