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04 April 2022
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Aston Martin’s reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg said he was "definitely" eager to return to Formula 1 if an opportunity arises, after replacing Sebastian Vettel for the opening two races of 2022.
The super-sub, who didn’t take the wheel of the AMR22 in pre-season testing, faced a daunting task in Bahrain having been drafted up in place of Vettel. Although he finished 17th and 12th in the respective Sakhir and Jeddah rounds, Hulkenberg out-qualified full-time Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll in the former then finished ahead of the Canadian in the latter Grand Prix.
READ MORE: Hulkenberg proud of ‘faultless’ second sub appearance for Aston Martin at Jeddah
With Vettel set to race from Australia onwards, Hulkenberg said in Jeddah: "Yes, of course, if there is a good opportunity, definitely I’m up for it [a full-time return to F1]. Now having been away and having done Bahrain, the rush of qualifying, the excitement of the race, the battling on Lap 1, there is a lot of great things that happen in Formula 1, and it’s a lot of fun.
"So, if the right opportunity is there, of course, but that’s not going to be an easy, easy task. I think everyone’s learning curve is very steep with these new cars. There’s lots to learn, you know, and we’ll continue for the months to come."
Assessing his P12 finish in Saudi Arabia, Hulkenberg said he was happy to make it to the chequered flag – even if Aston Martin are one of two teams (along with Williams) yet to score a point heading to Australia.
"It was a demanding race, but I am happy with my performance considering my limited experience with the car. We put together a clean race, but unfortunately the events and opportunities did not really go our way. We gave it everything out there, but points were out of reach. I am happy to have helped the team by standing in again and I will remain on standby should I be needed again."
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Hulkenberg will step aside for compatriot Vettel to return to the cockpit, the four-time champion having tested negative for Covid-19 ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. And the reserve driver said his team mate would likely begin on the "back foot" in Melbourne.
"Obviously he’s lacking those two races so he will start a little bit on the back foot. But I think you know, he’s very skilled, very talented, I think he’s capable of catching up. But for sure he has a bit more work to do and he needs to dig a little bit deeper to try and make up for it."
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