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Hulkenberg's 2022 reserve outings were 'door opener' to F1 return

Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg believes his outings with Aston Martin in place of Sebastian Vettel at the start of 2022 were crucial to him getting a seat back in F1 for 2023.

Nico Hulkenberg says his Formula 1 career would be "very different" had he not been a reserve driver stand-in for Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin early in 2022. The German did the two opening races of the season after Vettel had to sit out due to testing positive for COVID-19. Hulkenberg also made various comebacks throughout the 2020 season when drivers had to sit out with COVID-19 infections, including Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll. The 35-year-old credits these outings as being the "the door opener" for him back onto the grid. “I think [things would have been] very different [without those outings] – very," Hulkenberg said in an interview with F1 . "I think they were the key and the door opener for me sitting here now. "I highly doubt that without the two races at the beginning of last year I would have gotten the seat. It put me on the map again with Guenther [Steiner], with the team here. They saw, 'Okay, this guy still knows where the throttle pedal is!'"

Hulkenberg on De Vries: Without his Monza performance, he wouldn't be on the grid

Hulkenberg's comments are timely considering he replaced Mick Schumacher at Haas after signing a contract with the team at the end of 2022. Schumacher now takes up a reserve role at Mercedes, while Daniel Ricciardo also has a third driver position at Red Bull and is looking to return to the F1 grid in the future. After Nyck de Vries impressed with his various FP1 outings and eventual race debut at the Italian Grand Prix, Hulkenberg points to those experiences for drivers as being the main way in, as less are getting through instantly from Formula 2 or other feeder categories. "Another example is Nyck de Vries," he highlights. "Without his Monza performance, that opportunity last year [as a replacement for the ill Alex Albon at Williams], I’m not sure he would have had a seat [for 2023] – so I think they were hugely important.”

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