Germany’s Nico Hülkenberg became the latest F1 driver to get a first taste of IndyCar at Barber Motorsports Park on Monday, testing for Arrow McLaren SP.
The Formula 1 veteran last raced full-time in 2019 and has 179 F1 starts under his belt. Hulkenberg completed over 100 laps in his first IndyCar test. He was around a second away from the fastest time of the day, and admitted it took him a while to get comfortable with a car this different.
“It took definitely the morning,” Hulkenberg said to RACER. “There was some other stuff here such as with the aeroscreen, there was not much air coming in and I had trouble with that in the morning, so it was a little bit difficult and tricky to feel immediately very happy in the car from a physical point of view.
“Then by lunchtime, I felt like I made some good progress, and felt a bit more in the groove, and also the lap times and the performance started to come in by then.
“I definitely need to hit the gym! I can confirm that these are steering monsters! Wow. It’s always different when you experience it yourself, but the steering loads are pretty impressive, very heavy. With these cars the G-forces are still there, obviously not as extreme as F1 but still there is G going on, and the steering loads combined with that make it a very physical car.”
Currently reserve and development driver for Aston Martin Cognizant F1, Hulkenberg stepped in for Racing Point on three occasions over the 2020 season, but hasn’t raced since last years Eifel GP. He completed 108 laps at Barber, which equals just over a race distance at the 2.4-mile circuit. Whilst he was the slowest of the testing drivers in the Dallara DW12-Chevy, himself and the team seemed happy with the results. In fact, Hulkenberg’s time was about a tenth quicker than Romain Grosjean’s first IndyCar test time. Grosjean will drive for Andretti Autosport in the 2022 IndyCar season.
“It’s been a year since I’ve been in a race car ,so first of all that was quite nice again. Obviously quite different from a Formula 1 car, just the whole sensation, the experience, the sound, the seating position – everything is different. So I had to get my head around that, but I think it was a good and successful day from my point of view, and I’m happy to have had the opportunity here today. It was great fun.” Hülkenberg
Hülkenberg noted, how similar working with the team was compared to Formula One. “Working with the team was good. Very professional. Pretty F1-style, I would say. Obviously, it’s different out here over by the pit wall and stuff, but in terms of how they work and what you talk about and everything, it’s very similar to Formula 1.”
Arrow McLaren SP president Taylor Kiel felt very positive about the test. “We try to run through a plan and understand where Nico’s at. Like we’ve said from the beginning, it was as much about us looking at him as him looking at us and this series and the style of driving and these cars. Certainly a lot to digest overnight and the coming days, and I think the same for him, as well.” Kiel told RACER. “But it’s exciting. I think any time you get somebody like Nico to drive one of your cars is a good testament to where we are at as a team, and where we are at as a series. We’ve had a lot of interest internationally, so it’s good. A good day.”
“I was laughing just listening in the background,” he said. “We’re going through things with him like he’s a rookie. And you take a step back and you’re like ‘Woah man, this guy’s been driving at a high level for a long time’. So it’s probably a humbling moment for a lot of us, but at the end of the day it’s a totally different animal. I’m not sure when the last time he drove a car without power steering was. Things like that.
“He made a comment on the back section – it’s fast and the steering gets very heavy in some of the chicane complexes – and he was like ‘I felt like the steering locked’. So it’s walking through some very basic things, but at the same time you have to because it’s a lot of new things.”
Image Credits: IndyCar Twitter
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