Formula 1 chief Ross Brawn says Nico Hulkenberg deserves a full-time seat in the championship, revealing that he almost signed him for Mercedes in 2013.
Hulkenberg missed out on a race seat for 2020 after previous employer Renault opted to recruit Esteban Ocon in his place.
Potential opportunities at Alfa Romeo and Haas also fell by the wayside when the respective teams retained their current driver line-ups.
But Hulkenberg was drafted back into action by Racing Point at Silverstone when regular driver Sergio Perez returned a positive Covid-19 test.
Hulkenberg dropped out in Q2 at the first race, and did not start due to a power unit issue, but in the second encounter qualified a shock third, and went on to classify seventh in the grand prix.
Prior to his Formula 1 role Brawn held the Team Principal position at Mercedes and revealed that Hulkenberg was the team’s back-up choice in the event that it did not land Lewis Hamilton for 2013.
“It was going to be an incredible physical challenge for Nico and I don’t know how much he hurt at the end of the race,” he said in his post-race column after the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
“But it was great performance all weekend by someone who had just been dropped in the deep end.
“I almost signed him years ago, when I was in charge at Mercedes. If Lewis hadn’t joined Mercedes when he did, Nico was our next choice.
“I’ve always respected Nico enormously as a driver. He’s a very strong driver who should be in Formula 1.”
Race winner Max Verstappen also complimented Hulkenberg on his performance and hopes to see him back on the grid in 2021.
“I really hope that this will help Nico find a seat for next year, because he definitely deserves to be in Formula 1,” he said.
“There are definitely a few drivers who are not as good as him at the moment, so it’s hopefully a great boost for him.”
Hulkenberg remains on standby for Racing Point in the event that Perez is not cleared to return for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.
Hulkenberg is understood to be a leading candidate for an Alfa Romeo seat next year.