‘It’s like they’ve never been away’ is a cliche that can be too easy to reach for.
But in the case of Nico Hulkenberg’s Formula 1 return with Haas so far, nothing else fits so well.
Even regardless of the fact this is his first full-time drive since 2019, he’s settled in at Haas so quickly team principal Guenther Steiner finds it hard to believe Hulkenberg is actually brand new to the team.
“What’s impressed me is how he got in the car and was very comfortable with it very quickly,” said Steiner.
“He got straight onto it. Did his job. Seemed to be like he was here already for a year.
“I’m not exaggerating. I was quite impressed by that. It’s very good.”
And Hulkenberg has been away a long time. Three teams have new identities since he last had a full-time drive. Seven of the 19 drivers he shared the grid with for his final Renault start at the end of 2019 aren’t in F1 anymore. Max Verstappen had no titles and only eight race wins back then. COVID hadn’t even begun.
COVID – and other drivers testing positive for it – meant Hulkenberg has made five race appearances with Racing Point/Aston Martin since 2019. But 56 grands prix have happened without him in that time.