Mark Webber has joked that Nico Hulkenberg was surprised to be receiving advice from a rival ahead of his sportscar racing debut, saying it is something he isn't used to in single-seater competition.
Force India F1 driver Hulkenberg makes his Le Mans 24 Hours debut with the Porsche team this week, marking the first driver since Sebastien Bourdais in 2009 to twin an F1 season with a bid in the endurance classic.
Having made his sportscar racing debut at Spa-Francorchamps, Hulkenberg has adapted quickly to the rigours of the LMP1 formula and has been posting lap times within range of his more experience rivals.
Indeed, Webber – who switched to sportscar racing from F1 in 2014 – has attempted to ease the transition by offering his advice, even if the German was surprised to be receiving any.
“At the start I think he was a bit surprised because during one of the first tests I went over and tried to help him with things and he was like 'what the hell are you doing helping me?!'. It's unusual that a driver helps you, in single-seaters you have little or no help from the opposition, but really it was just to explain that there are some things you need to look out for in the car.
“Backmarkers in Spa represented the first time he has had to deal with traffic, now there is the night component. There are constant layers… even small things, when I got into sportscars for the first time I couldn't start the engine myself! I had never had to, so I said to Nico 'if you spin, you can start the engine, you're not out of the race!"
When asked by Crash.net about his own experiences over the last 12 months, which have seen Webber make big strides in his performance at the wheel of the developing 919 Hybrid, the Australian – despite his time in the sport – insists there is still much to learn, especially at Le Mans.
“I am learning quite a lot. I think it has been very good to have Timo in my car, he has a huge amount of experience, he knows how endurance racing works from a driver perspective. Team spirit on the #17 car is exceptional too.
“I am still learning, especially here. I am very low on experience here. On the short tracks I am very comfortable, but while I am comfortable here, I have only really competed in one Le Mans. The other guys have done three or five, but I will build up the experience and I am looking forward to a great race.”