Nico Hulkenberg has formally been appointed Aston Martin’s reserve driver for the rest of the 2021 Formula 1 season, but would he be a better option than one of the team’s current drivers? 

Last year’s F1 super-sub Hulkenberg will have an official full-time role in the sport this year as Aston Martin’s third choice backup and development driver. 

The 33-year-old German brings a wealth of experience to the Silverstone-based team he used to race for when it was known as Force India, and the rebranded Aston Martin squad know they have a safe pair of hands at their disposal after Hulkenberg substituted at three rounds last year when the team’s regular drivers tested positive for COVID-19. 

But after a terrible debut for new signing Sebastian Vettel at the Bahrain Grand Prix, would Hulkenberg be the better candidate for a full-time seat at Aston Martin?  

Here’s the verdict from our F1 team…

Yes - make 'Hulkenback' permanent 

While a podium finish has eluded Hulkenberg's F1 career to date, he consistently proved his credentials while driving for a host of midfield teams throughout his spell in the sport - whether that was Force India, Sauber, or Renault - he performed well.

There's no doubting Vettel's ability to dominate races from the front in the best car but Aston Martin is far from having a race-winning car in 2021.

It's often frantic and chaotic in F1's midfield. Wheel-to-wheel action is a common occurrence and it's an area Vettel has often come up short throughout his career.

Vettel's clumsy crash into the back of Esteban Ocon at the season-opening Bahrain GP was just another example in a long list of high-profile errors. 

Hulkenberg's time away from the sport would surely make him extremely hungry to perform, while Vettel has achieved everything already - is he really motivated to compete for a handful of points each weekend?

Hulkenberg has not lost any of his raw speed as he qualified third at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix when standing in for Sergio Perez. He then scored points in Germany, again, with very limited time in the car. Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove in F1 and his outings for Racing Point last season show he still has got what it takes to be on the grid.

Vettel's talent and stock appear to be dwindling - the same can't be said for Hulkenberg. 

Connor McDonagh 

No - Keep the faith in Vettel

Granted, Vettel endured a horrible debut for Aston Martin, but it is way too early to write him off after a single race. It was, after all, going to be a huge challenge for Vettel to get up to speed immediately after his limited and disrupted winter testing schedule. 

Despite his recent form nose dive, Vettel is still a four-time world champion and his arrival has energised the rebranded squad. 

For the time being at least, the benefits he brings to the Silverstone-based operation outweigh any cons and Aston Martin remains confident it can get the German back to his best and help him rediscover his winning mojo. 

Vettel’s vast experience and engineering knowledge can provide Aston Martin with valuable feedback and clear direction. At his best, Vettel will help push the team forward and provide vital learning for Stroll along the way as the Canadian looks to realise his true potential in F1. 

When it comes to delivering in high-pressure circumstances, Vettel has returned four world titles and 53 grand prix victories, while Hulkenberg has allowed every podium chance he’s ever had to slip through his fingers.

We’re still a long way from definitively being able to say that Aston Martin made a mistake in hiring Vettel. 

Lewis Larkam

What do you think - would Hulkenberg be a better option than an out-of-sorts Vettel? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...