After Sergio Perez tested positive for coronavirus, Hulkenberg was contacted on Thursday afternoon to fly into Great Britain to complete a seat fitting with the team.
The German returned a negative coronavirus test and was admitted into the paddock, using Friday to get up to speed in an F1 car, as it marked the first time in eight months that he turned a racing wheel.
On Saturday, Hulkenberg failed to progress into Q3 but felt there was more potential despite the difficult circumstances.
“I feel there was more potential and I didn’t get everything from the table, but given the circumstances it’s also very hard,” he said. “I don’t know if you can expect to get 100% from the car in those circumstances.
“It was small margins. Q3 was not far away. We played around with the different compounds so that was a bit tricky also with the rhythm. It is what it is for today.”
After qualifying in P13, Hulkenberg can choose to start the race on the hard or medium compound, rather than the soft tyre which gave drivers trouble throughout Friday practice.
“That’s always a good option,” Hulkenberg said. “I think some of the other top 10 runners they’re also starting on the harder tyre, the medium. So it’s going to be interesting to see.
“For me, there’s so many new inputs. Every situation I enter into with the car is new. First time quali, first time low fuel, first time high fuel. So I have to learn, soak everything in and digest it fast which hasn’t been easy.
“But I’ve also been enjoying it, this challenge. These cars are beasts. There's so much downforce, I’ve never felt so much speed in the corners here, so much Gs. It’s pretty impressive. But also tough.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing