Following the heartache of engine failure minutes before last Sunday's British Grand Prix was due to begin, he'll be eager to make his mark.
But ahead of practice, his Racing Point team confirmed his latest test was positive.
Hulkenberg was lapping quicker than both Mercedes drivers at one point and was catching the one-stopping Charles Leclerc, only to be called into the pits for a third time with eight laps remaining.
Hulkenberg's starting position in a competitive, if controversial vehicle, will give him a chance to end one of the most unwanted records in the sport - as he bids to claim the first podium finish of his career. Never expected this, made the best of it, but on those tyres, it wasn't easy at the end, " said Hulkenberg in front of the Ziggo Sport camera.
"We were kind of forced to pit off the prime set", Hulkenberg explained.
"The start and lap one - it's going to be new for me, but I'll just try to get it right with all the experience that I have". The vibration just gets so quickly out of hand that within two, three laps, it just skyrocketed. "I think he's done himself no harm, getting up to speed like he has in the last two races". It was a pity.
"The second I got onto the second prime set, that just felt like a different set of tyres, a different compound, and it just didn't work in the end".
Perez tested positive after returning to Mexico, one of the countries worst hit by the virus, between the races in Hungary and Britain to see his mother.
Given his race rustiness, Hulkenberg says he expects to feel "a bit sore" in the coming days after completing his first full grand prix race distance in over seven months.
"The light was out and he was already sitting next to me, " said Hulkenberg about the start where Verstappen immediately passed him.
"The whole body, back muscles, even the seat is quite tight around the glutes".
"For me it is all the other shebang - the start, I haven't done this for a while, and in a new auto, this is going to be my challenge for tomorrow. I'm glad it wasn't too action-packed, because it was enough as it was probably". "I think it will come down to again a late decision on Thursday".