Nico Hulkenberg, known for holding the record of the most F1 starts (189) without a top-three finish, acknowledged that he had no chance of reaching the podium in the Austrian GP sprint race.
Continuing his impressive qualifying performances this season, Hulkenberg secured the fourth position for the Red Bull Ring sprint race. He capitalized on an opportunity when Lando Norris, starting third, experienced a loss of traction and triggered anti-stall in his McLaren MCL60, allowing Hulkenberg to gain a position through Turn 3.
Meanwhile, Max Verstappen, who had a slow start, dropped to second place and struggled to control his car into the right-hander, causing both Red Bulls to run wide.
Taking advantage of their lack of momentum, Hulkenberg closed the gap and executed a pass on Sergio Perez around the outside to secure second place, which he held until lap 12.
However, as the track conditions dried up, Hulkenberg’s intermediate tires began to deteriorate, leading to a drop in his position. Eventually, he made a pit stop to switch to a set of medium tires and finished the race in sixth place.
Hulkenberg admitted that he foresaw his setback, saying, “I knew that at one point, I’m going to face more pressure from behind. The rain had stopped, and the track was drying up. I could sense the change in conditions earlier than what was visible on TV. I knew it would be challenging to maintain my position.”
Hulkenberg also revealed that Haas had never expected to earn points in the sprint race before the weekend began. He dismissed the possibility of staying out on intermediates until the end, like the top five cars ahead of him did.
“For us, there was no other choice but to pit because the intermediates were causing too much trouble,” he explained. “I could clearly see others catching up to me, and I had lost grip. So, the decision was quite straightforward.”
Guenther Steiner, the team principal of Haas, explained the strategy behind the pit stop, stating that Hulkenberg didn’t have a fresh set of soft tires. It was deemed more favorable to switch to new medium tires instead of using worn-out softs.
Steiner commented on the decision to pit, saying, “We were in a difficult situation with limited options. We couldn’t predict which way the race would go. Looking back now, we know that if we had stayed on the intermediates, we wouldn’t have secured three points. So, it was the right decision. Initially, it seemed like the wrong one, but after two or three laps, we realized we would be fine.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Austrian GP sprint race
Q: Did Nico Hulkenberg have a chance of reaching the podium in the Austrian GP sprint race?
A: No, Nico Hulkenberg admitted that he had no chance of reaching the podium in the Austrian GP sprint race due to tire wear and the drying track conditions.
Q: What was Hulkenberg’s position in the qualifying for the Red Bull Ring sprint race?
A: Hulkenberg qualified fourth for the Red Bull Ring sprint race.
Q: How did Hulkenberg gain a position in the race?
A: Hulkenberg gained a position through Turn 3 when Lando Norris suffered a loss of traction, triggering anti-stall in his car.
Q: Why did Hulkenberg pit during the race?
A: Hulkenberg pitted during the race because the drying track conditions caused his intermediate tires to wear out, and he needed to switch to a set of medium tires.
Q: Did Hulkenberg consider staying out on intermediates like the top five cars?
A: No, Hulkenberg dismissed the idea of staying out on intermediates because he could feel his grip diminishing and saw other drivers catching up to him. He believed it was necessary to pit for fresh tires.
Q: What did Haas team principal Guenther Steiner say about the strategy call to pit?
A: Guenther Steiner explained that Hulkenberg didn’t have a fresh set of soft tires, so they opted to pit for new medium tires. He mentioned that with hindsight, they now know it was the right decision, even though it initially seemed otherwise.