Nico Hulkenberg’s Formula 1 career looked uncertain after he was replaced by Esteban Ocon in the Renault team (now Alpine) in 2020. This ordeal was however shattered following Haas Formula 1‘s daring decision to hire him in late 2022 in place of Mick Schumacher, known for his crash-prone reputation.
Hulkenberg’s 2023 season showed impressive performances on the qualifying front for Haas. The six Q3 appearances and a qualifying clinch for the third position in Canada, although later penalized for a red-flag violation during the session, were notable. This record was significantly higher than his teammate Kevin Magnussen, who managed only a single Q3 result.
However, Haas‘ tyre wear issue surfaces during races, further aggravated by the eroding downforce when racing in a pack. This technical hiccup has confined the good results largely to qualifying rounds for the team. This predicament is reflected in Hulkenberg’s nine-point haul compared to Magnussen’s two, positioning Haas in the eighth slot in the constructors’ championship.
In response to the question regarding his satisfaction given the results imbalance, Hulkenberg stated, “We keep fighting, we keep working. When we signed and I started here, I knew it was not just going to be sunny days. There’s also going to be tough days and work ahead of us.”
He stressed the group’s disappointment even amidst high expectations – especially after a fruitful Saturday. “But I think we’ve known for a couple of months now; the Sunday issues are just too big at the moment – to manage expectations within the team,” he continued. Nevertheless, he expressed happiness about being back, emphasizing that the positives far outweigh the problems on Sundays.
Detailing his experience with the VF-23’s challenge during traffic racing, Hulkenberg described it as “a loss of grip.” This leads to increased sliding, which generates heat, further exacerbating the tyre wear problem. “But also, generally the car, the way it’s designed and built, it’s very good at switching on tyres,” said Hulkenberg. This characteristic serves well during qualifying, but undermines performance during extended race stints.