It’s a situation every driver fears – a heavy crash in the latter stages of final practice, just as qualifying is looming. Unfortunately for Nico Hulkenberg, those fears became reality at Suzuka on Saturday morning, throwing into jeopardy his participation in the afternoon’s shootout for pole.
With a little under three minutes left on the clock in FP3, the German lost control of his Renault after running wide through the quick Esses section at the beginning of the lap. His car skewed across the track before collecting the barriers in a heavy impact, causing significant damage to the rear of his R.S.18 in particular.
With fewer than two hours to fix Hulkenberg’s car, which may have suffered gearbox damage, Renault could well go into qualifying with just one car – that of Carlos Sainz, who finished FP3 in P9 – in the running.
Hardly what you need when you’re trying to fend off the advances of Haas in the battle for P4 in the constructors’ championship - but then again, extra motivation, if it were needed, to get it repaired in double quick time.