‘Everything that could go wrong did go wrong’ – Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg was left exasperated after he finished 10th for Renault in Russia, having had aspirations of fighting with Carlos Sainz’s McLaren at the top of the midfield.
Renault finishing fourth and fifth in Italy seemed like a distant memory as the French marque again found themselves losing ground to McLaren in the constructors’ championship in Sochi, that coveted fourth-place slipping away.
Hulkenberg admitted that after a litany of issues and errors, 10th-place was the highest finish he could have attained – even though he qualified sixth behind McLaren’s Sainz.
“I can’t be that happy, to be honest, because the car I think should’ve been right up there in P6, we should’ve been fighting with Carlos [Sainz] for P6. It kind of didn’t happen for us today, in the race, everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” he said.
“A bad start, bad pit stop, unfortunate with the Safety Car, traffic, some engine issues right at the end – it was all very difficult and in these circumstances you can’t really ask for more than 10th.
Hulkenberg’s pit stop on lap 16 from P9 was a particular turning point, as he emerged way back in 17th – his Renault was dropped off the jack leaving his front-left tyre stuck under the car. Then, the Virtual Safety Car on lap 28 gave his opponents the advantage as they pitted, before an issue with his power unit hampered his attempts to catch McLaren’s Lando Norris at the end. But it all came down to the start of the race.
“Yeah, yeah obviously it all starts with the poor start,” he said. “I lost three or four positions on lap one and obviously that’s not great, it leaves you a bit on the back foot and exposed from there. “And of course losing seconds in a pit stop, in the midfield where every tenth matters, is quite costly as well. That’s racing, I guess. We’ll regroup and bounce back in Japan.”
“And of course losing seconds in a pit stop, in the midfield where every tenth matters, is quite costly as well. That’s racing, I guess. We’ll regroup and bounce back in Japan.”
Team mate Daniel Ricciardo fared worse as he retired on lap 24 with floor damage and a puncture following a first lap collision with Romain Grosjean and Antonio Giovinazzi at Turn 4. But his Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul said that the team couldn’t fault chance as they left with Russia with a single point.
Abiteboul said: “Once again, it’s easy to blame various circumstances, but it would be too easy to rely on that. We simply need to do a better job and offer our drivers even better starting positions and straightforward races. The car has the pace, we need to focus ourselves on achieving that.”
Japan beckons for Renault, a circuit on which they’ve had a middling record, scoring just one points finish since 2016 through Sainz – who’s now dominating the midfield at McLaren…