‘I wanted to start 11th’ – Hulkenberg ruing strategy disadvantage of Q3 appearance
Nico Hulkenberg recorded his fourth top-10 qualifying effort in as many years at Singapore – but rather than being pleased with the pace of his Renault R.S.19, the German admitted that he’d been trying to dodge another Q3 appearance to give him a strategic advantage for Sunday’s race.
Hulkenberg wound up P9 on the grid after qualifying – one place behind Renault team mate Daniel Ricciardo – after making it through Q2 by beating Sergio Perez’s Racing Point by just 0.04s. So… good news, right?
“To be honest I was kind of trying to engineer an 11th place in Q2,” Hulkenberg smiled ruefully after qualifying, “but nobody wanted to go faster! That was a bit of a shame to be honest, because I think that strategy could hold a lot of advantages tomorrow.”
I’ve been in that boat last year where you have to start on the soft and it was pretty difficult – the others had a much easier race
The rules dictate that Q3 runners have to start the race on the tyres they set their fastest Q2 lap on, while those from P11 downwards can choose their starting tyre. That allows them a potential strategic advantage in the race, as they can run long on harder tyres as the soft-shod runners in front of them are forced to pit earlier.
But there was one silver lining for Hulkenberg, after both McLaren drivers also made it through to Q3...
“The good news for us is that at least McLaren, our direct competitor, they’re on the same strategy,” said Hulkenberg. “But you know, I’ve been in that boat last year [where] you have to start on the soft and it was pretty difficult, let’s say, and the others had a much easier race… We’ll take it and deal with it tomorrow.”
The battle between Renault and McLaren could be fascinating in Sunday’s race, with fifth-placed Renault currently 18 points adrift of their fourth-placed customer team, but having out-scored McLaren 26 points to one in the past two races.