Hulkenberg explains issue that may have cost him points in Japan

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 7: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark and MoneyGram Haas F1 Team and Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg reckons a “really bad start” in the Japanese Grand Prix meant he missed out on extending his points scoring streak to three races in a row.

After originally lining up in 12th on the grid, Hulkenberg made a good getaway when the race began. However, the event was quickly red-flagged following a collision between Alex Albon and Daniel Ricciardo on the opening lap.

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After a pause in the proceedings while track repairs were carried out, the Grand Prix was resumed with a standing start. On this occasion Hulkenberg had a very slow launch, which quickly left him at the back of the pack.

Soon afterwards the Haas driver made an early pit stop for hard tyres and, despite another visit to the pits later on for fresh rubber, he ultimately managed to work his way up to a final position of 11th place – just one place outside the points.

Hulkenberg reckons ‘really bad start’ may have cost him a point in Japan

Asked how much his difficult second start may have cost him a chance of claiming a point, Hulkenberg answered: “Yeah, almost. I think 10th probably [was the highest I could have finished] – not more than that, definitely not more than that. [Yuki Tsunoda in 10th was] 50 seconds behind [Lewis] Hamilton so... I didn’t have that kind of pace!

“[I made] one good start, one really bad start – went into anti-stall so we need to look into what happened, why it did that. But afterwards, [I got my] head down, I think the pace was pretty good for midfield guys. [I] had a very long stint on the first hard, and then had quite a splash and dash kind of on the second hard where I could really show some pace.”

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While he left Suzuka with no points, Hulkenberg feels that the team’s performance “definitely” bodes well for the next few races.

“[We] take it as a positive and it's much more promising, and to be honest it was better than what I expected before the race,” the 36-year-old said. “So in a way that’s really a relief, and I'm happy that it’s that way and not the other way around, so I think it's quite promising for China and going forward.”

Suzuka performance ‘gives us hope for the coming races’ – Magnussen

Kevin Magnussen also managed to put himself into the action after starting from down in P18. The Dane enjoyed several battles in the race with the likes of the Alpines and the Kick Sauber of Valtteri Bottas, but struggles with his hard tyres in the latter stages saw his challenge fade and he ended the day in 13th.

Asked whether he ever felt that points were on the cards – and if it was subsequently a disappoint to miss out – Magnussen said: “Well, yeah. At some point I was running in the top 10 and I didn’t have the overview of what the others were doing, so I didn’t know if it was realistic or not, but I was trying.

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“I think with the tyres we had, the red flag effectively helped a few people that were then able to do a one-stop hard-hard [tyre strategy], and I had to do a one-stop medium-hard which was pretty tough. I had to pit quite early for the second stint on the hard and it was a bit tricky, but otherwise okay.”

Like Hulkenberg, Magnussen is taking heart from Haas’s level of performance at Suzuka ahead of the next few races, with the Chinese Grand Prix next on the calendar from April 19-21.

“I think we were there or thereabouts in the race again, so that’s encouraging and giving some hope for the coming races that we can still be in the fight for points,” he added. “[RB] look quick, but hopefully we can catch up a little bit.”



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