Guenther Steiner’s unexpected response after Nico Hulkenberg lost front row grid slot

Michelle Foster
Nico Hulkenberg with his mechanics in the Haas garage. Canada June 2023

Nico Hulkenberg with his mechanics in the Haas garage. Canada June 2023

Denied a front row start at the Canadian Grand Prix through his own mistake, Nico Hulkenberg pragmatically says he has to “live with the consequences”.

The German made it through into Q3 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve where he put his Haas up into second place on the provisional grid when the red flags were waved for Oscar Piastri’s crashed McLaren.

Heading back into the pits with the weather worsening, Hulkenberg tripped himself up by going faster than the minimal time set for the drivers under red flag conditions.

Hulkenberg: “This beeping is driving me crazy, do I have to stay negative or positive?”
Engineer Gary Gannon: “Stay positive and slow down.”
Hulkenberg: “I think I’m driving too slowly, I have to drive faster.”
Gannon: “It’s too fast, we’ve got a red flag.”

The stewards slapped the driver with a three-place grid penalty, stating in their ruling that “he was at T1 when the red flag was displayed, however at that point he was already 1.5 seconds over his delta time.

“He claimed this made it extremely difficult for him to come below the delta in the next sector. He also admitted to confusion about the beep signal in his headset, and therefore at one stage thought he was going too slow.”

While conceding there was “a mitigating circumstance”, they added that the “regulation is very clear and whilst there is no question of the driver acting dangerously or driving unsafely, there was a breach and thus a penalty has to be imposed.”

Hulkenberg accepted he’d made a mistake, and there was a price to pay for it.

“Obviously the end of the day isn’t quite as good as it was before, which is a shame of course,” said the 35-year-old. “It’s a shame not to be able to start from the front row, but we have to live with the consequences.

“Looking at our race, it doesn’t actually change much, the approach remains the same and it won’t affect the outcome either.”

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His team boss Guenther Steiner also conceded that a rule had been broken, sharp contrast to the Italian’s usual response when stewards penalise his drivers.

“The punishment shouldn’t take anything away from what the team has achieved – in our heads we’re second,” Steiner said as per F1-Insider.

“Yes, there was a mistake, we were too fast but you also have to take into account that nobody was ever endangered because Nico was always out and about alone.

“But of course it was against the rules, so we have to accept the penalty.”

Steiner is hoping Lady Luck smiles down on his driver in the race.

“When such opportunities arise and car play a smaller role, then we’re pretty good as a racing team,” said the Italian. “We always try to be there when something special happens, that makes the team really good.”

With just one top-ten to his name this season, a P7 at the Australian Grand Prix, Hulkenberg and Haas are hoping for more points on Sunday.

“Maybe it [luck] will soon be on our side,” concluded Steiner.