Why Nico Hulkenberg’s Abu Dhabi P8 is actually bad news for Haas

Michelle Foster
Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg has blamed Haas' lack of upgrades for their P10.

Qualifying eighth in Abu Dhabi where his teammate Kevin Magnussen was out in Q1, Nico Hulkenberg says that proves his point the revised Haas VF-23 “didn’t really give a significant step”.

Hulkenberg bounced back from his practice crash on Friday evening to put his VF-23 up in eighth place on the Yas Marina grid.

It was a qualifying session of contrasting fortunes for the Haas drivers as Hulkenberg shone while his teammate Magnussen failed to make it out of Q1, finishing down in 17th place.

‘The updated car didn’t really give a significant step’

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

The result was a surprise for Hulkenberg as he thought he too wouldn’t make it past the opening segment.

“Not bad, I mean pretty unexpected,” he told the media including PlanetF1.com.

“It was a bit worrying coming into today. But Q3, somehow I came off on a good foot with the car, had a good rhythm and good confidence, which allowed me to push. Yeah, kept that feeling all the way through qualy, which is very nice.

“I think our own predictions were that we probably were going to be out in Q1 so there’s a nice little surprise there.”

But while the result was good news for the German, overall it painted a bleak picture for Haas as it proved that their upgraded car missed the mark.

Unhappy with the United States GP update, Haas put a B-spec car that drew inspiration from Red Bull’s downwash concept on the grid, with German swapping back to the old spec in Las Vegas and stuck with it for this weekend’s season finale.

He was fourth-tenths up on Magnussen in Q1.

“I think it confirms my impression that the updated car didn’t really give a significant step,” he said.

“They’re probably very similar in terms of performance which in itself, obviously, is upgrades because when update you knew you needed to work, so maybe proved the point there.”

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The 36-year-old, who is on a 12-race point-less run, admits that is “very disappointing” for Haas with Hulkenberg blaming the lack of development prior to Austin as the “root cause” of the team’s problems.

“Of course,” he said. “Very, very disappointing and upsetting for us. We’re not happy about this.

“Of course, that’s the story of our season. We didn’t develop anything and totally got overtaken and out-developed and hence we’re last today and that’s the root cause.

“So we need to really address that going into next year.”

Pressed as to whether Haas had learned lessons from this year, he replied: “That’s all hypothetical. I think we have to prove it when the time comes.

“We now we need to look at what we’ve done and what we have. Maybe we need to make some changes because what we’ve done this year didn’t work.

“But that’s, you know, some big questions going into winter break now.”

Haas will line up on the Abu Dhabi grid last in the Constructors’ Championship where they trail Alfa Romeo by four points.

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