Nico Hulkenberg admits to being intentionally ‘slow’ in Daniel Ricciardo battle

Michelle Foster
Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) sports a striking new haircut as he addresses the media at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) sports a striking new haircut as he addresses the media at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Racing Daniel Ricciardo at the Belgian Grand Prix, Nico Hulkenberg admits there were times when there was “slow driving”, and it was deliberate.

No, it wasn’t because he wanted to lose to the AlphaTauri driver, rather it was a case of neither wanting to give the other a DRS advantage through the Spa-Francorchamps circuit’s two DRS zones.

Hulkenberg had a weekend to forget in Belgium as a hydraulic leak in Friday’s qualifying meant this year’s qualifying surprise finished at the very back of the field in P20.

Nico Hulkenberg: It’s been a pretty grim weekend for us

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher and Sam Cooper

That went from bad to worse on Saturday as Haas set him out too late in SQ1 and he wasn’t able to cross the line to start a flying lap, again leaving him down in 20th place.

He made up all of three places in the Sprint race to cross the line P17, two of those though came courtesy of other drivers retiring.

Sunday’s race was as disappointing as, starting from the pit lane with Haas changing his engine, he made up several positions on the opening lap only to lose ground as his tyres went off. P18 at the end of the 44 laps meant he was the last of the classified runners.

“Let’s say getting this weekend over and done with is good. It’s been a pretty grim weekend for us,” he told the media including “Write it off, reset, regroup and come back from the summer break hopefully a bit stronger.”

Hulkenberg did have one highlight on his Sunday, a battle with the AlphaTauri of Daniel Ricciardo that ran for several laps.

It was, though, a “slow” battle as the German put it with both drivers wary of the DRS effect.

“That was the slow driving race, nobody wanted to give the other DRS,” he said. “It was my personal highlight in the race, there wasn’t much more for me.”

In the end, Ricciardo would win that battle as he came out P16 in what was a thrilling late-race battle amongst those outside of the points, Hulkenberg falling to 18th.

Team boss Guenther Steiner blamed tyres for Haas’ race-day problems, an issue they’ve struggled with all season.

“The team got the best out of the car,” he said. “Ultimately, we couldn’t get our tyre life issue under control so we fell back in the middle of the race.

“We couldn’t fight with others and if we drove too long with our tyres then we just slow down. And it happened again. recommends

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Haas have not scored a point since Hulkenberg’s P6 in the Austrian Sprint race, but on Sundays that point-less run goes back to round five, the Miami Grand Prix.

“What we really need are some upgrades, some real performance to help ourselves. That’s what we need,” declared Hulkenberg.

“Obviously, this track exposes the weaknesses of our car very much. It’s why we’ve not been competitive in any session.

“I think we can still improve the situation this year. To what extent TBC, it’s down to us and we have to prove it. But yeah, it’s a longer-term thing for sure.”

Haas are eighth in the Constructors’ Championship on 11 points, tied with Williams but behind them by virtue of Alex Albon’s P11 at the Hungarian GP.

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