Nico Hulkenberg and Haas’ hearts skipped a beat at the final restart of the Australian Grand Prix as the German briefly “lost the engine” of his VF-23 as he left the grid to take the chequered flag.
It was a near-DNF that would have cost him seventh place and his first points as a Haas driver.
Starting 10th having secured his second Q3 appearance of the season, Hulkenberg put in a solid drive on Sunday to run eighth at the second restart of the grand prix.
It looked for a moment as if he could improve to P4 as Carlos Sainz trigged a multi-car collision with Hulkenberg not only coming through that unscathed by making up positions.
But given that the drivers hasn’t cleared the first timing sector when the red flag came out, the positions for the third and final restarted were counted back and Hulkenberg was down to seventh. That was still one place better as the Alpine of Pierre Gasly was too damaged to take the restart.
All that was left for the German to do to secure his first points since returning to the grid was safely get away from his grid box and cross the finish line. It was almost didn’t happen.
Haas took to social media to share that heart in mouth moment that transpired two corners from the end of the race.
Gary Gannon: Okay Safety Car has gone into the pit lane.
Hulkenberg: I lost the engine! Something happened there. I think it’s okay again.
Gannon: It’s okay to go to the end, it’s okay to go to the end.
Hulkenberg: I think I lost gear sync or something.
Gannon: Yep. You’re coming around to the chequer. Chequered flag, Nico. Mode slow and you were three seconds behind Sainz.
Gannon: Stop the car Nico, stop the car. We need to stop the car. Find somewhere safe. Stop the car as soon as possible, then P1 then wait five seconds P0.
Hulkenberg: Good efforts guys, good effort. Nice work, solid work.
Gannon: Yeah, good job. Nico you need to do an ERS jump out because the car is not safe.
And out he jumped with a thumbs up as he scored his first points for Haas.
— MoneyGram Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) April 4, 2023
After the race Haas lodged a protest over the restart order as they felt it should’ve been declared at the second Safety Car line before Turn 1, but that was dismissed by the stewards.
The 35-year-old reckons restart orders will be “one big discussion that is going to erupt now.
“I think to say the least a little bit of confusion there why it took so long to get the final restart, which was not ideal.”
As for Race Control’s decision to red flag the race after Kevin Magnussen’s crash, thereby creating a two-lap shoot-out, Hulkenberg feels that goes against the “DNA” of what is F1.
“It’s always such a thrill, it’s an element of entertainment, but as a driver and for teams, it’s quite a strange feeling to have,” he said as per Motorsport.com.
“You’ve worked all race long, you only have like a couple of laps left and then you’re supposed to do a whole race start again.
“There’s two sides to it. I think there’s going to be a lot of discussions you have to review.
“There was an Aston [Fernando Alonso] that got turned around, but he was lucky he could come back to the race.
“But obviously that’s a nightmare scenario for a driver, you do a good race, you’re in a good position. It was a red flag, you do a restart, you get hit by someone, it’s not your mistake, and your whole weekend is wiped out.
“So I feel that’s an element which is kind of artificial. And I’m not sure this is the DNA that I’ve known F1. I think there’s going to be a little bit of discussion about this.”