In Beyond the Grid, Nico Hülkenberg discussed the situation of his team, the relationships with teammate Kevin Magnussen, and the respect he has for Max Verstappen’s record series at Red Bull Racing. The 36-year-old German is clearly feeling good, although he hopes for improvement at Haas.
Few drivers have achieved more success in their Formula 1 career than Nico Hülkenberg: champion in the German Formula BMW, dominant champion in the A1GP, the Formula 3 Euro Series to his name, and a dominant finish in the GP2 Series. In between he also won the Masters of Formula 3 in Zandvoort, and during his Formula 1 career he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. An impressive CV, but it never really worked out in Formula 1.
After just five Grands Prix as a substitute in three years, Hulkenberg returned to the grid this year, and not long ago extended his contract with Haas. ‘We have been able to get points a few times this season, but we need to improve quite a bit and I think we would then be able to fight for points consistently, because it is very close in midfield, so every small improvement can make a big difference,” Hülkenberg says about the perspective of his team, which often struggles on Sundays.
“Qualifying is a different story,” Hülkenberg says about his six Q3 participations. ‘New, soft tires provide a lot of grip over one lap and that somewhat masks the problems we have with the car, including the balance problems. In those ninety seconds, a new tire can mask that very well, but in lap two or three, and beyond, the problems come and we use the tires too much. That is the challenge and we must ensure that we improve it.’
Hülkenberg is the boss of Magnussen
Hülkenberg then discusses the bond with teammate Kevin Magnussen. ‘Our relationship is good, very good. Hungary 2017 is far behind us,” says the Hulk about the incident with the Dane from his Renault days. ‘We’re kind of in the same position and there are a lot of parallels. We both had some time away from Formula 1 before coming back. We both have families now and we are a bit older and therefore more mature. There’s no tension between us.’
“He’s fast, but I’m faster,” Hülkenberg laughs, although he seems to be right. In the qualifications he has already taken the spoils with 11-3, and he is also doing well in terms of points with 9-2. ‘Everyone is fast, and the smallest details can have a big influence on the result. At the beginning of the season I got off to a somewhat better start. I felt more confident and was faster than he was, but then he gained some momentum, and then I did again. In qualifying, over one lap, I feel very strong, because then the car gives me what I need. I don’t think, if I have that feeling, that I’m the easiest to beat over a lap.’
Hülkenberg praises Verstappen
Finally, the German is asked about what Verstappen has shown this season. ‘It’s phenomenal. It delivers no matter the conditions, no matter the track, or the time of day. Whether it’s raining, snowing, or forty degrees, he’s always there. He is doing extremely well, there is no denying that. He started the season strongly, but then he still had to earn some income. Since that happened, he has so much confidence, and as I said, no matter what the circumstances, he always gets 100 percent out of the car and himself. It’s very impressive.’