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Formula 1 Spanish GP

Hulkenberg: Haas has to switch focus from qualifying to race

Nico Hulkenberg says that his Haas Formula 1 team has to shift its focus from one-lap performance to improving its race form.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23

Hulkenberg was fast throughout the Spanish GP weekend, qualifying ninth and starting eighth after gaining a spot from a penalty for Pierre Gasly.

He ran in the same position in the early laps of the race but had to pit and abandon his soft tyres after just eight laps.

That led him into a three-stop strategy that saw him in 15th place at the flag after running mediums, hards and mediums for the remainder of the race.

The only other driver to pit three times was his own team-mate Kevin Magnussen, who suffered similar issues.

Hulkenberg acknowledged that good one-lap performance was welcome the team has to get its car working more effectively in races.

"I'd rather have it the other way around,” he said when asked by Autosport about the qualifying pace. ”But that's the trend and the characteristic we see so far this year, and we need to try and balance it more between Saturday and Sunday.

“Because obviously whilst it's nice to bang out a nice quali it always then raises expectations, and you get a downer on Sunday which is not so easy to cope with and to explain to people all the time. So some work for the longer-term future, I think."

Hulkenberg admitted that the three stops was not the team’s preferred strategy in Barcelona.

"It was an option, but it was the bail-out option, kind of!” he said. “I just hit really high deg all race long, it started right after the start. I was eaten up alive pretty much, just instantly ran into heavy graining on front and rear and was just going backwards.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, makes a pit stop

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, makes a pit stop

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“So we opted obviously to stop early but the trend continued even on medium on hard, on any tyre. I think the pace was then okay, relative to our main competition, but obviously, we were a stop behind.

“You're not going catch that up and we weren't able to afford it yet to outpace them even with fresher tyres. So good over one lap, but over 66, not so much. And we need to find something for the race."

Both Haas drivers pushed hard after their stops, logging what at the time were fastest laps, but the Hulkenberg had no regrets about not being kinder to the tyres.

"Yes, we did,” he said. “But intentionally, we're at the back, we have to try something we have to try to create an opportunity. If you save five seconds at the beginning, I will still have the same result now, so we know that.

“We're not here to do a coffee race. So I was consciously pushing, I heard the tyres screaming, but I still had to do it."

Asked why the team is suffering more with tyre deg than rivals he said: "I think it's probably like always a mixture of reasons.

“For sure downforce and for sure, and probably a little bit in some suspension stuff, compliance. I think our car is not so compliant. And that is pretty hard on tyres, usually.”

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