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Hulkenberg: Japan F1 GP fightback was "half a miracle" for Haas

Nico Hulkenberg labelled his recovery in Formula 1's Japanese Grand Prix "half a miracle" after the Haas driver lost many positions early on.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-24

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Having qualified a promising 12th at Suzuka, Hulkenberg lost out after the red flag as his anti-stall system kicked in during the second start. This dropped him to 17th position before he had the first pitstop of the race, as early as lap five.

However, the German subsequently had two strong stints on hard tyres. He overtook five drivers on the track, including Aston Martin's Lance Stroll in the last lap, on his way to an 11th-place finish, fewer than six seconds off AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda in 10th.

Hulkenberg admitted that the result was 'as good as it can get' following his failed second launch: "I'm honestly a bit surprised that I managed to come back to where I did. I think it's half a miracle, to be honest. It showed that we had good pace.

"It's obviously a pity because probably we could have fought Yuki or beaten Yuki to one point, that was up for grabs – but Hamilton is 50 seconds up the road, so that's obviously a bit out of reach."

Hulkenberg is enthused about the VF-24's pace after setting the 11th fastest lap, nine tenths faster than any other driver from the bottom five teams – except Logan Sargeant, who pitted for soft tyres late in the race.

"What I take from today is we have a package that we can fight the other midfield teams with and, to be honest, it felt even better than what I expected," Hulkenberg added, despite failing to score for the first time since the season-opener in Bahrain.

"I was having quite some headaches before the race, I didn't expect it that great. But it turned out much better. So you know, I take that one happily and I'm looking forward to more good races."

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

While Hulkenberg praised a "much stronger" aerodynamic platform allowing the car to be "much more consistent", team boss Ayao Komatsu had a more perfectionist outlook following the race, as Haas remains a solid seventh in the constructors' championship despite a point-less outing.

"Ultimately, as you can see, high-speed downforce, we haven't got enough," the Japanese said. "So that's what we need to improve. And then certain characteristics on the front axle of the car we need to improve."

Yet, Komatsu was still keen to point out the positives: "Yesterday, I was staring at trying to get just one car into Q2. And for Nico to deliver P12, that was amazing. But then it still felt [that] today it's going to be really tough even to stay on that position. But we went backwards [at the second start] and we managed to recover that well.

"Suzuka, in terms of our strengths and weakness, this circuit really exposes the weakness of our car. So, if we can do that at this circuit, it's positive. And then, we are trying to bring the new parts aggressively to the future races. So that should add performance to the car, that should make the whole thing better. But, you know, we'll see."

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