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Formula 1 Austrian GP

Hulkenberg knew he had no chance of F1 podium in Austrian GP sprint race

Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg says that despite hitting second place in the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix sprint, he knew there was little chance of scoring a maiden Formula 1 podium.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Hulkenberg holds the record for the most F1 starts (189) without a top-three finish.

Extending his run of strong one-lap performances this season, he qualified fourth for the Red Bull Ring sprint race and then gained a position through Turn 3 when third-starting Lando Norris suffered a loss of traction to trigger anti-stall aboard his McLaren MCL60.

Meanwhile, a slow-launching Max Verstappen had dropped to second place and then struggled to stop the car into the right-hander. This forced both Red Bulls to run wide.

Their lack of momentum out of the corner enabled Hulkenberg to close before the 35-year-old passed Sergio Perez around the outside to take second, which he held until on lap 12.

However, the drying conditions wore his intermediate tyres and Hulkenberg continued to drop before pitting for a set of medium tyres. He eventually finished the race in sixth.

But Hulkenberg reckoned it was inevitable that he would drop back. He said: “I knew that at one point, I'm going to get more heat from behind.

“It wasn't raining. The track was drying up. Probably I can feel it earlier than what you can see on the TV, which direction it's going. I knew it's going to be a tough one to keep there.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team, on the grid with a team mate

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team, on the grid with a team mate

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Hulkenberg reckoned Haas had never expected to score points in the sprint race ahead of the weekend. He also dismissed the idea that he could have stayed out on intermediates to the finish like the top five cars directly ahead had done.

“For us, it was the only decision [to pit] because the inter was just giving up too much,” he said.

“I was really seeing how others were catching me and I didn't have the grip anymore. So, it was pretty straightforward.”

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Explaining the strategy call, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner added that Hulkenberg had no fresh set of soft tyres and that it was preferrable to run new mediums rather than a scrubbed set of softs.

He said of the decision to pit: “[We were] between a rock and a hard place. You don't know which way it is going.

“Obviously with hindsight, we know that [if] we would have stayed on the intermediates we wouldn't have come home with three points. We know that one now. So, it was the right decision.

“Obviously, it wasn't easy, but first it looked like it was the wrong [decision], but then we realised after two, three laps we'll be fine.”

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