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Hulkenberg: Lack of Haas F1 team progress “disappointing and upsetting”

Nico Hulkenberg says that the lack of progress made by his Haas Formula 1 team with its 2023 car has been “disappointing and upsetting”.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

The German says his pace with the older spec VF-23 relative to Kevin Magnussen’s upgraded model in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix confirms that the team has been “overtaken and out-developed” by rivals.

Haas introduced a major new package at the United States GP and, after inconclusive results, agreed to allow the two drivers to follow their personal preferences for the last two races of the season. Hulkenberg preferred the original package and team-mate Magnussen the updated version.

In Abu Dhabi the German has been clearly ahead, taking eighth, ninth and eighth places across the three qualifying sessions, despite handing his car to Oliver Bearman for FP1 and missing most of FP2 after a crash. In contrast, Magnussen could manage only 17th and a Q1 exit with the newer spec.

The team has fallen to 10th and last in the constructors' standings and currently lies four points behind Alfa Romeo.

“It just confirms my impression that the updated car didn't really give a significant step,” said Hulkenberg of the gap in Abu Dhabi qualifying.

“They're probably very, very similar in terms of performance. Which in itself, obviously, is not great, because with an update, you need it to work. So maybe proved a point there.

“[It's] very disappointing and upsetting for us. We're not happy about this, of course.

“That's the story of our season, we didn't develop anything and totally got overtaken and out-developed and hence, we're last today, that's the root cause.

“So we need to really address going into next year.” 

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team

Asked about prospects for 2024 given the lack of progress, he said: “That's all hypothetical.

“I think we have to prove it when the time comes. I think we need to look at what we've done and what we have.

“Maybe we need to make some changes because what we've done this year didn't work. But there are some big questions going into winter break now.” 

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Hulkenberg admitted that he hadn’t expected to qualify so well in Abu Dhabi, with the team’s own calculations suggesting that he was more likely to join Magnussen in not progressing from Q1.

“Not bad, and pretty unexpected, to be honest,” he said when asked by Autosport about the performance.

“I mean, Friday was obviously a really bad day. With the FP1 I sat out, that's normal, that's not the cause. 

“And I did a mistake in FP2, and only had that one lap on the medium. So that was a bit worrying.

“But FP3, somehow I came off on the good foot with the car, had a good rhythm, had good confidence, which allowed me to push, and I kept that feeling all the way through quali, which is very nice. 

“I think our own predictions were that we probably were going to be out in Q1. So there's a nice little surprise there.“

Sparks fly from Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Sparks fly from Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

Hulkenberg was one of a number of drivers to struggle with track limits in qualifying.

Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly were both docked their best times in Q3, after Hulkenberg had been docked laps in Q1 and Q2, while Logan Sargeant saw both his Q1 efforts scrubbed.

Reflecting on his lost lap times, Hulkenberg explained: “Luckily, they were always the first run of each session, the last corner.

“The tyre goes off, overheats at the end of the lap, and you just start to slide. And obviously you're fighting on the limit, and it's all on a knife's edge.

“So it's things of one of two centimetres, it's always very difficult to judge from where we sit when we push the cars to the limit. But yeah, got away with it today.” 

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