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Hulkenberg: No regrets over F1 comeback despite Haas 2023 race struggles

Nico Hulkenberg is “100%” happy with his decision to return to Formula 1 racing in 2023, holding no regrets despite his Haas squad struggling to score regular points finishes. 

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team

Hulkenberg’s hiring by Haas to replace the crash-prone Mick Schumacher in late 2022 reignited an F1 career that had appeared over when he was dropped by Renault (now Alpine) in favour of Esteban Ocon for 2020. 

He has since shone in qualifying for Haas – making six 2023 Q3 appearances and qualifying third in Canada before being penalised for a red-flag infringement in that session – and getting the edge on team-mate Kevin Magnussen, who has just one Q3 result. 

But qualifying has been the main sphere where Haas has been able to score good results so far this term, as a problem with tyre wear that is exacerbated by losing downforce when running in the pack impacts race stints. 

As a result, Hulkenberg has just nine points to Magnussen’s two, with Haas eighth in the constructors’ championship. 

When asked by Autosport to describe how much satisfaction he draws from such a results imbalance, Hulkenberg said: “We keep fighting, we keep working.  

“When we signed and I started here, I knew it was not just going to be sunny days. There’s also going to be tough days and work ahead of us.  

“Of course, in that moment on Sundays, or during the race and right after, it is a bit frustrating, and it is a bit disappointing.  

Alex Albon, Williams Racing, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team, George Russell, Mercedes-AMG, in Parc Ferme

Alex Albon, Williams Racing, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team, George Russell, Mercedes-AMG, in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“Not just for me but for the whole team. Because we’re all in it. And you have a great Saturday and obviously you feel hyped, expectations, especially from the outside, go up.  

“I think we’ve known for a couple of months now - [because] the Sunday issues are just too big at the moment - to manage expectations within the team.  

“But it still gives me pleasure. I still enjoy being back a lot and all the positives outweigh the problems on Sundays.” 

Pressed on if he was feeling happy with his desire to come back full-time after making five substitute F1 appearances as a replacement during the COVID-19 pandemic for Racing Point/Aston Martin, Hulkenberg replied: “Oh, yes - 100%.” 

Hulkenberg said the feeling of the VF-23’s traffic racing problem was “actually very simple” behind the wheel.  

“It’s just a loss of grip,” he added. “And when you lose total grip, not just one particular area or one axle, you just start sliding more.  

“Sliding produces heat, uses the tyres more and that’s just obviously a vicious circle then.  

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“But the wrong way around. It’s the reason why we have difficult Sundays - because I think we do suffer more than our main competitors, let’s say.

“But also, generally the car, the way it’s designed and built, it’s very good at switching on tyres, which obviously works out well in qualifying. But, in the race, it tends to overwork the tyre when you have to do really long stints and that’s when it’s working out not so well.”

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