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Hulkenberg: Restart rules deployed in Melbourne not in F1’s DNA

In the wake of the Australian Grand Prix's chaotic conclusion, Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg has suggested that restarts after late red flags are artificial and not in Formula 1’s DNA.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team with engineers

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

The German says that a grid start and sprint to the finish presents too much risk and that drivers who have worked hard to get into strong positions in the closing laps have too much to lose.

Following a red flag triggered by Alex Albon's Turn 6 crash, the Melbourne race was stopped for a second time with three laps to go after Hulkenberg’s team-mate Kevin Magnussen hit the wall at Turn 2 and his broken wheel rim left debris on the track.

After a formation lap, the field was set for a two-lap sprint to the flag. However, following a series of first corner incidents the race was again red-flagged, with Hulkenberg having jumped up to fourth on the road.

A lengthy delay ensued that included a debate about the grid positions for the final one-lap run to the flag behind the safety car. The FIA eventually decided to use the order from the previous start, which left Hulkenberg in seventh.

Insight: 10 things we learned from the 2023 Australian Grand Prix

His team lodged a protest, arguing that he should have been sixth had the order been taken at the safety car two line before Turn 1, but this was dismissed by the stewards.

Hulkenberg remained in the cockpit throughout, and said that he was reminded of his victorious Le Mans 24 Hours one-off with Porsche in 2015 as he “close to three hours inside the cockpit”.

Regarding the final grid restart he said: “It's always such a thrill, it's an element of entertainment, but as a driver and for teams, it's quite a strange feeling to have.

“You've worked all race long, you only have a couple of laps left and then you're supposed to do a whole race start again.

“There are two sides to it. I think there are going to be a lot of discussions you have to review.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, lead the field away at the restart

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, lead the field away at the restart

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

“There was an Aston [Fernando Alonso] that got turned around, but he was lucky he could come back to the race.

“But obviously that's a nightmare scenario for a driver. You do a good race, you're in a good position. There's a red flag, you do a restart, you get hit by someone, it's not your mistake. And your whole weekend is wiped out.

“So I feel that's an element which is kind of artificial. And I'm not sure this is the DNA that I've known for F1.

“I think there's going to be a little bit of discussion about this.”

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Hulkenberg also predicted that the way the order was determined when the race ran to the flag behind the safety car would mean “one big discussion that is going to erupt now”.

“I think there is a little bit of confusion, to say the least, about why it took so long to get the final restart, which was not ideal,” he added.

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