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Hulkenberg: Smaller F1 teams need “unorthodox” strategies to score points

Haas Formula 1 driver Nico Hulkenberg reckons half the grid must now turn to “unorthodox” strategies and away from “common sense” if they are to score points.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-24

Hulkenberg carried his strong qualifying form from 2023 into the season opener in Bahrain, lining up 10th before falling to 16th in the race owing to a poor launch and damaging his front wing in a Turn 1 collision with Aston Martin racer Lance Stroll.

Then in Saudi Arabia, the German climbed from 15th to score a point in 10th by going against the grain and not pitting during a safety car period - caused by Stroll crashing out - before team-mate Kevin Magnussen lent a hand by holding up the chasing cars.

Hulkenberg says this kind of divergent strategy is increasingly what is required for lower-half teams to score a point in F1, given the performance of the top-five squads.

“I think in races like this race [in Saudi] when, currently we have the top five teams, if they stay in the race, that's the top 10 taken,” he said.

“So, I always feel you have to do something unorthodox and something not so [logical] or what seems like common sense.

“You have to obviously push your luck a little bit and do something different, offset yourself and, like in the past, that has often paid off.”

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

While the 2022 shift to ground effect cars and the introduction of the cost cap were conceived to close the field (1.355 seconds split the top 19 cars in Q1 in Saudi), Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Aston Martin have picked up from last season by establishing themselves in the top-half of the constructors’ championship.

Magnussen’s Jeddah outing was already heavily compromised by two 10-second penalties (one for causing a collision with Alex Albon; the other for leaving the track and gaining a lasting advantage when he attempted to pass RB driver Yuki Tsunoda).

Thereafter, he delayed a queue of cars - which included Esteban Ocon, Albon, Tsunoda, Logan Sargeant and Daniel Ricciardo - when the Haas pair were running 11th and 12th.

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Team boss Ayao Komatsu explained: “[It] was an amazing team effort and I’m so happy that it was from great teamwork.

“We were fighting for P10 - one point - but against eight other drivers, so everything had to be perfect to take the opportunity.

“Once we realised [Magnussen] was out of points contention, we made a great call and Kev drove fantastically to hold those guys back while setting a target lap time, and Nico drove faultlessly.”

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