Hulkenberg: “Wild” Canada F1 front row but race a “different cup of tea”

Nico Hulkenberg felt his Haas Formula 1 team executed a near-perfect qualifying to make the front row for the Canadian Grand Prix, but expects a tougher challenge in the race.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

The German driver battled into Q3 as conditions dried out from heavy rain and then nailed his second flying lap in the final part of qualifying to lift himself up to second place just seconds before a red flag for Oscar Piastri’s crash.

With the conditions getting worse during the stoppage as the rain returned, it meant Hulkenberg’s front-row spot was secured next to polesitter Max Verstappen, marking the team’s best qualifying since Kevin Magnussen took a shock sprint race pole in Brazil last year.

Hulkenberg credited his team for making the right calls at the right time throughout qualifying in the changeable conditions.

But after qualifying the German was given a three-place grid penalty for failing to stay above the minimum lap time during the red flag in Q3, and will start the Canadian GP in fifth place.

“It was a wild quali. It was crazy,” Hulkenberg said before his penalty was announced. “Changing conditions are tricky, especially around here with the walls, so close on the exits and the speeds being high.

“Obviously wet, dry and back to wet, so you have to readjust all the time. But it was fun. It was good.

“This comes as a bit unexpected, but obviously very happy and proud. The team did a solid job. It was very smooth. So super happy.

“It's just a lot of communications, a lot of radio calls going back and forth. Obviously, you look at what the others do, and you think for yourself, but I think we hit it pretty well today. No major mistakes.”

Top three Qualifiers Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team, pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team

Top three Qualifiers Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team, pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Asked if he can expect a similar result in the grand prix, Hulkenberg acknowledged Haas’ pace in the forecasted dry conditions for tomorrow will make it tough for him to remain in the battle at the front, but he is eager to maximise the opportunity of a strong result.

“We'll have to see. Obviously, first row is nice, it is very sweet,” Hulkenberg said, who holds the unenviable record of most F1 starts without a podium, currently on 188 going into this weekend.

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“Let's see how long we can keep that and let's see what the conditions are tomorrow. All the signs suggest that it will be very different: a dry race. So a very different cup of tea.

“I just want to go out there, race as hard as we can squeeze it. And hopefully, we'll get a nice result.”

Hulkenberg’s front-row start offers Haas an excellent opportunity to make ground in the F1 midfield fight, with the US squad currently seventh in the standings, level on points with Alfa Romeo and just nine points off McLaren.

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