Nico Hulkenberg was one of the stars of qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, setting the sixth fastest time in the top 10 shoot-out and starting the race from fifth on the grid. However, he could only finish the 55-lap race in 14th place after being handed a drive-through penalty and struggling with understeer.
The German didn’t feel confident in the car throughout the race and has been left confused by the loss of speed. He felt that there was a realistic chance of points but the extra trip through the pit lane for an unsafe pit release dropped him out of the top 10.
“I’m not quite sure what happened today,” he admitted after the race. “I had felt comfortable with the car all weekend, but from lap one I was struggling with it. All the balance and the confidence I had was gone today, and I don’t know why.
“I had a lot of understeer in the first two stints. I couldn’t really rotate the car, which cost a lot of lap time. Then the unsafe release during my second pit stop, which resulted in a drive through penalty, was also quite costly.”
With a two week break before the United States Grand Prix, the team now has time to evaluate what went wrong: “Now we have to evaluate as to why the car was so different today. It is disappointing, because there was a realistic chance for points today.”
Team-mate Esteban Gutierrez finished in 13th place and was the last car on the lead lap. He was disappointed with the end result but took positives away from the weekend: “Obviously we were looking for a better result this weekend, so we cannot be happy. The pace is there, but qualifying yesterday affected the race today. Our strategy today wasn’t ideal either. I still had some good fights going on today, which I enjoyed, so I will take those positives with me and look forward to Austin.”
It was the second consecutive non-score for Sauber and with rivals Force India collecting a double point’s finish, sixth in the constructors’ championship continues to edge further and further away.
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic