Nico Hulkenberg has left the Monaco encouraged, after Force India managed to “punch above their weight” around the Monte-Carlo street circuit. Although his team-mate Sergio Perez retired from the race after just five corners following an incident with Jenson Button’s McLaren at Mirabeau, Hulkenberg managed to finish fifth despite excessive tyre wear in the final stint.
So far this season Hulkenberg has managed to finish every race within the points, which in turn has enabled him to head to the Canadian Grand Prix ahead of reigning World Champion and fellow countryman Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship.
After many fans and journalists alike were astonished when the German failed to secure a drive at a front-running outfit for the new season, Hulkenberg has undoubtedly been one of the stars of the season so far for Force India.
Despite failing to progress into the all-important top ten shootout during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix, Hulkenberg still managed to find himself within the points after the first few laps of the race.
As the 78 laps unfolded the 26-year-old took a “calculated risk” and lunged up the inside of McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen at turn eight on lap 32. From then on Hulkenberg somehow managed to make his Force India as wide as possible, despite the advances of both the Dane and his team-mate Button, as well as the excessive rear tyre wear which struck his car.
“It is really great,” enthused Nico Hulkenberg, speaking to the Official Formula One website after the race. “I would say that we definitely punched above our weight today.
“I think the McLarens were quite a bit faster, but you also have to be able to bring it home – and that’s exactly what we did. It definitely was a difficult race, so the position is an extra sweet reward for the team and me.
“It was really tough,” he added. “On a couple of occasions half of me almost hit the wall, so I’m very happy being able to come home with ten points.”
The opportunity for Hulkenberg to make a surprising overtaking manoeuvre on Magnussen at Portier arose after the Danish rookie was forced to gift a position back to the Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, after illegally overtaking him under safety car conditions.
Due to this mistake from Magnussen, he subsequently lost momentum which in turn enabled Hulkenberg to close the gap and perfect a rather unorthodox overtaking manoeuvre in an unlikely part of the track. At the time the German explained how he envisaged making severe contact with the McLaren and loosing his front-wing, however after a minor bump he was through.
“I grabbed my opportunity,” continued Hulkenberg. “I think he had to let the Toro Rosso pass as he overtook him during the safety car restart and that’s when he obviously lost momentum and I got the chance to stick my nose into turn eight.
“Honestly I was not sure if it would work – I just tried it. My heart was racing at that very moment – I saw myself without a front wing! I think we briefly touched, but in the end I gained the place.
“Sometimes you have to take risks – calculated risks, not stupid risks. On a track like this where overtaking is almost impossible, this move was the icing on my cake this afternoon!”
Although Nico Hulkenberg currently sits proudly ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship, he fully understands that the reigning Champion will undoubtedly improve as the season progresses.
Naturally the Emmerich-born ace aims to continue delivering good performances as the season continues, and has stipulated that his team must not stall in the upgrades department. Due largely to the new technical regulations this season, imperative upgrades will continue to be added to the various teams in a bid to continue improving their overall packages.
“I want to deliver good performances and races where you make the maximum from your possibilities – these are the races that really put a smile on your face,” he explained. “For me it could go on and on and on like this.
“Of course, we have to look not to stall in car development, as this is the second weekend we are racing with pretty much the same car, so updates are high on the agenda.”
After six races this season Force India sit fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, the second best Mercedes-powered team after the works outfit and only eleven points behind Ferrari in third.
With the Silverstone-based outfit enjoying their best start to a Formula One season to date, both Hulkenberg and his team-mate Perez will be aiming to continue excelling, with the German still yet to set a foot on the podium.
Picture(s) Copyright © Octane Photographic