A ‘sketchy’ decision pays off for Nico Hülkenberg and Haas

As the minutes ticked down in the first qualifying segment at the British Grand Prix, 19 of the 20 drivers wound their way around historic Silverstone circuit in wet conditions, relying on the green intermediate tires.

Nico Hülkenberg was that 20th driver, who remained in the garage waiting for the track to dry out, and the right moment to join the fight.

Hülkenberg had to wait through a red flag, brought out by Sergio Pérez. The Red Bull driver was one of the first to switch to the slicks, with just over seven minutes remaining in the session, but quickly paid a steep price. Pérez slid into the gravel and could not get moving again, ending his session early.

Ultimately, Hülkenberg had just one shot at a flying lap and he made it stick, doing just enough to get into Q2.

But when the dust settled and the checkered flag flew at the end of Q3 Hülkenberg was up in sixth on the timing sheets, and he will start on the third row in Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

That stands as not just the best qualifying result for Hülkenberg this season, but for the team as well.

However, the approach taken by Haas made for some nervy moments for both the driver and the team.

“I managed to take the momentum from last race into this week, plus I think the updates we brought to the car yesterday really had an impact and I felt a gain with them straightaway,” said Hülkenberg in the team’s post-qualifying report. “That’s good news and it’s not always the case, so a big well done to the team. Quali was good; Q1 was a bit too close for comfort with only one lap.

“With the red flag, we got a little out of sync and maybe it was a bit sketchy, but otherwise it was a good, clean session. I feel good confidence in the car which means I can produce the laps, even if it’s just one.”

Team Principal Ayao Komatsu hailed an “amazing” result for the team, but outlined how Haas needs to review their “tricky” approach.

“It’s been a pretty eventful day with pretty tricky conditions, but in FP3 I think we made progress learning about car behavior on the intermediates. In Q1 we decided not to run on the inters because we expected it to be dry, so that’s what we did,” described Komatsu. “It was very tricky, we need to review what we did and how we can do it better because we just got through with Nico. Kevin didn’t get through Q1 because he went off but with Nico, we didn’t give ourselves enough margin, so that’s something we need to improve.”

Komatsu outlined how it could have been even better for Hülkenberg.

“Moving into dry conditions with Nico, what a fantastic result with P6, and that could’ve been better. He made a mistake on his flying lap in one of the corners so it’s really pleasing with all the hard work from the team getting this upgrade on and it paying off well,” added the Haas boss. “It’s an excellent position to start tomorrow, so we’ll see what we can do, but for now, I’m happy for the team – amazing work from everyone.”

While Kevin Magnussen failed to advance out of Q1 and will start at the back of the field, Hülkenberg’s starting position gives Haas a tremendous chance to bring home solid points on Sunday. The team enters the British Grand Prix sitting seventh in the Formula 1 Constructors’ standings, 11 points behind Visa Cash App RB F1 Team.

But with both Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda starting outside the points — and behind Hülkenberg — Haas is in position to cut into that lead Sunday.

Despite a “sketcky” Saturday.

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