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News - Japanese GP
Nico: “We’ve certainly looked a bit stronger”
10 Oct 2012
Nico Hülkenberg: “We’ve certainly looked a bit stronger”
The Japanese Grand Prix weekend was one of mixed fortunes for Sahara Force India and especially Nico Hülkenberg. The good news was that despite some frustrations the German left Japan with a solid seventh place and some useful championship points.
Nico was as high as fourth in FP2 on Friday, which was encouraging as the team had feared that Suzuka would not be a track that played to the strengths of the car. However, things went wrong in FP3 on Saturday morning when Nico crashed at the second Degner corner, just before the bridge across the track.
It took longer than usual for the car to be returned to the garage due to practice starts on the grid after the session effectively extending it by several minutes, but the crew set to work and did a great job of repairing the VJM05 for qualifying.
The bad news was that damage to the gearbox meant an unscheduled change, so Nico went into the session knowing that he had a five-place gearbox penalty. However, despite the rush to get the car out he managed to progress to Q3. The team then decided not to run him the last session in order to save tyres, so that left him in 10th, which translated into 15th on the final grid.
“It was a tricky weekend obviously with a difficult Saturday and my accident in the morning, which was unfortunate and very bad timing,” says Nico. “The boys, all my mechanics, did a fantastic job to turn it around at the last minute. I went out and put it in Q3, so a big thank you to the boys and the team there.”
Just as at Spa a few weeks ago Nico successfully avoided the first corner carnage and made up a large number of places. Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber, Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna were all directly involved in the various incidents, while he also jumped ahead of Pastor Maldonado and Daniel Ricciardo to emerge in eighth place, right behind Lewis Hamilton.
“I had a very good start and was able to stay out of trouble on the outside line at Turn One, and came out in eighth. From there onwards we had a pretty good race and proved that we had very good race speed and race craft, so that was a positive surprise. I was happy with the car and the balance and the handling, so I was able to race strongly.”
Nico made his first pit stop on lap 13 and resumed in eighth place, before gaining another spot when Sergio Perez spun off just in front of him. After that he maintained seventh to the end, initially behind Hamilton and then Kimi Raikkonen. However he didn’t get close enough to be in a position to pass.
“It was difficult to keep up behind cars, it’s a high speed circuit and as soon as you get close behind cars it gets very difficult, because you lose all the downforce. But I think overall, a good effort from the team.”
The Suzuka result was another solid Sunday performance. Nico and Paul have between them scored well in all four races since the summer break, despite there being limited development as attention turns to the 2013 car.
“Maybe we just understand the car a bit better,” says Nico. “We haven’t brought any new parts to the car, but it seems that we’ve just picked up some performance. It’s a bit of a question mark on what happened, but we’ve certainly looked at bit stronger!”