Hülkenberg believes he “proved a point” by using old-spec VF-23 to make Q3 at F1 Abu Dhabi GP

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Nico Hülkenberg delivered one last strong performance over a single lap in 2023 as he made Q3 in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. In 23 attempts, he made the final segment of qualifying an impressive eight times.

As Kevin Magnussen bowed out in Q1, Hülkenberg made his way through in P8. He continued to chip away at his lap times to make it through Q2 in P9 and delivered 8th in Q3.

The German veteran had a terrible Friday. He missed FP1 as Oliver Bearman ran in his car. Then in FP2, he crashed out at turn 1 after completing just a single lap.

In spite of only finishing P17 in final practice this morning, Hülkenberg was immediately happy with everything and that allowed him to extract the maximum in qualifying, defying his team’s grim forecast for a double Q1 exit.

“Not bad — and pretty unexpected to be honest.

“Yesterday was a really bad day. FP1 I sat out, that’s normal. That’s not the cause. I did mistake in FP2 and only did one lap on the medium. That was a bit worrying coming into today.

“Somehow in FP3 I came off on a good foot with the car. Had a good rhythm, had good confidence which allowed me to push. Kept that feeling all the way through quali which is very nice.

“I think our own predictions were that we were going to be out in Q1, so it was a nice little surprise there.”

Hülkenberg had his first laps deleted in Q2 and Q3 but brushed it off to bounce back when it mattered most.

“Luckily they were always on the first run of each session. Last corner, tyres go off, overheats at the end of the lap and you start to slide.

“Obviously you’re fighting on the limit and it’s all on a knife’s edge.

“Things of 1 or 2cm is always very difficult to judge from where we sit when we push the cars to the limit. Got away with it today.”

Asked about the fact he delivered a great performance in qualifying using the old-spec car, Hülkenberg didn’t hold back his feelings about how the new package and concept has failed to deliver the big step needed for Haas to be truly competitive again on a Sunday in particular.

“We’ll see about that tomorrow night. I think it just confirms my impression that the updated car didn’t really give a significant step.

“They’re probably very very similar in terms of performance, which in itself obviously is not great because an update, you need it to work.

“Maybe proved a point there. We’ll see tomorrow night.”

Haas started the season strongly as Hülkenberg finished 7th in Australia, with Magnussen backing that up with 10th in Saudi Arabia and at the Miami GP. The German was also regularly in or close to Q3 during the first part of the campaign.

However, a lack of development has badly damaged their season and eventually saw them drop to P10 in the Constructors’ Championship.

Hülkenberg didn’t mince his words.

“Very disappointing and upsetting for us. We’re not happy about this of course.

“It’s the story of our season. We didn’t develop anything and totally got overtaken and outdeveloped. Hence we’re last today. That’s the root cause.

“We really need to address that going into next year.”

Photo Credit: MoneyGram Haas F1 Team