Hülkenberg: F1 Japanese GP race pace “turned out much better than expected” after narrowly missing out on P10

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Nico Hülkenberg started the Japanese Grand Prix in 12th and finished the race in 11th for Haas. The Japanese Grand Prix had a rough start when a collision with RB’s Daniel Ricciardo and Williams Alex Albon triggered a red flag and the race was halted for almost 30 minutes as tyre barriers needed to be fixed at turn 3.

Hülkenberg gained a couple of places during the first start as he swept up Tsunoda and Ricciardo as the RB pair went nowhere on their mediums versus the soft runners.

Unfortunately for the German, the second restart went terribly. He went into anti-stall and briefly dropped right to the back. The 2010 Brazilian GP polesitter did repass Sargeant during the opening lap.

The 36-year-old was positively surprised by their pace as he managed to come back through and finish P11. He admitted that a normal start could have seen them beat RB F1 on the day.

“I am honestly a bit surprised that I managed to come back to where I did. I think it’s half a miracle, to be honest.

“It showed that we had good pace. Obviously I tried to go as quick as I could while managing the tyres as much as possible.”

“So, yeah, obviously a pity because we probably could have fought or beat Yuki. So one point was up for grabs.”

Asked what happened at the starts, the Haas driver explained the car went into anti-stall as soon he as dropped the clutch, getting away very slowly.

“The first start was really good but the second start I went into anti-stall as soon as I dropped the clutch.”

With Haas pitting Hülkenberg at the end of lap 5 as he was P17 on softs and stuck at the back of the train, the German would take his hard tyres 28 laps — running in P10 for a few laps — before boxing again for another set and having a big push to the finish.

He rejoined in P14 and overtook Bottas, Magnussen and Stroll to finish P11. Such was his strong pace in the last stint on much younger tyres than Tsunoda, he got within 5.5s of the Japanese driver when the chequered flag fell.

Heading into the race with low expectations, Hülkenberg was happily surprised with the race pace of the VF-24 once again.

“Absolutely. Obviously from the disappointment about the beginning of the race, that’s the big positive and what I can take from today.

“We have a package we can fight the other midfield teams with. To be honest, It felt even better than what I expected.

“I was having quite some headaches before the race. I didn’t expect it to be great. It turned out much better, and I take that one happily.

“Looking forward for more great races.”