Hulkenberg will “return the favour later in the season” to Magnussen as “great team effort” lands Haas a point in F1 Saudi Arabian GP

Photo Credit: MoneyGram Haas F1 Team
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Nico Hulkenberg got Haas off and running in the 2024 season as he bagged a point for the team at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with a large bit of help coming from teammate Kevin Magnussen.

The German driver was one of four not to pit behind the early Safety Car caused by Lance Stroll’s crash. It would turn out to be a brilliant decision.

With the top 9 cars all too quick, the fight for P10 became extremely intense after the Canadian dropped out. As Magnussen picked up penalties for causing a collision with Albon and gaining an advantage on Tsunoda by passing him off track, his race was all but done.

The Dane would go on to pull off a strategic masterclass. He consistently backed Tsunoda, Ocon, Albon and Sargeant up in the first sector where it’s impossible to pass. He also got his elbows out at one stage when it seemed the Japanese driver would get the job done into turn 1.

As that pack was buried in the high 1:35s and low 1:36s thanks to the heroics from the Dane, Hulkenberg was banging in 1:34s and created the required gap to come back out in front when he pitted on lap 33.

Speaking post-race, Hulkenberg is aware he owes Magnussen one for the defensive masterclass he put on.

“Well, one point, but yeah, obviously happy about that.

“I think great team effort, great team game by Kevin. I didn’t see it, but I was told that he really helped my case by holding up the pack behind him, which obviously helped, or opened up the window for me to take the point.

“So yeah, very good job from him on that side, and thank you. I’ll return the favour later in the season.”

Although he knew Magnussen was doing some defending, he didn’t know about the level of defending his Danish stablemate was pulling off.

“No, no, I didn’t. I just heard and was told that the gap opens up. But I didn’t… I wasn’t aware of why.

“I just thought I’m so good — and then I fly away from them [laughs].”

With 9 of the 10 drivers from the top 5 teams ahead of him, Hulkenberg could push hard and flat out in clear air as he pulled away from Zhou and the Magnussen group. It was something he enjoyed.

“And then, yeah, for the most part, I was by myself, just driving, pushing to be honest. It was a real push race. There was no tyre saving going on.

“It was flat out, also quite physical, because I think the pace was pretty high.

“But enjoyed it, especially that middle stint on medium was really good. We had negative deg, I guess like everybody else, and it was just head down and flat out.”

The 36-year-old was pleased with the call made by Haas not to pit under the Safety Car.

It opened up an opportunity to do something different to the vast majority of the field and paid off handsomely. On this occasion a second Safety Car didn’t appear — Magnussen did the job instead.

“Well, without [a] further Safety Car, you never know.

“But I think in races like this race here, and when currently we have the top five teams, if they stay in the race, it’s the top ten taken.

“So I always feel you have to do something unorthodox and something not so logic or what seems like common sense.

“You have to obviously push your luck a little bit and do something different, offset yourself. And like in the past, that has often paid off.

“Obviously, it wasn’t the Safety Car today that made it, but it was my teammate that made that possible.”

As the degradation was basically zero for all the drivers and teams, it allowed Hulkenberg and Haas to go very long — unlike in races last year.

“But it was going well. I mean, it was negative deg. There’s no reason, no urge to pit.

“And obviously you wait for the safety car and then, you know, get a cheap stop. Or in that case, obviously we were waiting for the pit window to appear.

“Yeah, if you’re not under threat and the pace is good, there’s no reason to stop.”