Nico Hulkenberg is convinced that he could have scored points on his debut with the Sauber team, had a fuel system failure not sidelined him before the start of the Australian Grand Prix.
The German had been due to line up eleventh on the grid for the race in Melbourne, and the best-placed of those drivers eligible for a free tyre choice after qualifying, but his C32 never even left the garage, as an issue with the fuel system led to his entry being withdrawn on safety grounds.
“Basically a vacuum developed inside the tank, which did some damage to it and, ultimately, stopped us from running,” Hulkenberg explained to the official F1 website, “During qualifying [on Sunday morning], there were absolutely no signs of any damage, [but] I came back from the drivers' parade and was told that there was a grave problem with the car. The engine was out, the whole car was apart. I was shocked [but] it was not safe, so there was absolutely no way of going into the race.”
Being forced to watch a grand prix is a painful experience for any F1 driver, but the performance of Hulkenberg's team-mate, rookie Esteban Gutierrez, only helped confirm that the German could have been a threat for points on race day.
“I spoke to him afterwards, about how everything was, how the car and the tyres felt, how things were developing in the course of the race, [so] I got his impressions and his feedback,” the former Williams and Force India driver confirmed, “If you take the long-run data from Friday, we were basically in the same range as Force India but, as I have not participated in the race, it would be reading the crystal ball to make a statement [on our performance].
“Let's wait and see this weekend. Maybe it brings more of an answer, though it will definitely not be the final one. What I think is that we could have definitely raced for points [in Australia]. Every outing on a track brings information [and], unfortunately, we do not have a race experience together, [but] I have done F1 races before. Sure, all the information, the communication and the pit-stops, I am missing that from Melbourne, so it's not ideal, but we will definitely catch up this weekend. I'm going into the weekend somewhat blind, but nevertheless we are targeting a top-ten result.”