27 September 2015
F1 Japanese Grand Prix: Hulkenberg welcomes return to points
Nico Hulkenberg used a flying start and good Force India strategy to record only his second points finish in five outings since before F1's summer break.
Nico Hulkenberg bounced back from his contact-fuelled exit from the Singapore Grand Prix and overcame the resulting grid penalty to claim a hard-earned sixth place in Japan.
The German held his hand up to not giving Felipe Massa enough room as the Williams driver left the pits in last weekend's race, and copped a three-place penalty for Suzuka that dropped from his now customary eleventh on the grid. A good getaway from the sloping Japanese grid, however, allowed Hulkenberg to pick up a couple of places almost immediately – at the expense of Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso – before Force India team-mate Sergio Perez took a trip through the gravel and Massa made contact with Daniel Ricciardo to boost him several more.
“I made a really good start and jumped a couple of cars away from the line, and then stayed on the inside going into turn one - which turned out to be a good decision,” Hulkenberg smiled, “By turn two, I was up in eighth, close behind the Lotuses, who were holding me up during the first stint.”
With Suzuka renowned for not being an easy track to pass on, Force India played the strategy card, propelling Hulkenberg past the two black-and-gold machines on the undercut and allowing him to make good on sixth place – only his second result in five races, following two DNFs and a non-start in Belgium.
“The team pitted me early to undercut them and we then out-raced them with our stronger pace,” he confirmed, “After that, it was a lonely race for me, but an effective one - and the result is very welcome.
“Realistically, sixth was the maximum we could achieve when you remember that I started from P13. The team did a great job today and I think we deserved these eight points.”
Deputy team principal Robert Fernley had equal praise for his driver, claiming that Hulkenberg had driven an astute race while accepting that a top five remained beyond the team's grasp.
“Nico drove a tactically brilliant race,” Fernley enthused, “He made another great start to regain the ground he had lost through his grid penalty and then had a fairly lonely race.
“He executed our strategy perfectly, leapfrogging the two Lotuses during the first pit-stop window and, from then on, he worked hard to continuously increase his gap. Sixth was the maximum he could have got today but it's just the result Nico needed after a difficult run of races.”
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