29 May 2016
F1 Monaco GP: Force India to review Hulkenberg strategy after podium miss
Nico Hulkenberg was among a handful of drivers who felt they were good for a podium in the Monaco Grand Prix had it not been for mis-timed tyre stops in a wet-dry race.
The Sahara Force India team says it will be looking hard at the mistakes it made with Nico Hulkenberg's Monaco Grand Prix strategy after the German missed out on a potential podium position in the Principality.
Hulkenberg started fifth after a stellar qualifying performance on Saturday, and was able to hold position as the start of the race was taken behind the safety car. Once the field was released, however, the strategists played as big a role in the race as the drivers, as the changing conditions meant the timing of tyre stops would prove crucial.
Hulkenberg had gained one position by the time of his first stop, courtesy of Sebastian Vettel's decision to switch from wets to intermediates two laps earlier than his countryman, but rejoined behind both the Ferrari and Felipe Massa's Williams, with the Brazilian still holding out on full wets.
The time lost while unable to pass the pair ahead of him ultimately cost Hulkenberg his shot at a top three place, with Force India team-mate Sergio Perez able to pit and rejoin in the top four, before eventually going on to join Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo on the podium.
Hulkenberg also narrowly missed out on capitalising on Nico Rosberg's second stop, and appeared destined for seventh place after following his namesake for much of the second half of the race. However, in a moment of inspiration, the Force India driver powered past the points leader exiting the final corner of the race to snatch sixth place on the line, adding to his team's best-ever Monaco result.
It was a first points finish since the opening round in Australia but, despite coming off the back of two DNFs, still couldn't alleviate all the frustration the German felt.
“It was ultimately a disappointing race for me, despite getting back to scoring points,” he confirmed, “I feel the timing of our first pit-stop was wrong and that cost me track position and put me straight into traffic. This effectively ruined my race, as I spent the rest of the afternoon stuck there.”
The last-gasp move on Rosberg was something of a highlight for Hulkenberg, but the German left Monaco with the feeling that he could have finally broken his podium duck in what was his 100th F1 start.
“It's very frustrating as I had the pace to be on the podium today,” he insisted, “I was able to finally get past Rosberg with a good move on the exit of the final corner: we were on worn-out tyres, it had started to drizzle and it was very tricky to keep the car facing in the right direction, but I got a better exit out of the corner and I think I got him by just a car's length.
“All in all, though, I still feel it's a huge missed opportunity for me. The car was in the sweet spot, it gave me a lot of confidence and I just had a good feeling today, but it was not to be. That's just the way it often is in Monaco.”
Deputy team principal Robert Fernley, while revelling in Perez's third place and the overall team result, admitted that mistakes might have been made with Hulkenberg's strategy and promised that the race post mortem would focus on the decisions.
“It wasn't easy to make the right calls with the strategy,” he pointed out, reflecting on an event that went from soaking wet to bone dry inside 40 laps, “To be honest, these decisions can often go the other way but we will review the wet to intermediate call we made with Nico. We opted to make an early stop for the intermediate tyres, but he got stuck behind Massa, which proved very costly for his race.”
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