Crash.Net F1 News
Hulkenberg at centre of the action in Brazil
25 November 2012
Nico Hulkenberg put in his drive of the year with a superb run at the front of the 2012 F1 Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos on Sunday, before a collision with Lewis Hamilton's McLaren cost him his chance of a podium finish.
"That was a lot of fun - very entertaining and there was so much happening all the time!" said Hulkenberg on his final race outing with the Force India team before his switch to Sauber in 2013.
"We had a great chance to finish on the podium today, but it slipped away, which is a shame," he added, after finishing in fifth place despite leading for 30 of the 71 laps at Sao Paulo - more even than race winner Jenson Button.
Hulkenberg got a great start from sixth place on the grid and immediately gained two positions, before going on to pass Fernando Alonso for third place and then take advantage of Lewis Hamilton's pit stop to lip into second behind Button when the pair opted to stay out on slick tyres despite increasingly wet conditions.
"In the early laps it was difficult to keep the car on the track in the very damp conditions," he said. "But it was not really wet enough for intermediates and I stuck with the slicks."
Hulkenberg's chance to take the lead came on lap 18, and the young German seized it with both hands. "It was the right decision [to stay out] and soon I was leading the race," he said. "I felt comfortable [leading]."
Hulkenberg stayed in the lead for the next 30 laps, including the seven laps run behind a safety car for debris on the track that allowed him and Button to get new tyres in a 'free' pit stop, but then lost the top spot to Button's Mclaren team mate Lewis Hamilton lon lap 48.
"Eventually I made a small mistake and Lewis got ahead of me," he admitted. "I managed to stay with him and was fighting to get the lead back when we touched.
"It's hard to say what happened but I was making a move going into turn one and had a slightly loose rear," he added. "I was about to turn in and suddenly there was contact. It's a shame for both of us because we were having a great battle."
Hamilton's front left suspension was wrecked in the incident and for the third time in the latter half of the season the McLaren driver ended up in enforced retirement having been leading the race at the time.
Hamilton was understandably frustrated by the premature end of the race and said that he was disappointed with Hulkenberg's contact. "The dude did not even come and say sorry," the McLaren driver said afterwards. "That is what happens when you are racing with the less experienced."
As for the Force India, it escaped relatively unscathed from the encounter. "I managed to keep going but I had lost a lot of time," said Hulkenberg, who was handed a drive-thru penalty by the race stewards for causing an avoidable accident.
Hulkenberg's boss, Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley, felt that the penalty was harsh: "We were surprised by the drive-through for Nico, and feel it could have been investigated after the race because there were three cars involved," he said, referring to the presence of Marussia's Timo Glock and Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen in the incident.
"Fifth place is still a super result to end the season and I think the team did an excellent job this weekend," insisted Hulkenberg. "I hope they [Force India] enjoyed the race – it's a nice leaving present in my last race."
Fifth place gives Hulkenberg a final 10 points in the 2012 drivers' championship and puts him in 11th in the final standings
With Hulkenberg's team mate Paul di Resta crashing out on the penultimate lap - causing the race to finish under yellow flag conditions - Force India ended up finishing in seventh place in the constructors battle behind Lotus, Mercedes and Sauber but ahead of Williams and Toro Rosso.