Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg admits he was “scared” by the lack of grip at Barcelona on his first run during Formula 1 pre-season testing ahead of the 2018 season.

The Spanish Grand Prix venue was resurfaced in the weeks leading up to testing, which created tricky conditions as drivers laid down some new rubber during initial runs in the morning session. 

Hulkenberg completed 73 laps before handing over to Renault teammate Carlos Sainz for an uneventful afternoon session disrupted by cooling temperatures and rain showers.

“It’s quite hard to warm the tyres up now, on the out lap and on the first two or three laps. On my first run I was kind of scared because it felt like driving in the wet,” Hulkenberg said. 

“But then when you feel lap by lap it’s getting better, the temperature comes in and the grip comes up as well. So it’s just that scenario we always see in winter testing when the track surface is really cold, it’s quite different.

“This is probably the smoothest track on the calendar now, it’s so flat,” the German added. “It has changed the characteristics of the track also I feel a little bit.

“There were corners like Turn 5 that had banking and some other corners had some warp in them, and now it’s all flat. 

“The corners are still the same but you don’t have the cambers anymore. So it did change the track a little bit. The new tarmac feels more grippy. Quite substantially.”

Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley revealed he also struggled with grip levels in the below-average temperatures.

“You have to work pretty hard just to get the tyres up to temperature on a day like this but as a driver on the first day of winter testing you don’t want to do a mistake," he explained. "We’re all very close to the limit, otherwise the tyres wouldn’t work.

“I think everybody probably had a few moments today with the cold track temperatures because even slowing down to let some traffic through at one corner the temperatures were dropping so drastically that there was always a few challenging moments.”

 

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