'Penalty was fair and reasonable', Hulkenberg concedes

Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
© XPB 

Nico Hulkenberg felt that the five second penalty he received as a result of overtaking Sergio Perez during Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had been fair and reasonable.

He was penalised by the race stewards after going off track to complete the pass on the opening lap. However he felt he'd had no alternative in the circumstances.

"It's always obviously different car, different perspectives," explained the Renault driver after the race. "From where I was sitting, I could see he was locking up and he was running wide.

"I was ready, I had the car stopped enough to turn left and make the corner but he was running wide. I had physically no place to go. It's not that easy to say I could stop that much more and just tuck in behind him."

He hinted that Perez had a case of his own to answer for the incident. "It's also a bit forcing another driver off the track in my eyes, my opinion."

But Hulkenberg clearly sensed that overall he had dodged a bullet and come out of this one on top. "Under the circumstances the five second penalty I think was fair and reasonable," he smiled.

The Force India team was furious when race control failed to order Hulkenberg to immediately hand the place back. As a result, Hulkenberg was able to use the gained track position to his advantage to pull away from Perez.

He was sufficiently ahead by the first round of pit stops to absorb the penalty and still get out in front of the Force India. However a stuck wheel during the stop came close to costing him the position after all.

"I knew that I had the five second gap and margin over Checho," he said. "But when I started to realise the pit stop was taking a bit longer than it was supposed to, I was getting a bit nervous.

"It turned out to be okay. Obviously I had to fight a little bit to get past that Haas which proved to be very quick on the straight. It wasn't the easiest job to get by him. But once that was done it was pretty much a scenario of managing it."

It meant that Hulkenberg finished the race in sixth place. The points he took away were enough to give him tenth place in the drivers championship, and put Renault ahead of Toro Rosso in the constructors standings.

"Happy obviously. Strong result, got sixth position, achieved all the objectives for this weekend," he said. "We managed to come out on top and it’s a very decent end to the season.

"[It] will be a morale booster for the team over the winter," he added. "Now we set our sights to next year."

Hulkenberg's performance was crucial given that his team mate Carlos Sainz had retired from the race, when a wheel came off after his pit stop.

"We were having a good race," said Sainz. "I had made some real progress and was looking forward to the second part of the race and racing to get in the top ten.

"It’s such a shame we had that issue with the wheel and I had to stop, but these things happen," he commented. "But let’s stay with the positives. Nico got the job done for the team and we got the points we needed to finish sixth.

"Overall it’s been a good season and a really great start for me with Renault."

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