Hulkenberg having fun with strong Bahrain practice pace


Nico Hulkenberg celebrated his return to the full-time ranks of Formula 1 by finishing the first day of practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix with the fifth fastest time overall.

Hulkenberg's FP2 time of 1:31.376s under the floodlights was within half a second of pace setter Fernando Alonso, while his Haas team mate Kevin Magnussen had been seventh quickest in the earlier daytime session.

It was a strong opening performance for the team, and a confidence boost for Hulkenberg who previously competed for Williams, Force India, Sauber and Renault but who is yet to finish on the podium in 181 race starts.

Hulkenberg appeared to have ended his time in F1 after the 2019 Abu Dhabi GP but made two guest appearances for Racing Point in 2020 and another brace of outings for Aston Martin in 2020 subbing for unwell regular drivers.

And now he's back full-time with Haas, and loving the opportunity to resolve unfinished business. "Overall it’s been a good Friday with things to take away to build on and progress," he said after 47 laps in the VF-23.

“I wish I had taken a few tenths out to be honest and kept them in my pocket,” he joked. “It’s one lap pace [which] is fine, and it’s fun, it’s nice.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Haas VF-23. 03.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Practice Day

“It’s fun when you get fresh rubber and you just have a lot of grip, that’s when a F1 car really comes alive and you can play with it, it’s just dynamic and fun to toss it around.

"One lap pace is fun but if this is where we are come Sunday, that’s where the gold is, that’s where it matters," he continued. "That’s where we still have a lot of work to do, and some homework to find pace and work on degradation.

"I was just told that the delta was quite large from the medium to the soft and it felt that way," he added. "It’s going to be difficult but it’s the same for everyone. We need to come up with the best compromise set-up for one lap and for the race."

His team mate Kevin Magnussen is also on his second life in F1 having been recalled to the team at the start of 2022 when Nikita Mazepin was dropped in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"There’s a lot more to try," he said after the end of Friday's track time in which he completed 38 laps. "It was only two practice sessions, but I think we’re in a decent spot.

"I don’t want to jinx anything!" he added. "But as usual, it will be very close, and it could be anything.”

"FP1 was looking pretty good for us, we’ve been testing quite a bit today and we’ll put it together tomorrow. Some of the things the team have been working on between the test and now, we’ve tried them out and got a few answers.

"We’ll try and put it together tomorrow and we’re in a decent spot."

Team boss Guenther Steiner was satisfied by the efforts of both drivers today, and by the progress made by the squad as a whole over the winter break.

“Everything we learned at the test, today we could use," he said. "For FP1 we went out and made some set-up changes while continuing to learn.

"In FP2, which is obviously closer to the conditions we’ll have in qualifying, Nico did a very good job and Kevin worked around some further set-up changes, and I think there is more to come from him tomorrow.

"Hopefully it will be a good day, but all-in-all we’re making good progress in learning about the car. The car is very reliable, which is a plus!"

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