Hulkenberg has no regrets about F1 return with Haas

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Haas VF-23. 21.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, Practice Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images
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Nico Hulkenberg insists that he is totally happy with how his first season back in Formula 1 has gone since signing up to return to the grid with Haas, possibly suggesting than peroxide blonds really do have more fun after all.

Hulkenberg has started 193 Grand Prix races since making his F1 debut with Williams at the 2010 Bahrain GP. He went on to spend stints with Force India, Sauber and Renault before losing his full time seat at the end of 2019.

He kept his hand in as a substitute driver for Racing Point/Aston Martin in 2020 and 2022, keeping him on the radar of teams. That proved handy when Haas principal Guenther Steiner was casting around for a replacement for Mick Schumacher.

Since his return Hulkenberg has proved especially adept at qualifying, frequently making it to the final round on Saturday. But the VF-23's problems with excessive tyre degradation mean that he's finished in the top ten only once so far in Australia.

The sprint race in Austria proved fruitful for the 35-year-old German as he finished in sixth place. Unfortunately the successful run didn't expend to the following day's Grand prix where he was sidelined by a power unit issue just 13 laps into the race.

Yet despite picking up a total of only nine points so far - still seven more than his current team mate Kevin Magnussen - Hulkenberg says he has no regrets whatsoever about his decision to make the comeback.

“When we signed and I started here, I knew it was not just going to be sunny days," he told at he most recent race weekend. "There’s also going to be tough days and work ahead of us.

"You have a great Saturday and obviously you feel hyped; expectations, especially from the outside, go up," he said. “But I think we’ve known for a couple of months now; the Sunday issues are just too big at the moment.

“Of course in that moment on Sundays, or during the race and right after, it is a bit frustrating, and it is a bit disappointing,” he admitted. “Not just for me but for the whole team, because we’re all in it."

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Haas VF-23.
30.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Race Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Rew / XPB Images

Asked directly if was still happy with his decision to come back to F1 full-time with Haas, Hulkenberg was unequivocal: “Oh yes, 100 percent.

"It still gives me pleasure. I still enjoy being back a lot and all the positives outweigh the problems on Sundays," adding that the challenge was to "to manage expectations within the team".

As for why the Haas is having such a tough time getting its tyres to work consistently for for an extended period in race trim, Hulkenberg confirmed that “It’s just a loss of grip.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Haas F1 Team on the grid.
29.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Sprint Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"When you lose total grip, not just one particular area or one axle, you just start sliding more," he elaborated. “Sliding produces heat, uses the tyres more and that’s just obviously a vicious circle then.

"It’s the reason why we have difficult Sundays, because I think we do suffer more than our main competitors," he said, before pointing out the silver lining to this particular cloud.

“Generally the car, the way it’s designed and built, is very good at switching on tyres, which obviously works out well in qualifying.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER), Haas F1 Team
08.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 11, British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England, Qualifying Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images

“But in the race it tends to overwork the tyre when you have to do really long stints, and that’s when it’s not working out so well.”

However Hulkenberg is confident enough that the car and the team give him sufficient reason for optimising for improvements in the future.

“We keep fighting, we keep working," he vowed.

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