Nico Hulkenberg says he had to escape a “seriously scary” moment in the Australian Grand Prix to pick up the first points of his return with a strong seventh place.
Alex Albon crashed on the exit of Turn 6 early in the race, bouncing back onto the racing line on the apex of Turn 7 with gravel and dust surrounding his car. Hulkenberg was the second car on the scene after rounding the unsighted corner and admits he was scared by how close to a serious accident he came at the time.
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“Holy moly,” Hulkenberg said. “That was seriously scary. I mean, thank God nothing happened but this is a nightmare scenario. You know, you’ve come around the blind corner in a street circuit. All I saw was a cloud of smoke and gravel flying around, and then only last moment I saw his car rolling back onto the track and I missed him not by that much. That could have been a really bad scenario.
“That was seriously scary and sketchy. That’s a bad example of a driver losing the car, crashing and coming back onto the track, and because there’s a gravel trap, there was dust, so you could not really see much.
“I think Pierre (Gasly) was in front of me — he was the first car, I was the second car, and no marshal in the world can react that fast. We didn’t have yellow flags; I just saw the cloud of dust and I saw gravel flying around, so I sort of didn’t take the ideal or normal racing line — I went a bit wider. But I think I still didn’t miss him by much though, I immediately shouted on the radio that we need a safety car.”
After avoiding Albon, Hulkenberg went on to finish seventh with a strong drive that had him in the top 10 throughout the afternoon, and although a protest attempting to revise the classification failed, he says his first points after three years away from full-time Formula 1 competition are a sign of how well he’s working with Haas.
“Woulda, coulda, shoulda… I mean, it was wild and a bit messy at times. I think we have to look through how everything happened and what the actions were. It was a lot of things happening; it was very dynamic. I had a super start — I think it was the third time around on softs and came through to P4 actually. A shame that there were a few incidents and they red-flagged it, otherwise it could have been a really strong result.
“But even before that, you know, I think we would have come home in P9 which is obviously not as good as well P7 or P4 or something, but still a lot of positive learnings again, and I take a lot of positives out of this race and forward.
“I feel a lot of good things happening still. I’m refreshed — I’ve got a good mindset, a very positive mindset. I’m feeling hungry — I really enjoy working with the team, exploiting the car, experimenting with the car, and we’ve got a very nice rhythm and momentum. That’s what we want to preserve now and take that into the next couple of races.”