Nico Hulkenberg says it isn’t realistic to target a repeat of his top three result from Friday when qualifying begins at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Haas expected the high-speed Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to suit its car and Hulkenberg duly delivered an eye-catching soft-tire run in FP2 that left him third behind Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso, just 0.27s from the fastest time. While encouraged by the feeling he had from his car, Hulkenberg said he expects others to move ahead on Saturday.
“I think today it looked genuine but I guess other people underperformed or underdelivered,” Hulkenberg said. “Especially there was a lot of top cars that I think will find something overnight and pick it up.
“I think we’ve got to stay cool and realistic. For me, it’s important to have a good feeling in the car, a good rhythm, and I managed to find that today, which is the most important thing for me.
“Obviously hoping to have a similarly good day tomorrow, just squeeze out what we have. But tomorrow is going to be tight again. In the midfield there are still four or five teams, and we are battling for the same piece of tarmac. So it’s going to be a tough, tight fight again.”
Hulkenberg says the P3 lap time was made even more rewarding by the progress Haas made from the opening session, when he was ranked 18th.
“It felt decent, especially that lap on new softs that give you a lot of grip over one lap,” he said. “FP2, we’ve picked up some performance – in FP1 it wasn’t quite there yet. So, obviously satisfied with how it went in FP2, and hope we can keep it up for the next few days.
“There’s always more to explore, there’s always more to do. It felt OK. Obviously every track feels different with different tires, different tarmac, different track characteristics, but I had a good rhythm today. I felt at home in the car, and I felt like I was in the driving seat which is good and important around here. So a positive Friday.”
Given how competitive the field is, with 0.8s covering the top 15 cars, Hulkenberg said driver confidence can play a significant part in where they end up in the standings.
“It’s very important, and that’s when you as a driver can commit more, you can take slightly more risk,” he said. “You have more confidence to send it in qualifying when you look for the last hundredths. That’s when that helps.
“But I think naturally also here the car was just in a much happier place and immediately gives me a much better feeling compared to a week ago in Monaco.”