Racing Point’s Nico Hulkenberg says severe vibrations due to tyre blistering forced him to undertake a third pit stop late in Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, ruining his chances of a top-five finish.
After launching his race from third, Hulkenberg race consistently among the top four in the first half of the race, losing a spot after his second stop when he took on another set of hard tyres.
The German appeared to be in with a chance of catching Charles Leclerc, the Ferrari driver relying on a bold one-stop strategy, but the state of the Racing Point’s rear tyres left the team no choice but to call in its super-sub.
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“We were kind of forced to pit off the prime set,” Hulkenberg explained.
“I think we got a couple of nice big blisters on both rear tyres. The vibration just gets so quickly out of hand that within two, three laps, it just skyrocketed.
“I don’t think the tyre would have survived to the end. It was a pity. First half of the race was very under control, very managed.
“The second I got onto the second prime set, that just felt like a different set of tyres, a different compound, and it just didn’t work in the end.”
After last weekend’s botched British Grand Prix when a mechanical failure prevented him from joining the grid, the Hulk completed his first race distance since F1’s finale in Abu Dhabi last year.
However, it wasn’t a cool Sunday drive for the racing Point stand-in.
“Luckily these cars have the headrest quite close, so I could rest my head a lot,” Hulkenberg said.
“The whole body, back muscles, even the seat is quite tight around the glutes. I’m definitely going to be a bit sore tomorrow morning.
“It was a quiet race, no big fighting, no safety cars, but I’m actually quite grateful. I’m glad it wasn’t too action-packed, because it was enough as it was probably.”
Racing Point is still waiting for clarity on Sergio Perez’s situation and whether the Mexican will receive a clean bill of health to race in Barcelona next week.
So Hulkenberg will remain on standby, just in case.
“I don’t know the full picture, to be honest yet,” Hulkenberg told Sky F1.
“We’ll find out more in the next couple of days, and as we get closer to the weekend, it will develop.
“I guess I’ll be present just in case he’s not able to race. I guess I’ll be there to replace him again. I think it will come down to again a late decision on Thursday.”
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