Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg equaled his career-best performance with a fourth-place finish at Sunday’s Korean Grand Prix, in a result that could make millions of dollars difference to the financially strapped team.
Hulkenberg put in a superb defensive drive over the closing stages of the race – holding off world champions Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button – to take fourth place that matched his effort at Belgium last year.
The 12 points moved Sauber up to 31 in the constructors’ championship, level with Toro Rosso for seventh place. While the precise amounts of prize money for team placings in F1 is confidential and only determined at season’s end, the difference between seventh and eighth is expected to be around $3 million.
“Today I drove one of the best races in my career so far,” said Hulkenberg, who was briefly overtaken by Hamilton in the closing stages but kept his cool and retook the position a short time later on the main straight.
“I had a real good slip stream and was able to get past on the outside,” the German said. “A big thank you to the entire team for providing such an excellent car today.”
The mature performance will further enhance the reputation of Hulkenberg, who had been linked this year with moves to Ferrari and McLaren, but who is most likely to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus in 2014.
“We went into the race with high expectations and it is a great feeling that we were able to meet these through our own strengths,” team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said. “Nico put in a superb performance and, once again, great fight, as it definitely was not easy to keep those cars behind him.”
Rookie teammate Esteban Gutierrez also matched his career best by finishing 11th, though the young Mexican was frustrated with being just outside the points after starting from eighth on the grid.
“It’s a great experience and will help me to improve my race craft,” Gutierrez said. (AFP)