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Steiner: Hulkenberg surprised me how quick he was on the ball

Steiner: Hulkenberg surprised me how quick he was on the ball

Steiner: Hulkenberg surprised me how quick he was on the ball

Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner admitted he was surprised by the rate in which Nico Hulkenberg got up to speed within the team and the car after his return to Formula 1 in 2023.

Haas hired Hulkenberg to replace Mick Schumacher for 2023 alongside Kevin Magnussen, and the German driver has shown that he hasn’t lost his touch despite being on the sidelines since the end of the 2019 F1 season, where he was in reserve roles.

Hulkenberg replaced Covid-struck Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll at Racing Point at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix (Silverstone) and the Eifel Grand Prix (Nurburgring) respectively. He also replaced Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin for two races in 2022 for the same reason, but other than that, he didn’t have any F1 machinery experience for three years.

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When he joined Haas, Hulkenberg was on it from the start, making it into Q3 of Qualifying seven times and giving teammate Magnussen a serious run for his money.

Reflecting on his new driver’s performance, Steiner said, quoted by Motorsport.com: “I’ve been pretty, pretty impressed.

“We took him for one reason, because we know he can drive a race car. The doubt was after three years as not a full-time driver, how long does it take him to catch up?

“It didn’t take him any time because he was there from day one, you know, which is very good. It’s actually very impressive, but also as a human being, he tries to help the team and that’s what we wanted with the experience, that’s what I always said,” the Italian explained.

“He was six or seven times in Q3 out of [the first] 11 races – that isn’t too shabby, you know? And he’s got nine points, so in the race he’s pretty good.

“It’s the car that’s not good enough, so we need to work on the car – I don’t think we’ve got a driver problem. The team is very happy with Nico, personally as well,” the Haas boss maintained.

Elaborating on Hulkenberg’s performance, Steiner added: “First of all, he surprised me how quick he was on the ball, how quick he was integrated within the team. It was quite amazing how he immediately understood people.

“But again, we are talking experience and he was doing this for a long time. But it’s also how he goes about racing, he goes about it in the right way and puts in the right effort – not trying to overdo it, you know?

“He knows exactly what he needs to do. It’s the experience – [he knows] it’s not chocolate, it’s not sweet to make, so it takes some time,” Steiner concluded.

Hulkenberg is currently 14th in the 2023 F1 Drivers’ Championship scoring nine of Haas’ 11 points that put the American team in eighth place in the 2023 Constructors’ Standings.