Although post race, ‘The Hulk’ remained professional and didn’t sound particularly upset when the German analysed his Formula 1 race with a handful of journalists at Silverstone early Sunday evening, clearly the team mate of Daniel Ricciardo at Renault was not happy with his team.
“We didn’t really manage the strategy in my eyes,” he said, despite the first scheduled pit stop being too late all he admits to is that: “I really had problems with the tyres.”
Inside, he may have been trying to keep a lid on it, because the breakdown of the radio traffic after the British Grand Prix brought to light a heated discussion between Hülkenberg and his race engineer Mark Slade during the in-lap back to the pits.
Slade initially praises Hülkenberg’s “fantastic performance”, but already hints at a sense of guilt by saying: “That was hard. Sorry, buddy!” What observers initially thought was an excuse for the sudden loss of tyres.
But Hülkenberg’s answer makes it clear that it’s about strategy: “It’s hard for me to understand why we couldn’t stop earlier. That cost us this race,” he says angrily. “I honestly had problems. I don’t want to play games or talk bullshit. But sometimes you just have to believe me! Just fucking believe …”
“I understand Nico, I understand completely”, Slade tries to appease him, but doesn’t succeed: “It was obvious” retorts Nico.
“My tires were at 140, hundred-fucking-forty! And you still say: ‘No, no, everything’s fine, let’s leave him outside, everything’s fine.'”
Slade cuts off his driver with: “Copy, Nico, got it. We’ll talk about it after the race.”
During the race and by the ninth lap, Hülkenberg had reported tyre wear for the first time. At that time he was ninth and 1.5 seconds behind Daniel Ricciardo. ”
By Ricciardo’s pit stop on the twelfth lap, the gap between the Renault drivers increased to 3.4 seconds, and during that, Hülkenberg was instructed twice not to come into the pits. Ricciardo was changing his tyres at the time.
By then, Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon passed Nico on the outside, his tyres had let go completely. In a sarcastic fashion, Hülkenberg radioed to his crew: “Very clever!
Team boss Cyril Abiteboul doesn’t deny afterwards that Renault concentrated on Ricciardo at that stage of the race: “We didn’t exactly help Nico,” he explains to Motorsport-Total.com. “His first stop was probably too late because we were very focused on the duel between Daniel and Lando.
“In an action-packed race, with tyres that aren’t easy to read, that’s never easy,” says Abiteboul. “We came in too late with Nico, lost a position. From then on he was a bit on the wrong foot. He also had an engine problem because of a defective sensor that we had to reset. That cost him another position.”
But the Frenchman defends the fact that Ricciardo was given priority at the pit stop: “He was behind Daniel in qualifying, he was behind Daniel in the first lap – but he still wanted to change tyres earlier. It’s only fair that he had to line up behind Daniel. Nevertheless, we made his race Sunday unnecessarily difficult for him.”