Nico Hulkenberg: “To qualify fifth is better than I expected”

Nico Hulkenberg - Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Nico Hulkenberg exceeded expectations by qualifying inside the top five for the Monaco Grand Prix, and felt a lot happier with his improved Sahara Force India car than he had previously in 2016.

His best lap of 1:14.726 was enough to beat both Kimi Raikkonen and Carlos Sainz Jr to that fifth position, with just 0.023s separating the three drivers, but it means the best starting Monaco Grand Prix starting position of his career.

Hulkenberg admitted he felt positive heading into qualifying that he could make it into the top ten shoot-out, but is focused now on turning his fifth place grid slot into a decent result during Sunday’s race.

“We knew we had the speed to be inside the top ten today, but to qualify fifth is better than I expected,” said Hulkenberg. “I’ve had good vibes since the start of the weekend and I’ve felt comfortable and confident since the start of practice on Thursday.

“We made a big step forward in Barcelona and today’s result shows that the car is working well, especially through the low-speed corners. My laps were clean and tidy in Q1 and Q2, and then in Q3 I was on the money and hit the sweet spot with my final lap.

“Of course, qualifying is only half the job and there is still a long race ahead of us with so many factors that can come into play tomorrow. In Monaco, nothing comes easy; you always have to work hard to earn your result, but I’ve put myself in a good position to come away with some important points.”