Nico Hülkenberg has started the 2018 Formula 1 season with consecutive top ten finishes in the Australian and Bahrain Grand Prix, and the German is expecting an improved performance from his Renault Sport Formula One Team this weekend in China.
Hülkenberg started the season with a seventh place finish at Albert Park before improving to sixth in last weekends Bahrain Grand Prix, but despite the positive start to the season, he knows there is still work to be done to improve their R.S.18, starting this weekend at the Shanghai International Circuit.
Hülkenberg admits there was potential for better last weekend in Bahrain, particularly in Qualifying, but this weekend is all about putting it all together and scoring big points once more.
“It’s a decent result in the end and more points in the bag for the championship,” said Hülkenberg. “Qualifying could have gone slightly better, given my Q2 lap would have placed me further up the grid for the race.
“But that’s racing and we’ll take the points and move on to the next one. We’ve certainly learnt quite a bit last weekend and we head to China with things to work on. Every track is different and I’m sure China will bring its own challenges. We’ll go there aiming to keep improving.”
Hülkenberg pinpoints the tracks unique opening turn as a key part if the lap, particularly in Qualifying when drivers will be entering the long right-hander at their highest speeds of the weekend, while the opening lap of the race can also be a feisty one.
“The track is famous for the never-ending turn one / turn two combination,” said the German. “It’s a tricky complex because it’s easy to go in too hot, especially during qualifying, and it really eats the front-left tyre. This combination really draws you in, as it goes on a long time after a really fast entry.
“You are decreasing speed after that as it gets tighter and tighter and seems to go on forever, before reaching the downhill, hairpin turn three. The first lap on race day usually gets a bit tasty there, and it’s important to get the elbows out and hold your ground.”
Coupled with that first turn, Hülkenberg says the long turn thirteen means tyre management is extremely hard work in China, although he admits the long back straight is kind of boring until the hard-breaking zone heading into the hairpin at the end of it.
“Historically, in China, looking after the tyres has been hard work,” said Hülkenberg. “The first few corners are notorious for tyre-deg and later on in the lap, turn 13 is another long right-hander that takes even more life out of them.
“After that unique first sector, the rest of the lap has a bit of everything from low-speed to high-speed, which makes it challenging to find a balanced setup. There’s a big long straight where you have enough time for a game of chess as you’re going in a straight line with your foot hard down for so long, then you wake up and you’re hard on the brakes.
“It’s really important to get your braking right there as it’s a pretty important corner. Again, on Sunday, it’s going to be one of the main overtaking spots.”