Nico Hülkenberg admitted full responsibility for the first lap, first corner crash that saw the safety car deployed at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday.
The Renault Sport Formula One Team racer locked up his brakes heading into the turn and crash into the rear of Fernando Alonso, who in turn was pitched over the car of Charles Leclerc. Also caught up in the incident was Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Räikkönen, with all five drivers ultimately retiring from the event, although only Hülkenberg, Alonso and Leclerc were out on the spot.
Hülkenberg admitted it was a misjudgement of where to brake that caused the crash, which had similar markings of the 2012 crash that saw Romain Grosjean take a one-race ban, although this time around it will earn him a ten-place grid penalty for the Italian Grand Prix and three points on his Superlicence.
“When I hit the brakes, it locked up the front wheels and I slid,” said Hülkenberg. “These cars are aerodynamically sensitive, especially with cars bunching up ahead as you lose a lot of grip and load.
“I have to admit it caught me by surprise today. It was probably a misjudgement from my side as I was a bit late on the brakes, so it’s frustrating for me, the team, and the other drivers caught up in the incident.
“That’s racing and unfortunately these things happen. We have Monza next weekend, so I want to get this out of the system as soon as possible and focus on that.”
The Stewards at Spa-Francorchamps, which included this weekend Mika Salo as the ex-driver representative, acknowledged the similarities between the Grosjean crash in 2012 and the Hülkenberg one this year, but stated the difference in the way punishments are now handed out to drivers, with points on the Superlicence now the only real way of earning a race ban.
“The Stewards reviewed video evidence, heard from the driver of car 27 (Nico Hülkenberg) and the team representatives,” read the Stewards decision. “The driver of car 27 stated that he completely misjudged the situation and freely admitted it was his mistake.
It should be noted that since 2014 the FIA has introduced the penalty points system which takes into account previous offences by a driver and can lead to a race suspension if 12 points are accumulated within a 12 month period. This system was not in force when an incident not dissimilar to this, occurred in 2012.
Competitors are reminded that they have the right to appeal the decisions of the Stewards (with the exception of those referred to in Article 12.2.4 of the FIA International Sporting Code), in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Article 9.1.1 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits.”