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Nico Hulkenberg

Hulkenberg praises F1 rule change: It was 'not fun' before

Nico Hulkenberg has praised a rule for sprint weekends that allows setup changes to be made between the sprint and grand prix qualifying, after it allowed him to alter his Haas between sessions following a change that "backfired" on the team.

Hulkenberg China
To news overview © XPBimages

Nico Hulkenberg has spoken positively about the F1 regulation change that allows teams to alter setups between the sprint and main qualifying, with new rule having been introduced for this season, calling it a "necessary" step.

With the order of sprint weekends also being amended, by opening parc ferme for three hours on Saturday between the end of the sprint and the start of grand prix qualifying, the Haas driver was able to walk back changes to his car after making a "wrong turn" with his setup for the sprint portion of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend.

The German driver lined up for the sprint in P13, but a combination of those setup choices and used tyres saw him fall to the back of the pack, crossing the line in P19 and the last of the finishers. However, by making use of the new weekend format the 34-year-old made further changes and was able to qualify in ninth for the grand prix.

When detailing the ups and downs of his weekend so far, Hulkenberg said he was "happy that the rules changed" giving him the opportunity to "correct" the setup decision that "completely backfired on us."

"Yes. But it was also, I think, a necessary thing, because one session is just not enough," the Haas driver replied when asked by RacingNews365 if it was a relief the new rules had kicked in for the Chinese Grand Prix, adding: “And it’s also not fun for us drivers [when they cannot make setup changes part-way through the sprint weekend].

“We love driving, but I also love playing and working with a setup. If you have only 60 minutes and that’s it, that part wasn’t so great about the sprints, so I feel this is a much better way.”

Heading into the weekend, much had been made of the lack of practice time afforded teams and drivers at sprint events, with just the single hour allocated before sprint qualifying and the first parc ferme period.

RacingNews365 followed up, querying whether Hulkenberg would prefer a longer, 90-minute session to compensate for the lack of second and third practices, but the German explained he did not feel that was the crux of the issue, revert back to addressing the limitations of the previous rules.

“It changes stuff, you know. Between sessions, you always have time to sit down, you analyse the data and you come to a bigger conclusion," he replied.

"In session, you never have time for big setup changes because you want to maximise track time, so I don’t think that’s the key, really.”

After his setup direction caused his lack of pace in the sprint, Hulkenberg was able to describe what had happened.

"Yeah, that’s connected and related to that setup change we did after FP1," he responded when asked if there was a link.

"Obviously, we wanted to make the better. It took a wrong turn and behaved very unexpectedly and basically flipped on its head."

Team-mate Kevin Magnussen did not opt for such setup changes ahead of sprint qualifying. Whilst he lined-up one place better than Hulkenberg, the Danish driver was able to move forward, finishing in tenth, something Hulkenberg said gives him "hope" for the grand prix.

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