Guenther Steiner admits that he was surprised by how strongly Nico Hulkenberg performed during the first few races of his Formula 1 comeback.
Hulkenberg made his full-time return to the grid with Haas for the 2023 season after three years on the sidelines, a time in which he made several substitute appearances at Racing Point/Aston Martin for drivers forced to miss races due to COVID-19.
While Steiner expected Hulkenberg to be strong, the team boss had anticipated that it might take some time before this happened.
"For Nico, coming back after three years as a part-time driver, he came back really strong," Steiner told the F1 Nation podcast.
"I expected him to be strong, but I expected that form to come a little bit later, so I was quite surprised myself. In the beginning, he was just strong."
Hulkenberg 'demanding in a good way'
With Hulkenberg's level of performance in 2023 already impressing Steiner, the Italian hopes that the trajectory can continue upwards.
"I don't know if we've reached the peak, or is there more coming?" he continued.
"I will be happy if there is more coming, obviously. But I think he's doing a good job."
Steiner has also praised Hulkenberg's method of working with the team, an approach that he deems to be "demanding" in a positive way.
"He's bringing a good vibe to the team at the moment," Steiner added.
"Everybody likes to work with him. He's demanding, but always in a good way. [He] never demands something just for the sake of [it]. He always can explain why he wants something."
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How Hulkenberg compares to Grosjean
The driver line-up at Haas has seen some changes since the team joined the F1 grid in 2016, with current driver Kevin Magnussen returning to the squad in 2022 after previously racing for them between 2017 and 2020.
Magnussen's teammate during his first stint at the American outfit was Romain Grosjean, and Steiner believes that Hulkenberg displays more consistency than the Frenchman did.
When asked if Haas' current driver pairing is their strongest yet, Steiner explained: "I'm very happy.
"We all know Romain. Romain on a good day is a fantastic driver, Romain on a bad day can be a nightmare. So I think Nico is more consistent.
"I think we have got a very good pairing and a very consistent pairing as well at the moment."
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