Haas fights with a full tank: Formula 1 car competitive from halfway through the race

With 209 GP starts, Nico Hülkenberg is undoubtedly one of the veterans in Formula 1. Nevertheless, the German can still celebrate a debut this weekend: whether he will finally achieve his first podium is rather questionable, but his first Imola start is not in the cards In the way. When Hülkenberg came to Formula 1 in 2010, Imola had just been off the calendar for a few years.

When Imola found its way back in 2020, Hülkenberg was already in involuntary part-time retirement. During its comeback in 2023, the Emilia Romagna GP literally collapsed after heavy rain and flooding in the region. The 36-year-old never came to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in junior series or test drives.

Haas driver Nico Hülkenberg in the paddock
Nico Hülkenberg has never been to Imola before, Photo: LAT Images

“But I prepared for it in the simulator, the route is not that difficult to learn,” reassures Hülkenberg. “The track is fast and flowing, but has a few bumps. The fact that we have a normal race weekend helps.” After two sprint weekends, the Emilia Romagna GP will take place again in the traditional format. He was already able to enjoy the journey to the track on media day: “A classic old-school track like this has a different vibe, I like that.”

Sprint in Miami top, Grand Prix flop: Setup not to blame

He also hopes for a different vibe from the race. After points were scored again in the sprint to the Miami GP two weeks ago, things went less well in the race. “But it wasn’t the setup,” he explained. He went back from ninth place on the grid and crossed the finish line in eleventh place.

Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen ahead of Nico Hülkenberg,
In Miami, Haas showed two faces, photo: LAT Images

But why did things go so much better in the sprint the day before, even though they hadn’t messed up the setup in the short break between the sprint and qualifying? “The sprint has a completely different dynamic, the car is lighter,” said Hülkenberg.

While the cars have 110 kilograms of fuel in the tank at the start of the Grand Prix, a third is enough for the sprint. “With heavier weight, we simply lack the pace,” he says, perplexed. At least Haas is not caught up by the enormous tire problems of the previous year. Nevertheless, the engineers are still puzzling over why things run so much worse with a heavy car. In half of all qualifications in 2024, Hülkenberg even made it into the last segment.

He then regularly struggles in the race. After half the race distance, the Haas finally becomes competitive again. Competitive enough for points? Hülkenberg isn’t sure: “We’ve been lucky a few times and therefore looked better. But we still have to improve.” After the first quarter of the 2024 Formula 1 season, Haas is in seventh place with at least seven points – in the entire last season, the Americans scored twelve points and came last.

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