Hulkenberg says he tried to leave space for ‘impatient’ Leclerc

Monte Carlo, Monaco

Monaco Grand Prix – Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg says that he felt Charles Leclerc was overly ambitious when he ruined both driver’s race when they collided at La Rascasse.

Nico Hulkenberg was consigned to finishing P14 after a calamitous race in Monte Carlo. Fighting just outside the points in the early stages of the race, the Renault driver came under attack from the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. The local driver, after the disaster of qualifying on Saturday, was the quicker driver and on the faster tyre compound and had just barged his way past the Haas of Romain Grosjean.

Leclerc tried a similar move on Hulkenberg but the gap wasn’t as open as it had been with Grosjean and, despite Hulkenberg’s best efforts to avoid trouble, picked up a puncture as a result of the contact. He was forced to trundle into the pits and then lost further time when the Safety Car was deployed due to debris from Leclerc’s car just a lap later. While Hulkenberg was able to continue, Leclerc was forced to retire due to the damage.

Speaking to media after the race, Hulkenberg laid the blame firmly at the feet of the Ferrari driver: “Charles was too aggressive. He came quite far back and I didn’t leave much of a gap anyway. Then I saw that he launched and I tried to play fair. I opened the steering and tried to leave him some space and let us both live. He spun on his own axis and that kissed my car. I didn’t hit the wall but it sliced my rear tyre open and that’s where it all went too wrong. He was just too ambitious.”

“My race engineer told me that he had passed Grosjean the lap before, and I could sense his move coming. But you have to weigh up your chances as a driver and know when it’s a real opportunity or not. I think he was impatient today, frustrated from yesterday and he wanted to get through the field. That’s Monaco, it doesn’t work like that.”

Hulkenberg then got blocked briefly when Antonio Giovinazzi and Robert Kubica came together at the same corner, with Kubica ending up sideways across the circuit and blocking the racing line. After all that, Hulkenberg was consigned to finishing P14 and a lap down: “Because of the Charles incident and the puncture I got from that. I lost a lot of time from that and then, on my outlap, the Safety Car deployed so it gives everyone at least ten seconds.”

“I lost a couple of positions because of that and then there was the pile-up with Kubica at Rascasse so it just went from bad to worse. Where it could go wrong, it did. Quite frustrating, because from a pace point of view, we should be much further ahead. Frustrating not to be able to do it but the racing circumstances prevented that. We need to find fresh traction for Canada.”

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Thomas Maher

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