Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Nico Hulkenberg’s final confirmed Formula 1 race earned him the Driver of the Day plaudits, but no championship points.
Having started the race from P9, Nico Hulkenberg was eager to sign off on his F1 career by taking some championship points in his bid to help Renault stay ahead of Toro Rosso for P5 in the Constructor’s Championship.
However, it all came to naught in the closing stages of the race. Having pitted on Lap 18 to switch from his Softs to the Medium tyres, his tyres began to give up the ghost and he was picked off by Sergio Perez, Lando Norris and Daniil Kvyat in the final few laps. Starting the very last lap, Hulkenberg was still in P10 but was stalked closely by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.
Using the very last overtaking opportunity on the track, Sainz switched direction under braking and wrong-footed Hulkenberg into the chicane at the end of the second back straight and snatched P10 away from the German. Daniel Ricciardo also seized the opportunity to demote Hulkenberg a further position, meaning Hulkenberg was consigned to P12 at the chequered flag. However, Renault still managed to secure P5 in the standings.
As a way of saying goodbye, the fans voted Hulkenberg the ‘Driver of the Day’ award, as he now walks away from a Formula 1 race seat for now. With every cockpit filled for 2020, Hulkenberg has no options for next season. Given a guard of honour as he walked to the garage for his final race with Renault after three years with the team, Hulkenberg reflected on his race: “We threw everything at it today and it was a shame not to score any points.”
— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) December 1, 2019
“The one-stop strategy was hard to pull off and my tyres were degrading too much at the end. Still, we had positive race pace and were very much in the fight until the end. It was a worthy final race for me with the team. I crossed the line with good feelings. It’s been three good years with them and we’ve grown very close like a family. I’m grateful and thankful towards them for all the highs and lows we’ve had together and I wish them every success for the future.”
Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul paid tribute to his outgoing driver, who will be replaced by Esteban Ocon for 2020: “It is clear that Nico has been instrumental in our progress through F1. We needed a driver who had the experience and maturity to help us take the next step and we couldn’t have asked any more of him. It wasn’t an easy decision as he has many strong attributes: he’s a great driver, always motivated and looking and pushing for more, which has, in turn, spurred us on. We wish him every luck for the future and sincerely thank him for his huge contribution to Renault F1 Team over the past three years.”
Hulkenberg’s race engineer thanked Nico over team radio at the end of the race, and also said: “We’ve had some great races together, but the history books won’t do justice to them. It’s been a pleasure to work with him. I would say he’s in the top drawer of racing drivers I’ve worked with in my career. He’s felt part of the team and really invested in our development and that’s been a good feeling.”