Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

‘Safe mode’ fault prevented top 10 shot – Hulkenberg

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Nico Hulkenberg says a problem which put his Renault engine into a ‘safe mode’ cost him a chance to start the Bahrain Grand Prix inside the top 10.

Renault’s sporting director Alan Permane confirmed Hulkenberg “faced a number of issues that cost significant performance, the most expensive one being an engine mapping issue generating an engine safe mode almost the entire lap.”

Hulkenberg, who was eliminated in Q1 and will start 17th, said the problem “was pretty severe.”

“It cost us a big chunk of lap time and actually there was another problem too of a mechanical nature so both together was too much basically to get through.”

The Renault driver finished all three practice sessions inside the top 10 and suspects his car was quick enough to reach Q3.

“I think it’s always difficult [to say] ‘afterwards’, ‘in theory’ and ‘what could have, what if’,” he said. “But I felt that top 10 was definitely on the table this week.

“As you saw things are very, very tight around there and it depends how well you hit every lap. But definitely I think a top 10 position was there.”

Hulkenberg added he isn’t certain the problems with his car will be fully cured in time for the race.

“I hope so,” he said. “I’m not entirely sure, not one hundred percent confident. But obviously we’re working towards that.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “‘Safe mode’ fault prevented top 10 shot – Hulkenberg”

  1. It’s too early in the season to talk about reliability, but stuff like this makes me wonder if Honda have actually overtaken Renault on the stability and performance aspects.

    1. What performance? RBR with apparently the best chassis on the grid are nearly 1 SECOND behind pole. Last year they were 0.4 secs with the “inferior” Renault.

      Make of that what you will :)

      1. Weren’t too shabby in AUS.

        1. AUS is always a bit of a mystery box, we can wait a few rounds to pass real judgement.

        2. They were further adrift than last year in quali.

      2. Yea, given where McLaren have gotten to on the grid, I think RBR would be hot on the heels of the top two if they’d stuck it out with Renault. I’m sure that picture will change over the course of the year as the relationship develops, but at the moment they’ve seemingly spent a lot of time & effort to go slightly backwards.

      3. @homerlovesbeer

        Agree. Red bull were strong at the start and end of last season. With Honda power they’ve almost entered F1.5 in Bahrain. Just goes to show that most of that positive pr for Honda was just BS. If Honda really was a step forward then Red bull should be properly in the hunt for podiums and race wins on nearly every circuit.

        I’m sure they’ll improve during the year.. But let’s face it… Red bull Honda isn’t as impressive as Red bull Renault yet.

        1. Max was complaining about lack of balance from the car. Not about power.

          He was also saying the Ferrari straight line speed was unbelievable but so was Lewis.

          The fact that mclaren had a good qualy and redbull had a bad one has more to do with the way the car handles the soft tyre than with the Renault power unit being fast. Just look at the race pace on the medium.

      4. “Apparently best chassis” ???

        Is this the same best chassis that McLaren had for years?

    2. @phylyp, I would say that, right now, it is a little early to judge either way.

      On the one hand, they haven’t had a major mechanical fault on track, but we have heard Max complaining about engine mapping issues this weekend and complaints over the radio in Melbourne from Gasly that he was having some deployment issues.

      Equally, whilst sometimes Red Bull would use their position in the speed traps to criticise Renault, in some respects they’re in a similar place with Honda – so, either the Honda engine isn’t as powerful as they suggest it is, or quite possibly they’ve also had a slightly similar issue to that which McLaren did and perhaps their chassis isn’t quite as aerodynamically efficient as they believed it was (personally, I think the latter is a little more likely, especially since it is not unknown for Newey to produce cars that, whilst producing a lot of downforce, do have a high downforce to drag ratio).

    3. Midway through the race I thought I’d have to eat my words, but hey ho.

  2. Was wondering what happened to Hulkenberg.

  3. He was much quicker than Daniel and the fastest of the so-called F1.5 during all sessions. Daniel almost made it to Q3. Hulk was actually very close to Mercedes in the FP sessions and seeing how close Magnussen got to Max on Q3, I think Hulk beating Max was not unrealistic.
    Well, another case of wasted opportunity and if Renault don’t pull themselves together they will soon miss the chance of fighting with Red Bull (as Red Bull most likely will outpace them in development, but Honda still a doubt how it will progress)

  4. 2/2 qualifying sessions so far ruined by reliability. Sigh. I was hoping his fortunes would change this year.

  5. Very poor reliability for Renault at the start of the season. Despite having a faster car than last year, to even replicate the last year’s P 4 this cannot go on. Hulkenberg is driving beautifully at the moment but his efforts are wasted

  6. Hulk’s knowledge of what is possible with that car was obvious in the radio messages between him and his engineer after that Q1 session. His engineer said Ricciardo had got a 1.28.859 (instead of the 1.29.859 he actually got) … Hulk’s immediate response … “Impossible”

    1. interesting, thanks for sharing this (don’t think it was transmitted in the world stream)

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