Hulkenberg is the best qualifier I’ve worked with – Steiner

2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Haas team principal Guenther Steiner says Nico Hulkenberg is “absolutely” the best qualifying driver he has had driving for his team.

Hulkenberg joined the Haas team at the start of this season in place of Mick Schumacher. It is Hulkenberg’s first full campaign in Formula 1 since 2019, when he raced for Renault.

Over the first ten rounds of the year, Hulkenberg has started inside the top 10 more than half the time, reaching Q3 on five occasions – once more than Red Bull driver Sergio Perez. He has also out-qualified team mate Kevin Magnussen by a ratio of 8-2.

Alfa Romeo sporting director Beat Zehnder recently named Hulkenberg as the best qualifying driver he has ever worked with, as the driver raced for the team in 2013 when it was known as Sauber. Speaking to media in Hungary yesterday, Steiner agreed with with Zehnder’s statement.

“I would say so, absolutely,” Steiner said. “He can put a lap together that sometimes comes from nowhere, which is good.

“Beat has been in the sport a lot longer than me, so I respect his opinion, but he [Hulkenberg] is a very good qualifier, as we have seen this year. I mean, he got three times into Q3, so for sure, he’s a very good qualifier. Is he the best one in the world or ever? I don’t know about that.”

Steiner has indicated the team wishes to continue with Hulkenberg for next season. His team mate Magnussen, who scored a shock pole position for the sprint race at Interlagos last year, is due to renew his contract at the end of this year.

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Steiner says he is satisfied with Magnussen’s performance in 2023. “We are pretty happy,” he said. “Obviously sometimes in qualifying he’s not there where he wants to be, but obviously I don’t need to tell him that. He’s working on that. But it will come. We’re pretty confident.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas, Red Bull Ring, 2023
Hulkenberg qualified fourth for the Austrian GP sprint race
Sorting out the future contracts with his two drivers is a matter of “just a few little details, nothing big,” said Steiner.

“I always speak with them and we are in a good place,” he said when asked what was preventing Haas from confirming extensions with both.

Speaking to media at the Hungaroring, Magnussen admitted that his qualifying results had not been as he would have wanted, but said his pace on Sundays showed he was equal to team mate Hulkenberg.

“Qualifying this year has been difficult for many different reasons,” Magnussen explained. “We’ve had many times where we’ve had weather and I’ve made the wrong choices on tyres or pitted at the wrong time. Just different things like traffic and then some technical issues.”

A power unit problem halted Magnussen during qualifying for the last race at Silverstone. “We’ve had all sorts of different issues that’s kind of ruined our qualifying so many times,” he said. “And the field is so close that even a slight little mishap can really cost you big time – especially in Q1, you’re out of Q1 and that’s it, you don’t get to have a chance to redeem yourself.

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“So I don’t feel the pace has been bad. I think in the races, if you look at the pace every Sunday, it’s good. That’s kind of what gives you confidence. I don’t mean in terms of other teams, but at least compared to my team mate, there’s no issue there.”

Hulkenberg has arrived at the Hungaroring sporting bleached blonde hair for this weekend. Steiner admitted he was surprised to see his driver turn up looking like “Ken from Barbie or something.”

“It’s trendy now,” he added. “I don’t really know – I still have to find out why he did that!”

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2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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6 comments on “Hulkenberg is the best qualifier I’ve worked with – Steiner”

  1. Hulk is a world-class qualifier, no argument.

    Too bad he can’t hang on to literally any of those impressive grid spots come Sunday.

    1. In a car that doesn’t even belong in the top 10, that’s just natural.

    2. Haas got terrible tyre degradation so not surprising really, any driver would have the same issues.

  2. Pity you can’t switch him out for a driver that is good at races after he qualifies. Guy has always dropped like a stone in races. Not even a lucky podium after 10 or more years now.

  3. I do like the Jaques Villenueve style hair though.

  4. A real shame for Haas they suffer with eating up their tyres in the races. I guess part of it is inherent in the Ferrari drivetrain and concept, since Ferrari also suffers from this, be it to a lesser extent.

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