Safety car crashed my podium hopes: Nico Hulkenberg
Sahara Force India's Nico Hulkenberg is currently on a roll. Having finished the season-opener at Australian in sixth position, the German bettered it with a fifth-place finishes in both Malaysia and Bahrain.
Nico Hulkenberg. Pic/AFP
However, the 26-year-old believes if it wasn't for the safety car at Bahrain, he could have done even better. The safety car came into play on Lap 42 after Pastor Maldonado's Lotus slammed into Esteban Gutierrez's Sauber, thereby sending it cartwheeling.
"I was disappointed to miss out on a podium finish at Bahrain. But I paid the price for making a mistake during qualifying on Saturday. Moreover, the safety car was really bad for us.
"If it wasn't for the safety car, who knows what could have happened? I was fourth before the incident and I would've been challenging Sergio (Perez, his Force India teammate) for the third place if it had not happened," Hulkenberg told reporters over the phone from Zurich yesterday.
Having amassed 28 points from three races, Hulkenberg is currently third in the drivers standings — a fact that has taken even the German by surprise.
"That (being third in the drivers' championship) came as a surprise. If someone had told me during the winter testing that I would be third in the standings, I would have been very surprised," he said.
Hulkenberg and Perez's efforts so far this season have taken the Silverstone-based team to second in the constructors' championship.
However, Hulkenberg believes that the team is still not a topnotch. "We're not absolute frontrunners despite being second. We come right after Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull," he said before adding, "There is still a long way to go."