October 12th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Nico Hulkenberg's impressive run of recent form has continued into qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix. Hulkenberg qualified 7th at Suzuka, which marks the sixth time he has featured in the top ten this season and his fourth appearance in Q3 in the last seven races.
Hulkenberg has been oustanding this season at Sauber. He has scored 31 points compared to none for his team-mate, Esteban Gutierrez, and has finished the last three races in the points. He is currently 11th in the Drivers' Championship and has a real chance of overhauling Paul Di Resta, who is just five points ahead in 10th place.
With speculation linking him to Lotus for 2014, Hulkenberg seems to be rising to the challenge of proving that he worthy of a place in a top team. Another points finish beckons tomorrow if he can survive the first corner drama that so often happens at Suzuka.
Hulkenberg said after qualifying, “We knew we could fight for the top ten today, but P7 is a nice surprise. It was very tight, everything had to fall into place and I think we managed to do that. Compared to yesterday, the wind changed so we had a tail wind on the straights and this makes you really quick. That means we have a head wind in sector one, which gives you a lot of grip. It was so much fun to put a really good lap together in Q3. I am very happy. Clearly tomorrow we’ll be aiming for points.”
Esteban Gutierrez qualified 14th in the second Sauber, just two tenths of a second off the pace he needed to feature in Q3. He has been growing in confidence in the second half of the season, and will be looking to move forward in the race and hopefully score his first points in Formula One.
Early in Q1, there was a small fuel vapour fire on Gutierrez's car, which the Sauber team managed to clear up quickly without damage to the car or injury to any of the team members. Although it delayed Gutierrez's appearance on the track, it did not ultimately affect his performance at all.
Gutierrez' said after qualiyfing, “We are not as competitive as on previous tracks. I was just two tenths slower than Nico in Q2. This is the first time for me driving on this track and I pushed right to the limit. Regarding the fire, I just saw it and jumped out. The guys had everything under control and I was relieved that I was able to continue my qualifying. We put a good lap together and now I have to stay optimistic for tomorrow, as I think we have a good pace in the long runs. Points are not easy, but we will do our best.”