Nico Hülkenberg: Belgian Grand Prix crash ‘clearly my mistake’

CNN  — 

Renault driver Nico Hülkenberg says he takes full responsibility for last weekend’s spectacular crash at the Belgian Grand Prix but insists he didn’t drive recklessly.

The German driver mistimed his braking point, slamming into the back of Fernando Alonso’s car and sending him airborne.

Alonso’s McLaren bounced off Charles Leclerc’s halo – severely damaging the titanium structure of his Sauber car – and left many wondering how much worse it could have been had the safety device not been there.

“The facts haven’t changed. I mean, clearly it didn’t look great on television,” Hulkenberg told CNN’s The Circuit ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix. “The pictures are very spectacular but I don’t feel I went recklessly into that corner.

MONZA, ITALY - AUGUST 30:  Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Renault Sport F1 looks on in the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on August 30, 2018 in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Hulkenberg: 'I didn't feel I was reckless'
03:19 - Source: CNN

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“It’s clearly my mistake and my misjudgment about the grip level there.”

Altogether five drivers were forced to retire from the race at Spa as a result of damage sustained in the crash and Hulkenberg readily admits he knew immediately that responsibility for the incident fell on his shoulders – even if he still can’t explain how it happened.

“No no, there is nobody else to blame here,” he says with a wry smile. “I accept that and it’s fine.

“It was just an odd one, I’ve had it a few times in my Formula One career situations that will always remain a mystery to you.

“You can’t really explain why or what happened. It wasn’t my day so I’m looking forward to getting a bit further here this weekend and have a better race.”


Fortunately for Hülkenberg, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza offers him the chance of almost immediate redemption.

Steeped in history, the circuit has staged some of F1’s most memorable races and for Hülkenberg – like for many other drivers on the grid – it remains one of the highlights on the calendar.

“I like tracks like here, like Brazil, Spa, Hockenheim, Suzuka, just places with a long heritage in Formula One where there have been crazy races,” he explained. “Races that wrote history in Formula One.

“There’s just something special about these places and Monza is one of them where you drive onto the track and you feel this special vibe.

“You don’t approach it differently but every year when you come here you just have to readjust a little bit as a driver. Monza is the last true high-speed circuit (in Formula One).”

New teammate

joshua paul 104 year old photographer
Photographing F1 with 105-year-old camera
03:11 - Source: CNN

Earlier this month Daniel Ricciardo shocked F1 by announcing he would be leaving Red Bull at the end of the season to join Renault on a two-year contract.

The Aussie admitted “it was actually one of the toughest life decisions I’ve made” but said he was ready for a “fresh start somewhere else.”

His move sparked what will undoubtedly be an intriguing summer of musical chairs and Hülkenberg believes the addition of a world class driver – although it will provide him with stern competition – can only be beneficial.

“I think there wasn’t much sign of that happening. It all happened very quickly,” he said of Ricciardo’s decision. “For Renault to bring on Daniel it’s very positive news for me.

“It shows how serious they are about this, about wanting to succeed in Formula One. Puts them a little bit under pressure in a way to build and deliver a better car so I should benefit from that too.

“Daniel is just one of the best drivers on the grid right now and to measure myself with him is a great challenge and a good opportunity for me.

“I think that’s to be seen but I don’t think I have to hide but for sure it’s not going to be easy. He’s in good form and probably also in the sweet spot of his career so it’s going to be interesting to see.”