After qualifying seventh today for Sunday’s Airtel Indian Grand Prix (LIVE, 5 a.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra), Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg said he expects to have a “close battle” with the twin McLarens of Sergio Perez (qualified ninth) and Jenson Button (qualified tenth) in the opening stages of the race.
Both sides took opposite strategies in qualifying, with Hulkenberg using the soft compound and both Perez and Button using the harder medium compound.
“It will be interesting to see who comes out on top,” said Hulkenberg, who has collected 32 points over the last four races and grabbed eight of them with a sixth-place run last time out in Japan.
“In the race, we have to see how we get on with the soft tires, as they didn’t look too good in free practice yesterday. Since then, we have improved the car, so they should last a bit longer. The long runs on the medium tire looked good.”
Hulkenberg will look to keep up a solid second half of 2013, which, naturally, he’s been enjoying after a tough first half for himself and the entire Sauber camp.
“If you have a competitive car like we have now, you have to make the most of it and enjoy every moment,” he said. “We’ve come from a very different position at the beginning of the year, so it makes you realize how nice it is to be battling at the front.”
Brendon Hartley’s hopes of a points finish on his Formula 1 debut took a hit on Friday after the FIA confirmed the Toro Rosso driver will start the United States Grand Prix from the back of the grid due to an engine penalty.
Porsche factory driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso as a surprise replacement for Pierre Gasly in Austin, with the Frenchman tied up with Super Formula duties at Suzuka this weekend.
Hartley took to the track in an official grand prix session for the first time on Friday in Austin, marking his first run-out in an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 20120.
However, FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer confirmed in his pre-race report that changes had been made to the power unit on Hartley’s Toro Rosso car since the last race in Japan, triggering a grid penalty.
Toro Rosso elected to take a new internal combustion engine, MGU-H, energy store and control electronics on Hartley’s Renault power unit, totaling a 25-place grid drop that will be applied after qualifying. Confirmation of the penalty is set to follow later today.
The penalty comes as a setback for Hartley, but was necessary as Toro Rosso found itself short on engine elements to get to the end of the season.
Hartley is not the only driver to have a penalty confirmed, with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne also taking new engine elements, also confirmed in Bauer’s report.
A new ICE, turbocharger and MGU-H for Hulkenberg will see him drop 20 places on the grid, while an eighth ICE of the year for Vandoorne will trigger a five-place drop.