Hulkenberg rallies to season-best qualifying in Austria

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Fresh off the back of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche last weekend, Nico Hulkenberg showed few signs of fatigue in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix on Saturday as he stormed to his best grid position of the season.

Hulkenberg posted a fastest lap time of 1:09.278 to secure fifth place on the grid for tomorrow’s race at the Red Bull Ring, splitting the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas that locked out the front row last year.

“I’m feeling very happy with how things went today,” Hulkenberg said. “We knew we had a good chance to be in the top ten, so to be starting in fifth place is an excellent effort by the team.

“Q1 was fun on the drying track, but in Q2 and Q3 I found a really good rhythm and was able to deliver the laps when it mattered. I’m feeling happy and confident in the car at the moment and I think that showed with the result today.”

Hulkenberg knows that the battle is still far from won given the pace of the cars behind, but is sure that he can bring home a good haul of points for Force India.

“Tomorrow will be a tough race because there are some quick cars behind us, but we’ve already built a good foundation for a strong race,” Hulkenberg said.

“This track can sometimes spring surprises and we still don’t know what the weather will do tomorrow, but if we maximize things I’m sure we can score some good points.”

Teammate Sergio Perez was unable to get past the first hurdle in qualifying, finishing 16th in Q1.

“It’s very disappointing to drop out in Q1, especially because we had the potential to get a very good result,” Perez said. “Today was quite a challenge on the drying track and it was not easy to find a good position and build up the right rhythm.

“Despite today’s result, I still feel positive about tomorrow: it’s going to be complicated starting just outside the top ten, but if we do a good job we should be able to make up the lost ground.”

The Austrian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7:30am ET on Sunday.