Hulkenberg handed grid penalty for unsafe release in China

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Nico Hulkenberg will drop three places on the grid for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix after Force India was penalized for releasing his car in an unsafe manner during qualifying.

Hulkenberg qualified 10th at the Shanghai International Circuit on Saturday, but took no part in Q3 after the front-left wheel on his car came loose at the end of Q2.

The wheel bounced along the side of the track before coming to rest, forcing race control to throw a red flag and bring the session to an early end.

The stewards looked dimly on the incident, handing Hulkenberg a three place grid drop.

“Car 27 was released in an unsafe condition as the wheel and tire fell off at turn 10,” a short statement from the stewards confirmed.

After qualifying 10th, Hulkenberg will start Sunday’s race from 13th on the grid.

“To be honest I don’t know what happened,” Hulkenberg said. “We all saw that the wheel came off, but why and how, I don’t know.

“It was attached properly when we left the garage because everything felt normal. It didn’t feel loose and there was no indication from the steering. When it came off, it happened suddenly, but I was at low speed and could park the car quickly and safely.

“It’s disappointing because we’ve been competitive here this weekend and I would have liked to be out there during Q3. The race tomorrow is going to be interesting and hopefully things will work out a bit better than today.”

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30am ET on Sunday.