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Tow Buddies: How Hulkenberg’s Strategic Assist Helped Verstappen Clinch Pole at Imola



"Nico Hulkenberg Assists Max Verstappen in Securing Pole Position at Imola

During the qualifying rounds for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Nico Hulkenberg and Max Verstappen worked together to improve their performance."

Nico Hulkenberg disclosed that he collaborated with Max Verstappen by exchanging slipstreams during the Formula 1 qualifying session at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Verstappen surged to his eighth straight pole position, edging out McLaren’s Oscar Piastri by slightly less than a tenth of a second.

Footage from the car's onboard camera during his fastest lap in the third qualifying session revealed that he benefited from Hulkenberg's slipstream as they approached the first turn.

Benefitting from the tow likely gave Verstappen the advantage for pole position over Piastri, as he was already ahead by two-tenths of a second in just the first sector.

In a conversation with Sky Sports following the qualifying round, Hulkenberg mentioned he chose to "repay the gesture" to Verstappen, as the Dutch driver had previously assisted him during Q2.

"Max and I have been supporting each other during the qualifying rounds," he stated. "He assisted me several times in the second qualifier, and I repaid his kindness in this session.

"Indeed, at times, assistance from coworkers is essential, isn't it?"

Sharing his perspective, Verstappen characterized the scenario as an interaction between "two friends," admitting he gained an advantage from Hulkenberg's draft heading into Turn 1.

"He further explained, "It was just the two of us out there, Q2 and Q3. I provided him assistance from two through 17, and in return, he helped me out through the first and second turns. I believe I approached it a bit too fast for my preference, as I slightly overshot the second turn.

"I did experience some gains and also faced a few setbacks. In the grand scheme of things, I believe it was somewhat beneficial for me. Given the challenges throughout the weekend, it's important to leverage every small advantage to maintain a lead."

Hulkenberg shines once more

In yet another standout performance, the future Audi racer, Hulkenberg, clinched a top 10 starting position for Haas.

Before the qualifying round, Hulkenberg acknowledged that the team had set their sights on a 13th place start as a practical target.

"He shared his enjoyment, describing the circuit as tricky and old-fashioned, with its bumpy terrain and windy conditions pushing the boundaries. While uncertain about the upcoming race, he preferred not to dwell on it, finding the thrill of pushing limits and completing laps quite exhilarating."

Frankly, making it into the top 10 was beyond our expectations. Based on our forecasts following the third free practice, we anticipated finishing around 13th or 14th. The outlook was quite bleak, to say the least. Moreover, after completing my initial attempt in the first qualifying session, I found myself in 20th place, effectively at the very bottom.

"I was aware the initial attempt wasn't flawless, necessitating some corrections. My subsequent effort showed significant improvement. In today's session, there were moments when everything clicked perfectly, as if on cue. Regrettably, there was an instance, especially during the last part of Q3, that didn't unfold as hoped. I attribute this to the tough conditions and the complexity of the circuit."

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