Nico Hulkenberg admitted he felt “helpless” while stuck upside down in his Renault after a crash at the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from which he was fortunate to escape unharmed.
Fighting with Romain Grosjean on the opening lap, Hulkenberg turned in for Turn 9 and his right-rear wheel hit the left front of the Haas. The Renault was launched into the air and rolled twice before coming to rest upside down against the barrier, with a small fire emerging at the rear of the car. Hulkenberg was kept under observation in the medical center for a spell before being released but said he suffered no injuries.
“What happened? Did something happen?!” Hulkenberg joked. “I’m totally fine, body-wise. Just a bit sad and frustrated, obviously, to be out. It’s a long build-up over a race weekend and then to be out of a race so soon is always hard to swallow because it’s not just my work but everyone’s work from the team goes in, and to finish like that, nobody wants that.
“I didn’t see Romain — I thought he went off the track because his wheels were locking up and I was really on the edge of the track and I thought there was no space for another car. So I really didn’t see him but turned into Turn 9 and obviously the wheels touched and he launched me up in the air.
“I saw a little bit of sky, tarmac, sky, tarmac and ended up upside down!”
The Halo cockpit protection device prevented Hulkenberg from jumping out of the car unaided while upside down, although it’s unclear whether that would have been possible anyway, given the car’s unusual position against the barrier. However, despite being eager to escape the car, the German was full of praise for the quick response of the safety team, with the medical car and trackside marshals quickly flipping the Renault back over.
“I don’t know actually how it would have been to get out without (the Halo) — I’ve also not really been upside down in a race car, to be honest. It was new to me. Not the most comfortable situation, especially as there was a little barbecue at the back and I just wanted to get out! You feel pretty helpless in that scenario but the marshals did a great job.”