Hulkenberg: China overtaking penalties were "centimetre decisions"

Nico Hulkenberg says the two penalties he was given during the Chinese Grand Prix were triggered by “centimetre decisions”.

The Renault driver was first hit with a five-second time penalty for overtaking the Haas of Romain Grosjean while the virtual safety car was deployed.

A few minutes later he was penalised again – this time 10 seconds – for overtaking Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson while the safety car was out.

“They were both centimetre decisions,” said Hulkenberg in Bahrain on Thursday. “The Grosjean one I struggle to remember, to be honest, because there were a lot of things.

“The Ericsson one I remember. I was coming with quite a big overshoot around the outside of him, I was sort of in the move, committed, and in Turn 2 you have a lot of steering angle.

“That’s why I also didn’t see the message on my display straight away. When I saw it I was already past. When I saw it I told the team, ‘Guys, we have a bit of a situation here, I think it was OK, but it’s tight.’

“I made them aware. You know the story.”

Hulkenberg, who went on to finish in 12th position, said that he would have welcomed race control telling him to give back the places rather than penalising him.

“It would have been nice, but on the other side it’s quite hard for Charlie [Whiting] to monitor every single car and fight, because there’s 20 cars out there,” the German added.

“If anything we maybe could have asked him and say ‘do we need to to give it back?’ But it happened all very quickly. Without that, our race would have been a little bit different, but we wouldn’t have scored a point from there.”

The Renault driver admitted his chances of a strong result were ruined not only by the penalties, but also by the timing of the safety car.

“It looked great for one lap! Obviously at the end of lap one we took quite a bold decision to pit. It was the right time to pit, the track was dry everywhere, apart from the main straight really.

“Unfortunately it didn’t pay off, because as soon as I left the pits the safety car deployed, and it killed us before we’d even started. That’s how racing is, how life is, sometimes.

“It’s quite unfortunate. Now we don’t look good, but had the safety car not come out I probably would have come up to P3 or something and raced from there.”