ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Nico Hulkenberg gave Renault a multi-million-dollar boost for next year by securing sixth place for his team in the Formula One standings at Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Renault, who had started the day seventh and four points behind Toro Rosso, ended it four points ahead of their Red Bull-owned rivals.
The difference between the places, in terms of revenue distribution and prize money, had been estimated at some $8.5 million.
Hulkenberg’s race under the Yas Marina floodlights was not without controversy, however, after stewards gave the German a five-second penalty for cutting a corner rather than making him hand back a position.
Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafneuer, whose team finished fourth overall, criticised the decision and said Hulkenberg should have given the place back to his Mexican driver Sergio Perez.
“It just makes a mockery of the sport to have it so inconsistent,” he said.
“Hulkenberg cuts a corner, the FIA don’t do anything about it and guess what? They gain a place in the constructors’ championship, which means more money and more competitiveness next year,” he told Sky Sports television.
“It’s not great... it’s just the inconsistency’s not great.”
Renault Sport F1 team boss Cyril Abiteboul shrugged off the incident.
“There was a penalty decided, we served the penalty,” he said, praising Hulkenberg for his performance.
“It’s always different car, different perspective,” commented the driver, who was Perez’s team mate at Force India last year, on the penalty.
“I could see he was locking up and running wide. I had the car stopped enough to turn left and make the corner but he was running wide so I had physically no place to go.
“It’s also a bit forcing another driver off the track in my opinion. I think the five-second penalty was fair and reasonable.”
Renault were also fined 5,000 euros ($5,965)for sending Spanish driver Carlos Sainz out from a pitstop with an unsecured wheel, which led to his immediate retirement, but that will cause barely a dent in the millions gained.
“It was a very intense race,” said former champion and Renault advisor Alain Prost. “On one side everything looked pretty much under control and then on the other side you could see the pitstop...
“We had stress really not to finish the race.”
($1 = 0.8382 euros)
Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Clare Fallon