Exclusive Q&A with Williams' Nico Hulkenberg 12 Mar 2010
It proved a productive Formula One debut for Williams Nico Hulkenberg on Friday, with the youngster outpacing his veteran team mate Rubens Barrichello in both practice sessions by a comfortable margin. Although its too early to draw real conclusions about the teams performances, we could have another young German superstar in the making
Q: How was your first day in action at a Grand Prix?
Nico Hulkenberg: Ah, so far it was pretty okay. I did a good number of laps, without any technical problems. It was about getting more mileage in the car and getting familiar with the new circuit. A lot is new for me here. I have not experienced so many cameras, interviews and people before. The global media is looking at you and there is a very obvious a difference between being here and being in the GP2 paddock. So far I am okay with the enormity of the paddock, especially because I am pretty satisfied with how it went on the track.
Q: Does the dream now feel like reality?
NH: Yeah, a little bit for sure. Last year I was here as a test driver, but it feels a lot different being a race driver! There is the responsibility, as the team are relying on you and have put their trust and faith in you. So it feels very different being in the car than sitting on the sidelines as a test driver.
Q: There are six rookie drivers this year. Some are worried you all might be too eager to impress, and not experienced enough
NH: Well, I can understand the fears and doubts of the established guys about this rookie invasion. I am motivated, but believe me Im going to try to avoid being too motivated and crashing out at the first corner. Thats not my plan. I want to finish my first race and get the experience of going the whole distance.
Q: You start your Formula One career at 22 years-old. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were already racing for the championship at that age. Are you a late bloomer?
NH: No, I think 22 is okay. Its true there have been younger guys entering F1 recently, but take Timo Glock for example. I think he entered at the age of 26 or 27. It was the right time for me because I needed the time in Formula Three and GP2 to develop, to get better and to improve myself. Now it feels like the right time for me to be here.
Q: You have taken a personal risk by abandoning your apprenticeship to live your dreams as a racing driver. Are there ever moments of regret? When Willi Weber signed you, did you realise racing was for you?
NH: There have never been any regrets. Racing has always been my primary goal. And when I look back there has never been anything to regret - lucky me! Racing always came first for me so quitting school or my education never felt like such a big loss. And in regards to me working with Willi Weber I felt very proud for sure, and of course I thought that if he was interested in me I cant be that bad. Even so, having a certain manager is no guarantee to getting an F1 seat. He was trying to get me into good teams, to build a supportive environment around me, and to make the F1 project work. But at the end of the day, I am in the car and its me that needs to deliver the results. You need a good manager, but you also need to deliver. You need both.
Q: Youve been praised, with some calling you a once in a lifetime talent
NH: Who said that? Emerson Fittipaldi? Thats why I dont read those kinds of things - to avoid being loaded with pressure. Sure its nice to hear but I need to stay grounded now. To establish yourself in F1 is not easy. Its very competitive out there and I have a very competitive and good team mate, so its not going to be an easy year. I will do my best and hopefully it will be good enough.
Q: There are three German drivers - Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg - who could all fight for the title this year. Is it annoying that you wont get as much media attention as them?
NH: Absolutely not. Yesterday and today I had so many interviews that I have to say this is more than enough for me. I am really happy that Michael is here to take away a lot of media heat, so that I can concentrate on my job and grow into the shoes of being an F1 driver in the shadows.
Q: The tests were mainly cold and rainy, whilst in Bahrain its hot and dry. Have you been surprised by the behaviour of the car?
NH: Sure it was different. When you go to Barcelona the track rubbers-up very quickly due to the mileage that we do there, so coming here you find that the track is pretty green. At first you are struggling as there is almost no mechanical grip on the surface of the track - that is a huge difference. So while the conditions are different, in general, the car felt the same.
Q: On the second day of testing in Barcelona, you clocked the fastest time. How good was that time in the context of Bahrain?
NH: It gave me some indication of what is possible. And, believe me, when I did that time I was surprised myself! Before I did that lap, Fernando Alonso had the fastest time, and when I came into the pits and saw what he had done, I thought it would be impossible to come anywhere close to it. Then I went out and beat his time by a fraction. It makes me believe that we can be in the top ten here.
Q: What would be your dream result in Sundays race?
NH: Top five. Dont get me wrong - you asked me about my dream result.