Exclusive Q&A with Williams Nico Hulkenberg 22 Jul 2010
When youre one of six German drivers on the grid, its no easy task to make an impression on your home crowd. When youre also a rookie competing in your first Formula One season it must be even harder. But Williams Nico Hulkenberg is feeling optimistic about his chances at this weekends German Grand Prix, especially now the updates on his FW32 are starting to pay off
Q: Nico, are you satisfied with the first half of the season?
Nico Hulkenberg: Well, yes and no. Before the season I would have hoped to have some more points than just two after ten races. But the reality was that we - the team and I - didnt start with a car that we wanted, and that changes the situation quite fundamentally. Realistically I could have scored some more points, but I made some mistakes here and there. But its my first year and I am still learning. The last few races I think we three - the team, the car and me - have been progressing and making visible improvements.
Q: You have two points, whilst your team mate Rubens Barrichello has 29. Why such a big gap?
NH: Hes got 29 points? Wow! Obviously Rubens had two very good results in Valencia and Silverstone. I think that I could have scored more points in Valencia than the one I did, but unfortunately it didnt happen as I was a bit unlucky with the safety car. He gained places there and I lost places. Thats the story basically!
Q: The car has improved a lot at the last two races. Why did Barrichello benefit more?
NH: I also benefitted from the improvements. In Valencia we qualified with the same time - I was in front of him. In Silverstone he had a much better qualifying session than I did - he was on P8 and I started from P13. And I didnt have such a good start so it is always difficult to score big points.
Q: 2010 has a fair few rookies, but it seems Formula One racing is much more demanding than most probably anticipated. Has it become more competitive or is the gap between the teams much wider? What is the biggest challenge?
NH: It depends which teams you are looking at. If you take Red Bull, then yes the gap to us is too big. I cant chase or race with those guys because they are too quick. We started the season believing that we were faster than we were, so it was difficult to get in the points. But I dont think that rookies underestimate Formula One - it is a tough environment, and yes, it is a very competitive year. The biggest challenge? Well it is always a difficult to get everything perfect during a race weekend. Qualifying is always very tight, so you need to drive a perfect lap in Q1 and Q2 otherwise you would have no chance of making it into Q3. Then you need to have a very good start, a very good first lap, and then be consistent throughout the race. Its not easy in your first year to always get it right. Experience helps to a certain degree.
Q: In GP2 you must have become used to starting races from the front of the grid. Now youre starting much further down the order
NH: Well, for sure there is a lot of fights going on and it teaches you quite a lot. You always benefit from every experience - at least you should do.
Q: Youve made it into Q3 twice at the Malaysian and European races...
NH: It is my first season and hopefully I have many more seasons to come. I still have a lot to learn in order to achieve what I want. Yes, those two Q3 appearances have been very good for me, even though Rubens has managed it a few more times. I have to improve. He has 18 seasons under his belt and its my first. But he is also my team mate and therefore he is my reference point. I want to beat him just as he wants to beat me. Thats the competitive nature of the sport.
Q: Some time ago you demanded more developments from the team. Are you satisfied now?
NH: Well, it wasnt that we hadnt brought updates to races, but they somehow never delivered what we wanted or what we believed would happen from the wind-tunnel data. But since Turkey everything we have put on the car works better.
Q: Williams is currently P7 in the constructors standings. How is the spirit within the team?
NH: P7 doesnt sound good to us to be honest. Obviously we want more. It was a tough time at the beginning of the year, but everyone is pulling on the same rope and trying to get us out, start to score more points and overtake other teams.
Q: Has Formula One racing been everything you expected it would be?
NH: I was around last year so there were no big surprises. But yes, it is different when youre involved yourself. You feel the responsibility towards the team, to Frank (Williams) and Patrick (Head) and all the team bosses. I never realised how close everything is, especially where we are at the moment. We have had some very close fights with BMW Sauber and Toro Rosso.
Q: You said a while ago you were worried about losing your cockpit. Are you still worried?
NH: Ah, that was more of a joke. Obviously I would be disappointed should I lose it. Of course I want to stay in Formula One. It means that I have to perform as well as I can and be as strong as I can to convince the team that I belong here. When I speak with Frank or Patrick they say they have seen my progress, but yes they would have expected some more points - just like me.
Q: How important is luck?
NH: Luck is always involved. You need some luck and its probably harder to come by in F1 than in any other series. I have to say Im enjoying being in F1 and hopefully luck will be on my side at one point or another.
Q: This is your first home Grand Prix. What are hoping to achieve?
NH: Well, I am sure all the fans would like to see a good all-German result - from first to sixth. And yes any of those places would be a great result for me. I have heard Toro Rosso and BMW Sauber are bringing some updates and it will depend on how well those things work for them, compared to our pace. Right now I would say it is definitely possible to be in the top ten. But it will definitely not be easy!