Exclusive Q&A with Force India's Nico Hulkenberg 19 Dec 2011
After a frustrating season sitting on the sidelines as a third driver, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg will return to racing in 2012 after replacing outgoing Adrian Sutil in the team's line-up. Hulkenberg, who made waves during his debut Formula One season when he clinched a fantastic pole position in Brazil in 2010 for then team Williams, is thrilled to be back on the grid and is now targeting similar successes in 2012. The German 24 year-old discusses his preparations, his hopes for next season and much more...
Q: It took a while for team principal Vijay Mallya to announce his 2012 driver line-up. It must have been a very nerve-shredding time?
Nico Hulkenberg: Yes indeed, it was not the most comfortable situation to be in. But now the only thing that really counts is that I am back on the grid and I have forgotten all those days of guessing and hoping.
Q: How much of a relief was it when you finally knew that you had been picked?
NH: As you just said, it was a relief! For as long as you haven't been given a thumbs up that your future is secured, you always feel some light tension. It was a fantastic moment when all the pressure suddenly fell away.
Q: When did you learn that you did have a Formula One future?
NH: Of course I learnt it a little earlier than the public. And there had been some positive signs in the middle of the season. I always got good feedback from the team, so I was actually quite optimistic that in 2012 I would be back and that there would be no more third-man role for me.
Q: Did Mallya explain his decision to you?
NH: He said that he believed in my talent and that I deserved a seat, which is an enormous compliment and great evidence of his trust.
Q: Force India did very well during the second half of the season so the odds look good that you will race a competitive car in 2012. How acquainted are you with the VJM06?
NH: I have tried my best to help the engineers with the development of the new car, so I have been informed about its progress and every single step we have taken. And I have seen the car already. But over the winter months the teams are always a little in the dark, because you dont know where your competitors stand. I hope, that we will be able to make the next significant step forward in 2012. I feel that the whole team - including our new co-chairman Subrata Roy Sahara - feels that we are entering a new dimension. Believe me, we all want more!
Q: You spent time in the car during Friday practice sessions at most of 2011's Grands Prix, but will your race form be rusty?
NH: Obviously I was not racing, but at least it kept me sharp, I believe. Even though I hardly ever drove more than 20 laps during the sessions, I always adapted very quickly - better than even I expected. At the beginning of next year I will need some time to regain the level I had at the end of 2010, but with the help of the team, I hope to get there again pretty quickly.
Q: What is your schedule over the next couple of weeks?
NH: For this year, my work is done. But in January the preparations will start with lots of training - and of course working and learning in the factory. Personally I do not plan to move to the UK.
Q: You bid farewell to the Formula One stage in 2010 with a bang after clinching pole position in Brazil. Would you like to make as big a bang when you restart you career in Australia?
NH: Yes - I am planning to send Christmas cards to all the other drivers to make sure that they let me overtake them easily in Australia. I hope theyll comply with my request!
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