Exclusive Nico Hulkenberg interview 10 Dec 2012
Back in a race seat after a year as the team's reserve, Force Indias Nico Hulkenberg was one of a number of young drivers who impressed in 2012. We caught up with the German racer to talk about his second full season of Formula One competition, his imminent move to Sauber and his affection for Interlagos - a track he always seems to shine at...
Q: Nico, what is it with you and the Interlagos racetrack? You scored pole position there in 2010 and in 2012 you led the race. It looks like you have a real love affair with the circuit
Nico Hulkenberg: Haha, yes there seems to be a good connection between the Interlagos circuit and me. Racetracks all have very different personalities - just like people. With some it immediately clicks - and with others it will be a lifelong fight. Interlagos and me - we clicked. (laughs) I really do like the place. It has a very special atmosphere and its within a city like Sao Paolo. This makes it a really cool place.
Q: When you led in Brazil, did you believe that victory might be possible?
NH: Well, believe it or not there was not so much time to think about that to be honest. Conditions were so tricky that you had to be super focused on what was going on on the track, especially when Jenson [Button] and I stayed out on slicks while it was drizzling slightly. It was very tricky to stay on track and to also keep the pace up - there was little chance for daydreams. I was certainly hoping that we could keep the lead to the finish, but I also knew that there was still a long way to go - we saw a lot happen between my lead laps and the chequered flag.
Q: Can you talk us through that race? When you knew that the podium was lost what was going through your head?
NH: It was such an eventful race that it is hard to remember every detail, but the paramount fact of everything that happened to me on that day was that my speed was good right from the start. I was able to keep up with the leaders and even overtake some cars. When the rain started - and we all somehow knew and expected that there would be rain and that the temperature would drop - keeping the temperature in the tyres was the most important and difficult thing. That we had lost the podium only crossed my mind during the last couple of laps after my drive-through penalty. Obviously I was disappointed, but on the other hand I was proud of the race as a whole and of course also of my team - they did a fantastic job.
Q: After a one-year sabbatical in 2011 it seemed to take you a while to get back up to full speed, but by the end of 2012 you really started to show your true pace. Do you expect to keep the momentum in 2013?
NH: Yes, that is the goal. As you say, there is no warm-up phase anymore, so I personally hope that I start performing right at the point where I finished at the end of 2012 - and that was a very promising point. I am changing teams so there will be a getting to know each other phase but I am confident that this will go smoothly.
Q: At Sauber you will paired with a rookie. Are you ready to lead the team?
NH: Yes, I feel ready for that. It's not a case of bringing extra pressure, it's something that helps motivate me even more, but to be honest I don't see my role as much different to the one I was in this year. I will simply concentrate on my job of trying to deliver good results.
Q: Can you reflect on this 2012 season with Force India? Tell us about the good, the bad and the ugly
NH: For me it has been a great year with Force India. I will keep so many good memories from 2012. Like I said before, initially I needed some time to get back into the groove after 2011 without racing, but I think we - the team and me - made some really good progress throughout the year with the team improving the car's performance and me developing alongside as well. So there is only good that I can speak about - no bad and no ugly! (laughs)
Q: What has this season taught you about yourself?
NH: 2012 was my second year as an active driver so there was plenty to learn and I think that I have made a step forward during the year as a driver, especially in qualifying. I feel that was an area where I improved throughout the season. F1 is still a very technical and complex sport so for me the experience you gain is a big benefit. It might sound a bit simple, but mileage - race mileage - is what makes a big difference in the end.
Q: What are you up to for the next two months before winter testing gets underway in February?
NH: I will try to get some rest and gear up my social life again by catching up and chilling out with friends. Ill be doing normal stuff like going to the movies - I haven't seen the new James Bond film yet. Then I will make a few visits to Hinwil, where my new team is based, and once we enter the New Year I will work hard on my fitness thoughout January before testing starts in the first week of February. And I almost forgot an important thing: isnt this the season of Santa Claus? As the song goes, 'He knows if you've been bad or good'. Ive been good so please put a competitive 2013 car for me in your sack, Santa. (laughs)
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