Exclusive Q&A with Force Indias Nico Hulkenberg 29 Feb 2012
In Formula One racing its very difficult to make a comeback once youve been side-lined. Nico Hulkenberg, however, is an exception to the rule. The young German, who clinched a spectacular pole position at the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix for then team Williams, will return to the sharp end of the sport this season with Force India, after a year spent on the bench as a reserve. Having already impressed during the pre-season tests, Hulkenberg is raring to go
Q: Nico, Force India ended last season on a high and it seems the team were able to keep up the momentum over the winter. What is your impression?
Nico Hulkenberg: My impression is positive. We have had some good test days so far and are quite happy with how it went. Each day we have learnt more about our car and the new tyres, which is good because in this way we can address the issues and feed them back to the factory quickly.
Q: There has hardly been a team over the opening tests whose car hasnt had the normal pre-season teething problems. But it looks like Force India were something of an exception. Has it really been as smooth as it has looked?
NH: For me, yes it was. We didnt have any technical issues and could run and complete all the programmes we had planned. I know thats a big luxury with a new car.
Q: During the opening two tests either you or team mate Paul di Resta were always amongst the drivers with the best lap times. How much of it was for show and how much of it was real performance?
NH: I guess all teams focus on their testing programmes and try to prepare as well as possible for the season. This means, that you sometimes go for the super-soft tyres, sometimes for the hard tyres, sometimes with high fuel and sometimes with less fuel. There are a million other different things that you can change with your set-up. Thats what we did as well. So we should not overestimate the [significance of the] times. Everybody knows that the top teams have not shown their true strength yet, so we will have to wait for Saturday in Australia. Everything before then is just speculation.
Q: You are returning to the grid this season after a year spent as a reserve. Have you felt hindered by your year on the bench?
NH: No, not really, but driving in a test is very different to a race weekend. I think the 14 free practice sessions I drove in during 2011 kept me in the loop pretty well. But as I said, if there´s a deficit, then I will feel it more during qualifying or a race. During last week´s test I had two good days with lots of running, which was important to build a good feeling for the car.
Q: Will your team mate Di Resta have an advantage?
NH: Yes, especially during the first races I guess. Hes used to the procedure of a race weekend, DRS, KERS etc. and I will have to find my rhythm again first. But this disadvantage will probably be gone after a few races.
Q: Both Force India drivers have only one year of race experience under their belts. Its a brave decision for a team whose main objective is not to breed rookies. Will it pay off?
NH: I hope so, yes. I think its commendable that Sahara Force India gives young drivers a chance. Paul and I will try to prove that this is the right thing to do. He did a great job last season, although he was a rookie with little F1 experience, but it paid off. So why should the team not try it again - and succeed?
Q: Toro Rossos team principal Franz Tost has said that he is looking for young drivers with the wow factor. Your pole position in Brazil in 2010 certainly wowed. Without achieving that, do you think you would still be in F1?
NH: Obviously Brazil was the highlight of my career - so far. (laughs) But besides that I had other good moments in my rookie season. So I dont think that its all about one single qualifying session. To answer your question - yes, I think I would be in Formula One.
Q: You now have the chance to emulate that daring Brazilian deed. What hopes and dreams do you have for 2012 and what do you realistically think you can achieve?
NH: Lets start with the real chances, as thats the easiest thing to answer. I think that we have a realistic chance of finishing fifth in the constructors championship. It will definitely not be easy, but Im sure its possible. Now for the hopes - I hope for some rainy days and some messy races that will allow smaller teams like us to enjoy some surprising results. And finally, the dreams - it would have to be many more moments like Brazil 2010!
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