Exclusive Q&A - Force Indias Nico Hulkenberg 21 Jun 2012
Nico Hulkenberg was viewed as something of a potential star after his rookie season with Williams. Now, after a year away testing, he has returned with Force India to a grid suddenly brimming with potential stars. Its perhaps not surprising then that Hulkenberg is not exactly satisfied with how his 2012 campaign has panned out relative to some of his young rivals. Force Indias VJM05 has been consistent, but has yet to produce top results. But with the gap between the midfield teams so marginal right now, the German is sure that chances are there for the taking
Q: One third of the season is already gone - how satisfied are you with your situation?
Nico Hulkenberg: Not overly happy. In regards of results and the standings I had hoped that the outcome would be better. But I know that here and there more would have been possible, like in Bahrain where Paul (di Resta) made his most points and I am pretty sure that I would have ended in the points as well had I not had a glitch at the start that ruined my race, as we had a good car and a good strategy there. Of course at the first four races I was in something of a warm-up mode to get back into racing and later I was not blessed with luck at times, as there were situations that were beyond my control. The tendency is clearly running north, but unfortunately that doesnt translate into results right now. Of course that has to change - immediately! (laughs)
Q: You started the second phase of your F1 race career with high hopes. Where are those hopes now?
NH: Well, in this sport you have to stay realistic. We dont have a bad car, but it is also not one that is a mandatory race winner every second weekend. What I can say is that I feel good in the car and as for the team, it is a huge pleasure to race every fortnight and fight for them and hopefully good results will come my way soon. My tally is in definite need of more points. I hope they hear that!
Q: When looking at the internal Force India battle, the advantage is clearly with your team mate Paul di Resta. Where do you see the reasons for this?
NH: Well, I started really strongly in Australia, outperforming him. At some of the following races it got tight between the two of us and then I have to confess I made some unnecessary mistakes. And there you have it: in a season so marginal, a small mistake can cost you several places. So overall the balance between Paul and myself is pretty even - even if the results do not show that.
Q: This season is all about tyres. Are driver skills falling by the wayside?
NH: Look at the majority of winners this season - tyres or not, you still have the big names and the usual suspects as race winners. So I would still say that whatever the tyres do or dont do for you on a weekend it is still the driver who has to execute it. It is the guy in the cockpit who in the end delivers the result. Drivers still matter. Dont let anybody tell you different! (laughs)
Q: We have seen some very unexpected results this year - what about Force Indias chances of winning or getting a podium in this very unpredictable 2012 season?
NH: Ah, the chance is there. If you have a good day and are in control of your car and your tyres you are never too far off a podium finish - but so are others. Knowing how tight everything is this season, you more than ever have to give it your all, as the chance that you could suddenly be confronted with a top placing is very real. You have to be on alert every single moment. Probably we would not automatically have considered Nico Rosberg or Pastor Maldonado as possible race winners, but then the Williams is a really good car that really worked perfectly in Barcelona, overshadowing all the usual suspects. Probably it would have looked a bit different without the penalty for Lewis Hamilton, but that does not take away the fact that the Williams was doing extremely well that day.
Q: What are the key points that have to be sorted for you to get more good results? Car? Strategy? Car-tyre interaction? Or just better luck?
NH: I think we could raise our game in all these aspects - that would clearly close the gap to the frontrunners. This season is really demanding in getting all components together for these two odd hours every second Sunday afternoon. To get it right with the tyres every weekend is really difficult - for all the teams. That is why we do not have a clear favourite yet. If you look at it you would come to the conclusion that Force India is the most consistent team so far. Sure, we have not had any glory, but we also havent had any real reason for tears. We are in the midfield and consistent.
Q: At the last race in Canada neither you nor Paul really fulfilled your potential. Why was that?
NH: I am pretty sure that in qualifying I would have made it into Q3. I was on a great lap and the car felt super, but had to abort it due do a yellow flag and that meant game over. In the race itself we had some problems with the tyre management, with the temperatures. Canada was a weekend with very mixed conditions. All Friday was cool and then with higher temperatures we didnt get it right anymore. We know what the cause was, so the problem is gone. If we had the chance to go back and do it all over again you would be surprised what we would deliver.
Q: The speed is there, so will that help this weekend?
NH: Indeed. As I said before, we do have a good car, but we also have to keep on developing as standing still would mean a loss of position. If you can add small new bits and pieces to your car that will make it faster, that is what matters more than ever. Looking at this weekend I am pretty confident that we will make it into the points.
Q: Looking at the Valencia track, it is another unusual circuit: narrow in places, hard to overtake, and very high temperatures. Will - like in Monaco - qualifying be crucial?
NH: Yes, I would say it matters more. Take the last few years - overtaking was a rarely seen event, so if you start from a good position and run a good strategy, that should almost be enough to make your weekend. Last year we saw two DRS zones, this year only one longer one. Maybe that will change the race a bit.
Q: The next race is Silverstone and many predict that there 2012s real pecking order will emerge, so that would seem to be the place to introduce some major upgrades. What is up your sleeves at Force India?
NH: Yes, Silverstone will see some major upgrades: a new floor, if I am right, and a number of other new parts. But I think every team is gearing up then, so it will be important to make your updates work.
For tickets and travel to 2012 Formula One races, click here.
For Formula One and F1 team merchandise, click here.