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Exclusive Nico Hulkenberg Q&A: Happy but not satisfied 22 Aug 2012

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Preparations Day, Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, 26 July 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 29 July 2012 Nico Hulkenberg celebrates his birthday with team sponsor Whyte and Mackay Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM05 ahead of Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 28 July 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 7 July 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 7 July 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Race Day, Valencia, Spain, Sunday, 24 June 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012

Although he’s pleased to finally feel comfortable back in the racing saddle after spending last year as a third driver, there’s plenty more Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg wants to achieve this season. And a lot will depend on the team continuing to improve their VJM05 car. We caught up with Hulkenberg just after he’d celebrated his 25th birthday to discuss progress so far - and his prospects for the remainder of 2012 …

Q: Nico, the last three weeks away from the track must have given you a chance to reflect on the season to date. What are your thoughts?
Nico Hulkenberg:
I am quite happy with how the season has gone so far. It was a bit difficult in the beginning, but we consistently improved the car and were able to fight for points on many tracks. However, a few more points would have been possible, I guess. Especially in the first few races I had some bad luck, which cost me some better results. So I am happy, but not 100 percent happy.

Q: You said a while ago that it took you some time to get back into the racing mode again after a year on the side lines as a third driver. Are you back in the mode of a racer now?
NH:
I think so, yes. I made some small mistakes in the first few races and felt occasionally that a little more could have been possible. This was especially the case in qualifying, when Paul (di Resta) finished ahead of me several times. But now that’s changed and I am fully comfortable. Of course I am not perfect. But I would say that I have definitely improved my personal performance when I compare now to the first few races.

Q: Qualifying seems to be where Force India shine during race weekends, whereas the races do not always go as planned. Why is that? Is it because of strategy, the race pace of the car, or tyre troubles?
NH:
Well, although we improved our car, we have to be realistic. Pace-wise we are still behind Sauber, Williams and all the frontrunners. This means, that we have the chance to beat Williams, Sauber or Mercedes when our weekend goes completely smoothly and they struggle. In qualifying this happens more often, but in the race they have 50, 60, 70 laps to get their faster cars in front of ours. So our race pace actually shows us where we really are.

Q: You and team mate Paul di Resta are both in your second year of Formula One competition. Is that level of experience enough to push a team forward? Do you think having a more experienced guy on your side would help?
NH:
No, I wouldn't say that. Of course it's good to have an experienced team mate like I had with Rubens (Barrichello) two years ago. But on the other hand two young guns can maybe push each other more and they are both able to develop their personal performances, which can help a team as well. So in general I am happy to have Paul as my team mate and I think the team is happy with their line-up as well.

Q: The pace of development will determine the outcome of the championship this season. Force India are now P8 in the constructors’ standings, which is two places down on last year. Are you still hopeful you can improve?
NH:
Of course. We already showed last year that our development speed is very competitive and I do not see a reason why we shouldn't be able to repeat that again. We're only seven points shy of Williams and I think we can catch them. I don't know whether it’s possible to catch Sauber. It will be difficult, but the whole team will try their very best, that´s for sure.

Q: You started your Formula One career at Williams two years ago. Now one of their drivers, who is also in his second season, has won a race. Are you a bit envious of Pastor Maldonado?
NH:
Of course I am envious of having a car which you can win races with, but Williams is in the past for me and I am now with Sahara Force India. So I don't look back, but try to do the best out of our possibilities.

Q: The good news is that in 2010 you finished the season with 21 points and you already have 19 in your tally this year. Is that a cause for cheer?
NH:
No, I don't care about the number of points. The only thing that counts is how many points you have relative to your opponents and which position in the championship you are in.

Q: Last season your dream was to return to the grid. What is your dream this year?
NH:
At the beginning of the season I said that my personal goal for 2012 was to establish myself in F1. That's still the target. I think I haven’t done too badly so far and during the last five or six races it has been getting better and better, so I am optimistic I can achieve my goal.

Q: Who do you think will win the championship this year?
NH:
Fernando Alonso, because he's the most consistent driver so far this year and Ferrari's car is no longer so much behind Red Bull’s and McLaren’s as it was at the beginning of the year.

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