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Exclusive Q&A with Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg 15 Jan 2013

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, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Practice, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 23 November 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 22 March 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 31 August 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Williams on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 9 May 2010 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Williams FW32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 9 October 2010

Nico Hulkenberg will start his third season as a full-time Formula One driver at the 2013 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, but rather uniquely he’ll be doing so with his third different team - Sauber. Whilst moving teams might be daunting for many, the young German is embracing the change and is already looking forward to life with F1 racings’s only Swiss squad. We spoke to Hulkenberg about how he’s adapted to life since leaving Force India and what expectations he has ahead of the new season...

Q: Nico, this is the third time in your short career that you’ve had to adjust to life at a new team. How are you going about it?
Nico Hulkenberg:
It was not always my choice, except for the switch to Sauber. At the end of 2010 I was more or less forced into a team change! Being confronted with such a situation you simply have to get on with the job and get to know the new people you work with from now on. Some procedures in the teams are similar, nevertheless there are differences in details, which you have to learn and get used to. You could say that I am right now in a new phase of learning.

Q: What are the most important things on your checklist?
NH:
During this time of the year it is always to make me comfortable in the car. Making a good seat in which I feel comfortable is very important. Luckily I fit in well so I am ready for testing in Jerez at the beginning of February.

Q: From your Hinwil experience so far, what issues do you want to see addressed before the first race?
NH:
There are no issues at the moment, it´s not until you are out on track, running the car, that you uncover issues or weaknesses. So Jerez will be the acid test.

Q: The team is heading into the new season with two new drivers. How do you think the team will compensate for this?
NH:
I don't see any deficit to be honest. Indeed I am new in the team, but not new in F1, and Esteban (Gutierrez) has gained experience as a test driver with Sauber so he is not new to them. I would say there is no deficit, but rather the chance to make good acquaintances.

Q: Have you pitched a tent outside the factory so you can be there 24/7?
NH:
(Laughs) Not quite, but I have been around many times in the last couple of weeks to meet the team, including my future engineers and mechanics.

Q: When thinking back to your past experiences, what is the most difficult part of joining a new team?
NH:
The most difficult thing at first is to remember all the new names, otherwise there is no difficulty, as such, in becoming part of a new team. It is a process and experience which takes a bit of time, but it’s a very valuable time that can pay off during the season.

Q: When comparing the Sauber factory to those of your two previous employers, Williams and Force India, what is different?
NH:
Firstly it is in Switzerland! And to get more into detail, the wind tunnel stands out significantly - it is a really big beast. Overall, the infrastructure is definitely first class.

Q: What do the Swiss do differently? How does the mentality differ from the UK-based teams that you’ve previously driven for?
NH:
Ask me this one at the end of the season - right now I have no idea!

Q: At Williams and Force India you had very dominant leaders as team principals. Now you’re working with the first female team principal in Formula One racing, Monisha Kaltenborn. There must be a difference…
NH:
Maybe. It’s difficult to judge at this point as we haven’t had a race weekend together yet. But from what I have experienced so far, Monisha is an excellent team principal by doing what is the foremost task of this job: taking responsibility for the team.

Q: Your team mate Esteban Gutierrez is a rookie, so many would consider you the team leader. How does that affect you in the lead up to the start of the season?
NH:
The fact that people are regarding me as the team leader doesn’t change much. At the Sauber F1 team both drivers get the same equipment and treatment. I will just work harder together with Esteban to bring the team forward.

Q: What do you expect from your new team - and what do they expect from you - to rule out disappointment at the end of the season?
NH:
I want to build on the good basis they had last year and keep working hard from there. Of course I am looking for good results - in that sense the team and I are already looking for the same thing. It´s a new season so we have to wait and see how things pan out and how strong our package is on the track.

Sauber will launch their new car, the C32, on February 2. For details of other launches, click here.

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