Home - The Official Formula 1 Website Skip to content

Exclusive Nico Hulkenberg Q&A: Teams should prioritize talent 02 Nov 2013

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32,
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Preparations, Saturday, 26 October 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 2 November 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Preparations, Thursday, 24 October 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 2 November 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 12 October 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 12 October 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Practice, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Friday, 4 October 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Practice, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Friday, 4 October 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Practice, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 5 July 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Practice, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 5 July 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber walks the track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 10 October 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Practice, Silverstone, England, Friday, 28 June 2013

After a disappointing start to the season, Nico Hulkenberg and Sauber have enjoyed something of a renaissance in the second half of the campaign, scoring points regularly and challenging at the front. However, the German’s future is still in doubt as he’s yet to sign a deal for a 2014 race seat. We caught up with him in the Abu Dhabi paddock to find out the current situation…

Q: Nico, F1 careers are at times nail-biters, but for you it seems to happen every season. Why is your career so extremely unpredictable when at the same time everyone acknowledges that you are one of the best drivers on the grid?
Nico Hulkenberg:
Ha, I also would love to know that. I think it probably is a bit linked to the financial situation. Some drivers are having some ‘good’ arguments in terms of money, so teams are thinking twice what to do. They need to make sure that they survive and that makes the life of someone like me, who has no financial backing, a bit harder.

Q: But for you this situation crops up every year, even in times when teams didn’t look so much for drivers with a ‘dowry’…
NH:
You can be sure that it is not my preference. I also would rather have a calm situation and be fixed for a certain amount of time, but I have to take how it is. Every career is different and mine seems to be as it is now with a few different teams, with a bit of movement, with a bit of nail biting. If you look at my results it doesn’t influence it in a bad way - and that is the positive thing. As a Formula One driver you need to be able to block everything out - speculation and an unsettled future - and deliver on the track because that should be your best argument.

Q: With the sudden end to your time at Williams, did you perhaps come to the conclusion that a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush and, as a result, you’ve probably sometimes signed too early?
NH:
Regarding my Williams exit there is no trauma, but probably some scars are left from then. It definitely was a bad experience, how it all happened. Of course you then have that in the back of your mind and get more suspicious of what people tell you because I have been lied to to my face. Then it starts to get difficult to ever trust people the same amount as before. But no, I don’t think that I have signed with teams too early, so I was neither taking the bird in the hand nor eyeing the two in the bush - I was only looking to enhance my career.

Q: You have to acknowledge that it is getting a bit tight for a 2014 drive. How frustrating is it to see that your career could depend on money - that right now money seems to be the best argument?
NH:
As a driver you want your performance to be the only argument, but it is different lately. Teams are under pressure as we are in tough times, so some teams take drivers with money rather than with no money. They probably give up the focus on talent a bit, but I guess they also have to find the right compromise for them. For me, of course, it is not the ideal. Talent should always be the priority and not the other way around. But it is what it is and I have to work around that.

Q: Could the problem be exacerbated at the moment because of the costs that teams are facing in 2014 with the revised regulations?
NH:
Well, I think that the teams know what is coming in 2014 - at least I hope so, for their sakes.

Q: Lotus team principal Eric Boullier clearly stated recently that he wants to sign you for 2014. Did it surprise you that he went out on a limb for you that much, and now it seems it might not be happening?
NH:
They might need to take somebody with money. But I think it is not always so simple that if they give the green light I would go there right away. The circumstances and the terms need to be right.

Q: The Lotus situation right now appears to be that either they can secure the deal with new shareholders - and sign you - or this deal is abandoned and they take Pastor Maldonado and his sponsorship money. What have Lotus told you?
NH:
They didn’t tell me anything in particular. They told me that they are waiting on their deal to be signed - and how far along these negotiations are I cannot say. I only know what is in the media. But as I just said, also the terms must be right - so even if they say ‘we can take you’ and I am not happy with the terms, then I might not move there right away.

Q: What does that mean? Is your switch to Lotus off, or just still up in the air?
NH:
From the signals that I get, they’re still trying to make their deal happen - to secure the team’s future financially…

Q: Does that mean everything is still open for you?
NH:
Might be.

Q: Can you wait that long?
NH:
That we will find out soon. I have lost a seat once and that was not a pleasant situation, so I am not going to risk something like that again.

Q: There were media reports quoting you as saying you would also race for a team without a salary. Did you say that?
NH:
I didn’t say it like that. I said that I would drive for less, but of course I need to pay my bills as well. I need to pay for my FIA Super License, so I definitely cannot race for nothing. I need some kind of income, but there are always ways and means.

Q: Wouldn’t that compromise the position of other drivers, if somebody like you were to make such an offer?
NH:
I am not saying that I would do it - I was just saying that there are ways to make different deals and options.

Q: Did the Sauber ‘resurrection’ come at the right time for you to consider staying here?
NH:
Yes, now it looks good - we are pretty much a points contender every weekend, but the difficult bit is that you make a commitment for the future and who is top and who is a flop in 2014 is something very hard to determine. You can’t take this year’s performance as a measure for next year, so you pretty much have to make your best guess.

Q: Could you imagine staying?
NH:
Yes.

Q: Could Sauber imagine keeping you?
NH:
I think so.

Q: And everybody lives happily ever after...
NH:
Why not? For now we are having a good go. The spirit is up.

Q: Sauber have been doing very well lately - can you explain the surge in performance?
NH:
I think there were a few things that happened at the same time. We brought a major update to Budapest - a Red Bull-style exhaust - that lifted our performance right away and at the same time Pirelli introduced the new tyres because of the safety issues of Silverstone. So it is difficult to isolate which one of the two had a bigger effect, but both led us in a good direction. We also learned a lot about our car - how to set it up right and get around some of the shortcomings. And it works! You could see it in qualifying. Our plan was to make it into Q3 and we did. P6 is a fantastic position given where we were only two months ago.

Q: What happened in India? It was a race that went against the current Sauber trend…
NH:
We had a brake disc failure. We were competitive again and without that issue I would have finished seventh for sure - maybe sixth with Lewis (Hamilton) dropping off so much at the end. It was a disappointment and a set back to be robbed of another good result due to such a technical problem, but that’s racing and the chances that it will happen again are rather slim.

Q: What's the outlook for your race on Sunday?
NH:
I will fight back. The whole weekend has been really promising. I was pretty happy with the car so it should be a result to my liking, even though the McLarens have also improved their form. It will be tight after the Red Bulls, so we have to get our game together. We have a really good chance tomorrow.

For tickets and travel to 2013 FORMULA 1 races, click here.
For FORMULA 1 merchandise, click here.