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Coming home - Exclusive Q&A with Nico Hulkenberg 09 Dec 2013

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 10 October 2013 Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India F1 Team Owner and Nico Hulkenberg (GER) shake hands. Force India F1 Sign Nico Hulkenberg for 2014, Force India Factory, Silverstone, England, 3 December 2013. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 3 November 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Race Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 25 August 2013 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) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Preparations, Silverstone, England, Thursday, 27 June 2013

Among F1 racing's brightest rising stars, Nico Hulkenberg’s destination for next season has been one of the biggest talking points of the 2014 driver market. Last week the talk ended, with Hulkenberg heading back to Force India after a year’s sojourn at Sauber. But having been courted by the likes of Ferrari and Lotus, what does the German really think of the latest, and somewhat unexpected twist in his career path?

Q: Joining Force India again is a bit like coming home. What kind of feelings are you bringing with you? 

NH:
I'm excited to be back. It's a team I know very well. I've spent two years here before - in 2011 and 2012 - so indeed it’s a bit like coming home. There are still a lot of familiar faces that I know and have worked with before, so it will be a sort of happy reunion.

Q: It was rumoured for quite some time that you would move back to the Silverstone-based team. When did talks become concrete?
NH:
During the later stages of the season I needed to make a decision on my future. Sahara Force India was able to give me the answers and the information I needed and wanted, different to other teams. I also really felt that they wanted me back and that they were pushing for that, so coming back was an easy decision to make.

Q: You have taken various paths over the course of your F1 career. How far off the racing line is your career trajectory right now?
NH:
I believe I’m in a good place and just maintaining a drive in F1 is worth a lot these days. I’m a Formula One driver with a team that is ambitious and aiming high for the future. Of course I want to be winning races, but I’m still young and 2014 will only be my fourth season as a race driver in Formula One. And next year we enter a new era in F1, so it’s not clear which team will do the best job. I’m in the same situation as every driver and we won’t know how competitive anyone will be until the first couple of races.

Q: How difficult has it become to survive on pure talent alone - and was there ever a fear that you would not make it on to the grid at all in 2014?
NH:
I obviously remember what happened at the end of 2010, but the situation was different this year. I knew what options were available and I was never seriously worried about not making the grid.

Q: Would you have ever considered a backmarker team? 

NH:
It’s a hypothetical question, and it’s not something I have had to consider. Also, as I’ve said, going into next year you cannot take 2013 as a reference because it’s a new era and a completely new page. So you might say it’s hard to know which team will be a backmarker next year.

Q: Force India is arguably the best midfield team, it has special vibes, and it will run a Mercedes engine next year. Can these three facts help you satisfy your ambitions?
NH:
I have a really good feeling for 2014. Sahara Force India has been a team that has been constantly growing in strength year on year, and they have already put a lot of time and energy into the 2014 season.

Q: What about the engine? Do you also believe that the Mercedes V6 will be a trump card in 2014?

NH:
It’s hard to say anything with certainty, but I have heard a lot of positive things. Mercedes has been a partner of Sahara Force India for a long time and it’s always been a very strong working relationship. Mercedes is a huge brand and I think they will deliver a great package.

Q: The identity of your 2014 team mate is still unconfirmed. You said that it doesn’t really affect you, but is that so? For a team like Force India it is essential that both drivers contribute points…
NH:
In the past Force India has always had a driver pairing where both drivers scored points when the chance was there, so I am sure that will not change in 2014. Who it will be in the end is not something that I can influence. What I can influence is to do better in the car, so I will concentrate on that and not on a name.

Q: How much easier is it to get kick started when you know all the people in the team - and all the processes? 

NH:
It will certainly help. You already have the relationships and you feel a bit more comfortable. That makes it easier to get down to work straight away because you know how the team operates. So it’s a small thing, but it’s definitely a positive.

Q: Can you give a short outline of your winter activities?

NH:
The next few days and weeks will be quite peaceful for me. I will go home, give myself a break and recharge my batteries. It’s important to enjoy some free time so that I come back in January fully motivated.

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