Nico Hulkenberg’s de facto number-one status at Renault this season has been pretty much a given. That was until the recent arrival of Carlos Sainz – a driver with the speed and experience to really challenge the highly-regarded German. Despite the team’s recent reliability woes, does their new pairing have what it takes to return the French marque to the F1 big time? We caught up with Hulkenberg for an exclusive chat ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix to find out…
Q: Nico, since Austin you’ve had a new team mate in Carlos. What impact do you expect him to make?
Nico Hulkenberg: It will have a dramatic impact on my Spanish! (Laughs) The Spanish lessons are welcome and we are moving in the right direction. On top of that he is a young, aspiring and quick driver. He is fast and has straightaway had a positive impact on the team. We are pushing each other, so this is all very positive for the team – and its future. It’s cool working with him and so far we have so far a good relationship.
Q: Renault qualified both cars in the top ten in Mexico, but then an unlucky race meant you missed the opportunity to move up a place in the constructors’ championship. Sixth now looks the best-case scenario – is that the plan?
NH: Well, yes, for the moment we need to forget a bit about the constructors’ championship and take it race weekend by race weekend. At these two remaining race weekends we have to maximise what we have and also, very importantly, see the chequered flag – simply to finish the race and get results and data, data, data! But sure, Mexico has taken away a very good chance of finishing in P5. That’s even more disappointing given both our qualifying results there.
Q: Can you talk us through your Mexican race – and your acrobatic antics jumping out of the car with both feet? It looked sporty, but no doubt had a serious background…
NH: Ha, yes we had some problems – an MGU-K failure. And with telemetry a bit slow the team can’t be one hundred percent sure if the car is safe at that crucial moment, so they were cautious, telling me to do this ‘safe jump’ – basically not to make a bridge between the ground and the car, so as to avoid an electric shock. It maybe sounded dramatic and it looked a bit strange, but that is pretty usual for drivers. Sure, it was a frustrating moment for all in the team – having to park the car and eventually losing a good result – as the race was looking pretty promising.