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Nico Hulkenberg Q&A: 2014 was my best season yet

17 Dec 2014

Wins and podiums may have eluded him in 2014, but Nico Hulkenberg played a starring role over the season as his remarkable pace and consistency helped Force India carry the fight to McLaren in the constructors’ championship. In an exclusive interview with Formula1.com, Hulkenberg reflects on the highs and lows of the past year, and discusses the targets, advantages and potential threats for 2015 - when the German will also make the crossover to race in the Le Mans 24 Hours...

Q: Nico, you’ve had a bit of time to reflect on the 2014 season since Abu Dhabi. What did you make of it? What were your highlights - and your low moments?

Nico: I think on the whole I’m pretty satisfied with 2014. It was my best season in terms of points scored and my position in the championship. The first half of the year was a lot of fun - that was when the car was at its most competitive and we made that count. The four P5 finishes were results we worked hard to achieve and were definitely the highlights. Monaco stands out for me because it was such a tough race and I really had to nurse my supersoft tyres in the last 20 laps. I also remember my overtaking move on Kevin [Magnussen] at Portier. The second half of the year was more challenging. Things did not really go my way and I was quite unlucky in several races. But it was good to end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi.

Q: You must have had a sixth sense, leaving Sauber after only one year and moving back to Force India for 2014. Sauber had a disastrous season: Imagine having zero points instead of 96 - that can ruin a career...

Nico: I don’t think it’s a sixth sense, but sometimes you have to make a decision on what you feel in your stomach. The decision at the end of 2013 was not so much about leaving Sauber, but about the opportunity at Force India - a team I already knew very well. There were lots of factors in that decision, but Force India with the Mercedes engine seemed like the best combination. Yes, it proved to be the right decision. Sometimes you need some luck.

Q: In the end Force India were only 26 points shy of McLaren and fifth in the constructors’ championship - and for many races Force India were ahead. Where was P5 lost?

Nico: It’s too simple to think like that. You can’t pick one moment during the season where we lost fifth place. They did a good job of developing their car in the final part of the year and it was hard to protect our advantage. Yes, we were unlucky in some races, such as Austin with my engine failure, but I’m sure McLaren can point to other occasions when they had bad luck as well. In the end we were close to beating them to fifth place, but they are a strong team and with the resources they have available they just did a slightly better job than us.

Q: You and Sergio Perez will again form Force India’s race line-up in 2015. Is he your strongest team mate so far? How would you describe your relationship?

Nico: Checo is a very strong team mate, which is a good thing because it helps bring out the best in me. The first year with Rubens [Barrichello, in 2010] was interesting and tough. He was very quick. He also taught me a lot. My relationship with Checo is very competitive but also healthy. We both want to beat each other but we get on okay and work well together to move the team forward.

Q: You will be racing at Le Mans next year. Is that a dream come true? How did that happen - and how much experience do you have with these kind of cars?

Nico: Just a few days ago I completed my first test in the Porsche 919. My first impressions are very positive, although I have very little experience in those cars. Driving at Le Mans is something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s a legendary race. So of course I look forward to this little extra challenge in 2015.

Q: Coming back to Formula One racing, will it help that there are no big rule changes for 2015? And will it still be a huge advantage to have a Mercedes engine?

Nico: Having the Mercedes engine should put us in a good position, especially at the start of the season, so I’m very happy about that. It was certainly the best engine in 2014 and I expect that to be the case in 2015 as well. The stable regulations bring benefits and disadvantages and it’s hard for me to make predictions. We just need to make sure that we as a team take the right steps over the winter. We finished the year strongly so that’s encouraging.

Q: Lotus will switch to a Mercedes power train while McLaren move on to Honda. Will Lotus be the immediate benchmark in 2015?

Nico: I’m not sure. They had a troubled year and they will need to come back from that. For sure they will become stronger again so we need to make sure that we stay ahead of them.

Q: Your career has taken a few unexpected turns. Are there situations in hindsight when you should (or could) have made different moves? Any regrets?

Nico: I think changing teams at the end of 2012 was not the right thing in hindsight. Other than that I am happy with the decisions I have made.

Q: What will your winter be like? Christmas cookies and opulent family dinners? And when will the serious side of life start again?

Nico: I will spend Christmas at home with my family enjoying mum's hospitality. No Christmas cooking for me! (laughs) There is a very high chance the kitchen will be on fire if I try. Otherwise it will be the usual: recharging the batteries and getting ready and fit for March.