Q: Nico, how satisfied are you with your qualifying?
Nico Hülkenberg: Pretty satisfied. I think we’ve ended where we thought we would. From a strategy point of view it’s a pretty good position to start from given the option that it gives us in terms of free tyre choice and an extra set of super soft tyres. So yes, I definitely expect a good race tomorrow though I have to say that when you look at it it’s a tough grid!
Q: Is there a bit of frustration that you didn’t run in Q3 though?
NH: No, as I just mentioned we are in a good position to start the race tomorrow. So Q3 I think would not have helped us at all. And just go back a bit in time: P10 not so long ago would have been Q3 – now only the eight fastest cars go into Q3 – and that is a pretty high bar to be honest. But where we are is what I had hoped we would be, our best case scenario.
Q: But that strategic option was not the reason that you stopped prematurely…
NH: No, not really. But I am pretty satisfied with the outcome. True, we are not starting from the A-one positions but B-one. And my guess is that the tyres will play a big role in the race so row five gives us all the options.
Q: Some people complained about the traffic that was out there. Was that an issue for you?
NH: Yep, it was pretty full out there in Q1. That’s what you get if the cars all go out at the same time. Everything bundles up in the first two corners. But that was something that we could foresee as it was clear that this is what was going to happen.
Q: Have we seen the true pace of the Force India today?
NH: Yes, that’s the true pace that we’ve seen today and where I had hoped that we would be. Race pace we don’t really know as nobody has done a proper long run. It will be interesting to see where the journey goes tomorrow! (laughs) Clearly points are the target for the race.
Q: So let us speak about the new qualifying format. There have been many critical voices about it. How do you like it?
NH: It’s okay but in reality it doesn’t really excite me too much so my opinion is not much different to that of the other drivers. When you look at it closely it puts more pressure on us drivers to deliver immediately. That already your first run works, otherwise you are running into the threat of dropping out as we have seen with some cars today. Believe me, you felt that you had to deliver straight away in the first run. There is definitely more focus on Q1. That was the main difference for me.
Q: We have seen some teams struggling with the timing. Has Force India done everything right?
NH: Yes, my personal impression is that the team got it very right. I think that we’ve learned our lesson. (Laughs)
Q: The season opener is always quite a big deal. What do you hope for you?
NH: Yes indeed the first race of the season is always something special. You head into the uncertainty, pretty much all of us would say. Of course I want to finish with good points. This race has always been a race of big surprises. In the past we’ve always seen many cars dropping out so that gives those who stay in the race a big chance to bag pretty good points. And I want to be among those who finish!