Exclusive interview with Nico Hulkenberg

Motorsport.com F1 contributor Kate Walker talked with Force India's Nico Hulkenberg in a Q&A session.

Q: Over your years in Formula One, we have seen you at Williams, we have seen you at Sauber, we have seen you at Force India; we have also seen you linked with other teams. How are you feeling about your career so far? Do you see it as a series of upwards steps or sideways movements?

A: Maybe a bit of both. Obviously there has not been a step to a top team, and I have moved maybe sideways sometimes but every career is different, and mine is what it is now. But I am quite happy at the point where I am at the moment, obviously everybody in this sport wants to win, wants to be at the front, but there are only a limited number of seats and you've got to earn the chance and wait for the opportunity as well, and that hasn't come along yet. So I will just keep doing my job as well as I can. It's not all bad, I suppose, it’s all going well.

Q: I'm obviously not in the cockpit, but from my point view, it wasn't your choice to leave Williams necessarily, but when you left Williams they had a downward spiral and Sauber had a great car last year, not so much this year. So while it may look in terms of championship rankings that you're going sideways, you've actually got a really good knack for picking the best of the midfield cars. Is that luck or have you got some sort of special sense?

A: I'm not sure, probably the first one more. It's true when I went to Sauber I was obviously lower in the constructors’ championship. Sauber was behind Force India, but I beat both drivers, so it was maybe not just a sideways step. But yeah, this year with all the reg changes I knew the Mercedes was going to be a good package to have. 

Q: And other than engine link with the team do you have any links with Mercedes? As a German driver they’re probably keeping an eye on you and wondering if they can pick you up at some point.

A: No, there is no real link. I've used the engine quite a bit also in Formula Three, I ran with Mercedes, and again in 2012 and now again, but otherwise, there was no link, no.

Q: So you happen to be very lucky with the right car and right engine this year, the strongest of the midfield teams. How does it feel to be ahead of and beating McLaren effectively? They had a great weekend in Suzuka, but for the most part McLaren are supposed to be one of the big, big names; and Force India are a fairly young team.

A: Well, they have been struggling this year and the previous year, haven't they? But like you say, definitely it's a big name. For us, I think we are not thinking about it too much. Obviously we're aiming to consolidate that fifth place and that is the main target at the moment. I think it will a be tough and hard job in the remaining four races, but at the moment we are one point ahead. So obviously it can go either way; it's a fifty-fifty chance I guess, but obviously everybody is working towards beating them.

Q: And what kind of celebration would there be inside the team if you guys did manage to finish ahead of McLaren?

A: Everybody in the team will be very pleased and happy about that, and proud as well. We had a very strong beginning to this season with a lot of highlights and a lot of strong performances; obviously now at the recent couple of grands prix we have maybe slipped back a bit. But still, when it comes to Sunday, normally we are in a position where we can still fight for points. And not everybody can say that.

Q: In terms of resources, Force India doesn't have the budget of a lot of the teams that you compete with; have you found it’s one of the more efficient teams that you have raced with? Or have you seen similar efficiency with Sauber and Williams?

A: It is maybe a little bit similar to the other teams, but I think what you say it makes sense. It is right that if you are a team which doesn't have the big bucks and the resources that all the big teams have, you obviously have to look at things and work more effectively. I always feel and felt that Force India was a very good team at doing that, I think they have in the right balance.

Q: And do you find it easy to get the team to work with you to help you achieve more? Because one of the things that I have heard about you, as a driver, is that you are really good at motivating the people around you, at creating a bit of a family with the people you work with. Do you find that having that sort of attitude helps you achieve more?

A: I think that is just my personality, it’s just how I am. I like to get along with the people I work with and also have a laugh with them. I think it is very important that you enjoy what you do, that you laugh. At the same time, obviously it’s important that you work seriously and hard; not in a cramped way, but in a fun way and a way that everybody enjoys. I think that is just how I am and I don't have to play any kind of role for that, it's just natural. But on the other side, the team also makes me happy; they look after me and we have a great bunch of people, there is a good harmony within the team and just a very positive feeling.

Q: That's fantastic; that is the working environment that everybody wants, whether you are working in a factory, a shoe shop, or whatever.

A: Absolutely. That is also part of the reason why we had been so successful in the beginning of the year.

Q: One of my favourite memories from Formula One - you might think this is such a silly thing - but one of my favourite memories was seeing you in the post-qualifying press conference in Brazil when you scored your first pole. Seeing somebody have that first moment of success is such a wonderful moment as a journalist. Was that your best F1 memory? Or have you got better ones since?

A: It is definitely among the best I would say. Obviously 2012 in Brazil I was on very good path again but then obviously I had some interference and lost that, it could have been even more special and better. But I lost that race by coming together with Lewis; I think that race would have been even more special to me.

Q: So is Interlagos one of your favourite tracks in terms of good memories and good experiences?

A: Yes, it is. I just like Brazil; the atmosphere when you come to the place, the old-school circuit, the history that is involved. It is just, I don't know, it touches me; I feel very comfortable there and somehow you see that on track as well.

Q: I think it’s one of the best grids of the year; you hear all of the fans cheering and they don't care whether you’re Brazilian or not. If you like racing, if you are a proper racer in your heart, they love you. It must be wonderful as a driver.

A: Yeah, it's good. At the drivers’ parade, when you go along, the big grandstands, and the Brazilian, the South American, attitude of the people and the life they have is just cool.

Q: Yeah, it is. It's cool, a great, happy place. Now, one of the things about racing with a midfield team is that you have to learn to manage disappointments. All racing has disappointments, but I think it is almost harder in the midfield. Do you think it makes you a more complete racer having had experience of challenges, of more difficult times?

A: Well I haven't seen the other side yet; so I have nothing to compare it to. I'm not sure, to be honest. I think as a driver in Formula One it is a sport where you’re, not limited, but you can do only as well as the car. If the car is not good enough, you are not going to win. That has always been the case and is just the nature of the sport, but therefore it is very important for a driver that you get out of the car and you know that you have given one hundred percent, reached your absolute maximum for your car, for yourself, what you have done in the car. Then you can be satisfied and happy because everything else you don't have full power and control of.

Q: And as a last question, would you say that overall at the moment you are satisfied and happy with your season? Or do you think that you could have got more out of it?

A: I think there were occasions where we could have got more out of it. I think if you ask any driver in the paddock, everybody will say the same thing. But obviously it was very positive run, ten races in a row where I scored points; it had a bit of a cut in Budapest and the races since. They have been very good races but sometimes it didn't really come out, some events go so flawlessly, but on top on that we have had some bad luck as well here and there.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Nico Hulkenberg
Teams Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Force India , Williams
Article type Interview