(Sahara Force India Formula One Team)
Nico Hulkenberg heads into his second successive season with the Sahara Force India Formula One Team after a 2014 season which saw the German achieve his best ever points tally since he made his Formula One debut in 2010 with the Williams team.
Hulkenberg finished the 2014 season in 9th place in the championship on 96 points and is hoping that this season he and the Sahara Force India team will be in a position to challenge for regular podium finishes this season and take advantage of the fact that both McLaren and the Lotus F1 Team have new power unit suppliers, Honda in the case of McLaren and Mercedes joining Lotus.
Nico, the 2015 season is almost upon us. Do you feel refreshed after some time at home?
I’ve certainly recharged my batteries. I spent Christmas with my family and friends, and was able to switch off and relax. The rest of the time has involved the usual preparation and fitness training because the winter is the best opportunity to build a solid foundation before the season starts.
So you’re feeling ready to get back in the car?
Yes, definitely. It’s good to have time away from the track, but by January you begin to feel excited about the new season and the start of testing. The first day with a new car is always a very special moment: you feel like a kid at Christmas and you can’t wait to get your hands on a new toy!
What did you learn from the 2014 season?
I believe 2014 was my best year in Formula One so far. It was the moment when I felt I really arrived and became comfortable with everything that surrounds the job. The main thing I learned is that even if you struggle in qualifying, there is still a good opportunity to have a strong race. It’s more important to have consistent race pace and the right strategy on Sunday. We proved that on several occasions last year.
You know the team extremely well by now. How important is that stability?
It makes a big difference not having to adapt to new surroundings. It means you don’t have that learning period when you have to get to know the people and adapt to the way a team works. So I think it takes the pressure off a little bit and you can focus all your energy on driving and improving the car.
Tell us about the atmosphere in the team?
It’s very positive and that’s certainly a major strength of this team. It’s a special and unique atmosphere, which feels like a big family. Whether I’m at the track or the factory, it’s a great environment and it helps bring out the best in me as a driver. Everybody is pushing to get better every day and year after year. I look forward to being part of that process once again.
The technical rules are relatively stable going into 2015 – is that a good thing for you as a driver?
It makes things easier. There are no surprises and you can begin the season feeling more comfortable because you know what to expect. Of course, there are always small changes – especially on things like the steering wheel – so there will always be new things to learn. I think it’s good to have stability because it’s quite confusing for the fans if you change the rules dramatically every year.
As a driver, what’s the biggest challenge in Formula One these days?
With the current regulations you need to have a bigger capacity to cope with things. There are more options, settings and mappings, which can be changed, and you need to take a bigger overview compared to previous years. Consistency is also really important because the slightest mistake can cost you a lot. The challenge is to keep at that high level across the whole season and it’s not easy.
You’re alongside Sergio Perez once again – how is your working relationship with him?
We get on very well. We’ve known each other for a long time because we raced against each other in Formula BMW in 2005 – I think we both stood on the podium together in our first race. Now we are teammates and it’s always going to be a very competitive relationship, but we’re both professional enough to know that we need to work together to push the team forward.
What can we expect from Nico Hülkenberg in 2015?
I hope for spectacular things! That means scoring many points, great racing and lots of fun. I’m part of a team that is growing and hungry for more. 2014 was our best season yet so we need to aim to go a step further this year and give the teams ahead of us a harder time.
© Ben Johnston 2015