Tag Archives: Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg on the WEC: “Everything has been a première this weekend…”

Nico Hulkenberg says his future is still open after he enjoyed his WEC debut with Porsche in Saturday’s Spa 6 Hours.

The third works LMP1 entry was delayed when starting driver Nick Tandy tangled with a Porsche GT car early on, and had to crawl back to the pits for repairs. Hulkenberg, Tandy and Earl Bamber eventually finished sixth.

“To be honest I’ll do this race and I’ll do Le Mans and then after that I’ll assess how much I like it,” Hulkenberg told this writer. “If there’s a future or not here or in F1… I think my future is completely open, and it’s too early to say at this time of year.”

Hulkenberg was pleased with the way the race went, despite the frustration of having to play catch up.

“I enjoyed it. My time in the car was good. Obviously we lost quite a bit of time in the beginning, which is a shame. But that’s what we’re here for, to get that kind of experience. It was good that we all got our time in the car.

“We didn’t change tyres, we were so far back we were trying to get information for the other cars, so we elected to keep me out on the same tyres to see how that went. It went well, although at the end we were running out of tyres a little bit.

“Obviously Le Mans is more of a power track, but we still have some homework to do in the mean time. You saw we had some issues on some cars, so there’s still work in front of us.”

Hulkenberg said the whole weekend was a learning exercise in preparation for the 24 Hours: “Absolutely. It was obviously my first time getting in touch with this format of racing, everything has been a première this weekend. Considering everything I think it went fine, although obviously not the final result that we hoped for.

“Anyway, it was not about getting the main result here, it was about getting the experience. The traffic wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Better than expected, I really enjoyed the traffic to be honest.”

Nico said it will be easy to get back into the F1 groove in Spain next weekend: “I think I have the F1 feeling inside my body. You take the different software from the drawer in my desk and install that again in my brain!”

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Nico Hulkenberg: “It was pretty annoying and frustrating…”

Nico Hulkenberg finished the 2014 season on a high with a solid sixth place in Abu Dhabi, but the Force India driver was frustrated to have lost 5s with a penalty for forcing Kevin Magnussen off track on the first lap.

Hulkenberg insisted that he was not at fault, and said that without the extra handicap he would have beaten Jenson Button to fifth place. The Briton finished 1.8s ahead.

“Not much we could do there,” he told this writer. “It was reported to the stewards, and once they decide, you can’t appeal it. It was pretty annoying and frustrating to have that, because I’d done nothing wrong, it was just the battle in the heat of the first lap of the race. Kevin was pushing me wide the corner before. We were going side-by-side around Turn 6 or 7, I wasn’t purposely pushing him wide, I was sliding, and that’s what happens.

“That’s racing, and we want to see racing, don’t we? I think we touched very slightly, nothing bad or serious. Otherwise I think it could have been a fifth place, I’m pretty certain. But still a very satisfying and good end to the year.”

Regarding Force India’s improvement in form from qualifying to the race he said: “That was quite unexpected and a surprise, to be honest. Obviously it’s good that the car is at its best in the race, but this performance is really a bit out of the blue. Since Friday we changed the set-up quite a bit, but we don’t do long runs from that point onwards.

“I was confident in the car, there was good harmony between me and the car, and it was going quite well. It’s been a trend always this year that in qualy we don’t seem as strong as in the race. On the aero side we still have a lot of work in front of us, we need to get better there.”

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Hulkenberg turned down Lotus due to “bigger picture”

Nico Hulkenberg says he chose not to leave Sauber to drive for Lotus in the final two races because it would have been too much of a risk.

“Of course it is attractive and sounds attractive from the outside,” he said. “On the other hand it was for the last two races, which brings also some risk with it. And also after that you have to see the bigger picture which is beyond after two races, what can happen there. And that’s why we came up with this decision.

“I just went there to see Eric and to speak face-to-face about these two races as well, because obviously the future and next year is important as well, and that’s why we went to see each other and speak face-to-face.”

Regarding the risks, he said: “Stepping into a new car, which you don’t know. If I had stepped in there I don’t think people would have expected me to beat Romain right away, he seems to be fairly comfortable in the car now and in the team, he’s delivering very good results now.”

Asked by this writer if his choice would have been different had there been a 100% guarantee of a 2014 Lotus drive: “I think had that been the case that would have been a big change in the plan, for sure.”

As to whether moving at this stage would have ended his chance of driving for Sauber in 2013 he said: “Exactly…”

Hulkenberg admitted to some frustration about now knowing where his future lies.

“It is a bit tricky, and a patience game, a bit of a mind game, to be delivering and not knowing abouut the future, it’s a bit tricky. Of course I’d like to know weeks or months ago what I’m doing. The answer is it is at is, so I have to live with it and cope with it. It’s not me, half of the field is not knowing what they are doing. From that point of view on a race weekend you have to black that out, keep delivering, that’s all I can do on the circuit.

“I’m aware that we have to keep out eyes and ears open, we can’t let it slip through our hands. I think there are options and opportunities for me to be somewhere.”

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Mallya in no hurry to decide 2014 Force India line-up

Dr Vijay Mallya insists that he’s in no hurry to confirm Force India’s driver line-up for 2014.

Along with Lotus the team is among the most attractive with seats potentially available, and the likes of Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg have been linked with a drive.

“People have come to me, but I’m notorious for making the decision at the very last minute.” Mallya told this writer. “The reason is because I think that if one was to announce a change now – if I intend to make a change – I tend to believe it will demotivate a driver who’s leaving, which I don’t think is very fair. Be that as it may, I have been approached, and I’ll consider all our options.

“There are people who believe that we have an excellent driver line-up today. Both are very talented youngsters. We’ve always tried to have a solid driver line-up, and we’ll continue that going forward.”

Asked if he was interested in Massa – who potentially has some backing – Mallya said that money was not the key issue.

“The decision will be made on the driver’s competence and potential contribution to the team. None of our race seats has ever been for sale, and I’m totally against that concept, because I will not compromise the hard work of the design team and the engineers by putting in a driver whose sole criteria is whether he brings in money or not.

“I have to admit that Massa is not just a Grand Prix winner but a damn good driver. I think even this season he’s outqualified Alonso a few times, so there’s no question about his competence. But we’ll see as it goes along.”

He also didn’t rule out bringing back Hulkenberg, even if it meant having two German drivers should Adrian Sutil stay.

“Why not? For me if nationality were to ever matter all other things being equal it would probably tilt the scales in favour of an Indian, but there are no Indians around. Beyond that, as long as there is no Indian on the horizon, I don’t care.

“To me the focus is on a driver who’s talented, can get the most out of the car, can give proper feedback, can help the engineers develop the car, and make us as a team more competitive.”

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