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News - General
Catching up with The Hulk
14 Jan 2014
With the Christmas holidays an already fading memory and work proceeding in earnest on the new car, we caught up with Nico Hülkenberg for a pre-season chat. The car launch is just a matter of weeks away, and our driver is ticking all the boxes in his preparations for what promises to be an incredibly intriguing 2014 season.
“The Christmas period is always very normal, even for a Formula One driver,” says Nico, who was announced as Sahara Force India driver on December 3rd. “I went to visit my parents, spent a good couple of days there with them. It was a welcome chance to charge the batteries, put the feet up and relax a little bit.”
As he returns to the team where he competed in 2012, Nico will be spared many of the teething issues that come with adapting to a completely new system: knowing how we work at Sahara Force India will certainly be an advantage, allowing the returnee driver to hit the ground running when testing resumes.
Changes, however, are afoot elsewhere: Nico’s long-time physio, Florian Eschrich – who worked with the driver over the last few season, including his previous time at Sahara Force India - is retiring from Formula One. A new partnership often carries a change in methods, but Nico doesn’t seem to be affected by the new regime.
“My preparation so far in the pre-season wasn’t really different. When you start with someone new in such a position you have to get to know both them and their methods, but the best way to do that is to work together day after day. My new physio is spending a lot of time with me and we are going to do some intensive training preparation so that I am fit and sharp for the start of the season.”
Being in top form by the time the Formula One circus arrives in Melbourne will prove crucial. With the sport undergoing the biggest change in regulations in a decade, the first races will offer opportunities that wouldn’t have presented in previous years. Nico, however, keeps his focus on the longer game.
“It is obviously always nice to start in a strong way, but it’s also very important to keep that strength during the year - the season is quite long, from March to November. A lot can happen in such a long time and last year was a very good example: the form of many teams came and went as the year progressed.
“The target is to start well and try to maintain this kind of performance throughout the year. That’s the challenge – to keep up the development, bring new parts and keep competitive all the time.”
With new engines, new rules and untested systems, uncertainty is the word as we approach the scheduled pre-season tests. It’s not an issue for Nico, who keeps his focus on the job at hand and won’t let himself be distracted by elements he has no control over.
“At the moment, nobody knows how this season and the new cars are going to be. There are a lot of questions which we can’t really answer until we have been on the track, running – not even the first race will be the absolute truth teller. There will be a lot of data we need to look at and analyse, work with it to go forward.
“Never before there has been a situation like this, when with just a couple of weeks before the first test nobody has any idea of where everyone is,” says the young German, who also offers a word of warning. “It’s a pretty unique situation for everyone. It’s a challenge, an opportunity to do something special, but on the other hand it opens up the opportunity to do mistakes, so we will need to do our work well.”
Keeping in line with the theme of changes, 2014 will present Nico with a new team-mate. Following his partnership with Esteban Gutierrez at Sauber, the Hulk will have another Mexican to glance at on the other side of the garage this year – and he is looking forward to sharing the team with Sergio Perez.
“It will be really interesting to work with Checo. We both have four years’ worth of experience in Formula One, so you can say we are at a similar stage in our careers. Of course, we will both try to be in front of each other, but that’s normal when you are in these circumstances. We thrive in a competitive environment and this is what we will have here.”