This is the first time you’ve come to the Nürburgring as a Formula One driver. Is it a good feeling? "Yes, I have a lot of good memories of the Nürburgring. I’ve already done a lap on the Nordschleife behind the wheel of a kart and I’ve done a lot of races here in Formula BMW, F3 and the Renault World Series."
Which was your first race here? "It was in 2003 in the Formula BMW."
And your most successful? "Wins in the Formula BMW when it was a Formula One support race, wins in the Formula 3 Euroseries, wins in the 3.5 World Series by Renault."
Does a home race still mean an advantage nowadays? "Yes, I’d say it’s like a soccer match when you play on your home ground. You always give 100%, but in a home race you’re even more motivated, because at home you feel comfortable. Not far from the Nürburgring, in Kerpen, I got a lot of kart experience which is why I have many friends in this region."
Are drivers influenced by the spectators during a race? "During the 90 minutes of the race I do not think about which country I’m in, because I am concentrated on racing. But before and after, this is special because being at home is the best place to stay."
Are you aware of the fans’ enthusiasm and the atmosphere around the track? "Of course. I like it that there are so many fans of motorsport and that these people are cheering and support you with horns, flags and stuff like this. That influences your mood in a positive way. There is nothing better than the in-lap in front of your home crowd after winning a race."
Winning your home grand prix is something special. Do you occasionally let yourself dream of doing so? "Yes, but generally by day… I am always happy when I have won a race. But listening to the German anthem in Germany when you are a German then it is definitely something very special."
Which sector of the circuit do you like most? "The section from the Ford-Corner to the long 180˚ right-hander in the valley. And beside the Warsteiner Corner including the left-hander before."
And which corners are the most tricky? "I think the Ford Corner and Warsteiner Corner including the left-hander before are the most delicate ones."
Where are the best chances to overtake? "The NGK-Chicane - a demanding left-right high-speed corner - just invites you to outbrake somebody, because following the fast Hatzenbachbogen corner, you slow down to about 100kph."
Will the car be upgraded for this round? "The guys in the factory are working hard, so we have new parts at every race…"
You push to improve, you’re racing, and you’re on duty because of sponsors - how many hours a week are you actually working? "I’m not a civil servant, I don‘t have to record my working hours and I don‘t have to use a time clock. Beside that - I enjoy the work and that‘s why I do not have to concern myself with clocking on and off."
Do you ever wish you did do a 9-5 job? "No - for sure I am not. I am one of the happy people who managed to turn their hobby into their profession."
Do you divide the workload of Friday testing and general development with your team-mate? "New parts which need to be tested are divided between me and Mark. For example, one tests the front wing and the other the suspension. Additional we share the data about tires. Mark‘s driving style is similar to mine, which makes it all easier for the team, because there is just one direction of development."
Which is easier: to improve as a driver or to develop a Formula One car? "It’s a combination of both. The driver improves and, if necessary, he adapts his driving style to the car or the tires. It is the same with the car, which is modified to make it faster and to meet the driver‘s style."
Formula One drivers always try to push their limits. How much of your potential do you feel you have used so far? Is this enough to win the 2009 German Grand Prix? "A Formula One driver never goes beyond the limit. At best he will exactly reach the limit. You can say that you will win a certain race only if you are sure you have the right equipment, which means the right car. Between the lines that means: wait and see!"
People often talk about the myths of the Nürburgring. Are the circuit, the region and the Nordschleife special from your point of view? "The Nordschleife is a beautiful track - one of the best of all. It goes up and down, there are many fast corners… it’s just fun to drive there. For sure the Eifel Mountains are something special, because the weather can change at any time - for good reason the Nordschleife is responsible for the myths. The new Nürburgring is one of the better modern tracks. Even the schnitzel in the local pubs is legendary…"
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