Q&A with the "other" Nico
Williams have undergone some massive changes over the winter break. Not only will the British team race with Cosworth engines this year, but they have two new drivers for 2010. In Rubens Barrichello Frank Williams has chosen experience, while by signing youngster Nico Hulkenberg he is clearly looking to the future. Ahead of his first test in the FW32 on Wednesday, Hulkenberg reveals his hopes for the season…
Q: Nico, it was always assumed that you would race with Williams in 2010. But after two manufacturers pulled out of the sport and several experienced drivers came on the market, was it really so easy to get the contract signed?
Nico Hulkenberg: Well, I don’t know how sure it really was. You need to ask Frank (Williams). As far as I was concerned I did my job in GP2 as well as I could and tried to make the decision for Frank and the other people who decide as easy as possible. We never really talked about that, not with Frank or anybody else in the team. Sure I knew that suddenly there were a number of good drivers on the market, but nobody in the team ever gave me an indication that they were looking around. All I could do to make my switch to F1 possible was to do a good job in GP2 - and I did that. Look at Lewis Hamilton. He came into F1 and almost won the championship in his first year, so why favor experience over speed?
Q: What does it mean to you to have landed a Formula One drive, especially with such an established team as Williams?
NH: It is great. I have been working with Williams for two years now, even though last year there wasn’t a lot of testing due to the new regulations. I am really happy to be with this team. In fact it was my ultimate goal to get a race seat with them this season. It feels almost like a family. I feel comfortable here, I know all the people and get along well with everybody - at the track and back home at the factory.
Q: You are managed by Willi Weber and until the end of December it looked as if you would be his only Formula One runner this year. Now Michael Schumacher is back, does it change anything?
NH: Michael being back doesn’t change anything as Willi has enough resources to do all the necessary stuff related to me as well. I don’t see there will be any issue at all with this. Michael being back is great for the sport, but it doesn’t change anything for me. I won’t be looking at Michael over my shoulder to see how he does it. He and I are totally separated things.
Q: Your team mate Rubens Barrichello is the longest serving driver in Formula One racing. What do you expect your relationship will be like?
NH: I expect him to be a good team mate. Quick and competitive! For me he is not only experienced but he is still quick, as he has demonstrated last season. I am quite happy to have him in the team because with so many new rules it is good to have somebody with his knowledge and not another young driver. But what I don’t do is see him as a kind of tutor. He is my team mate and I want to beat him. But for sure I will take all the advantages I can take from him - or learn from him. But the bottom line is that I want to beat him.
Q: How well do you know him already?
NH: Not very well. But from what I have seen so far he is a nice guy.
Q: With the onset of testing restrictions it is hard for young drivers to get enough mileage in a Formula One car. Do you feel prepared for the switch from GP2 to Formula One racing?
NH: I definitely feel fit and ready for the switch. I have been driving for Williams for the last two years, even though I didn’t get to do a lot of driving last year. Yeah, I am ready for it.
Q: Are you satisfied by how this test is developing? Has Rubens given you any feedback on the car?
NH: No, not so far. But it is still early in the testing season. Of course we will share our experiences once each of us has done more mileage. I’ve got information from the engineers but that is all hearsay and I am waiting to get in the car myself. What is very positive is that the Cosworth engine seems to deliver and is looking very promising. But let’s wait and see until we’ve done some more significant mileage.
Q: A long season of 19 races lies ahead of you. How have you prepared for it? What have you been doing over the past few months?
NH: I have been in the factory a lot, seeing the engineers and speaking with the guys who build the car. I’ve completed a very intense training program in Malaysia in a training camp with my trainer.
Q: You must be gifted and ambitious otherwise Willi Weber would not manage you. So you must have goals this season. What are they?
NH: Obviously I want to establish myself in Formula One and stay in Formula One for a very long time. At some point I want to be world champion, but for this year it is difficult to make a statement of my goals. I want to do well and score a lot of points - and podiums and wins if possible, but to be honest it’s a bit too early to set up real goals. (F1)