As a newly appointed race driver for the Williams Formula One team, Nico Hulkenberg will race alongside seasoned veteran Rubens Barrichello in one of the most prized teams in Grand Prix racing. The 2009 GP2 champion has already been with the team for two years as a test driver, so he alraedy knows the team very well as he prepares to race for them on Sunday afternoons.
How are you feeling about your new appointment?
I’m pretty excited to be racing for Williams. They’re real racers. I’ve been with the team as a test driver for two years now so I know everyone well. I’ve also been working in the factory itself this year with stints in composites, the wind tunnel and sub-assembly. I like the people and the atmosphere within the factory is really good. I’m now in a race seat and I’m really looking forward to next year.
What are your objectives for next season?
I just want to deliver consistently and do a good job for the team. I’d like to have some good races and score point.
What expectations are there from the team?
Of course they are expecting something otherwise they wouldn’t have put me in the car, but I think their expectations are realistic.
What steps will you take to ensure you hit the ground running in Formula One?
I can’t ensure anything; all I can do is work hard over the winter. I’ll take all of the tests that I get and I will use the simulator at Grove as much as I can. I’ll prepare well with my engineers and then hit the track and go racing and see where we are in Bahrain.
When will you get your first run in the car?
I will test the 2010 FW32 when testing starts in February, but I will be doing two of the young driver tests in December at Jerez.
Rubens Barrichello will be your team mate for 2010, your thoughts?
It’s completely positive from my perspective. As a rookie in Formula One, you couldn’t ask for a better person to be your team mate. It’s a good combination.
Do you think you can get the measure of Rubens next year?
It’s difficult to judge at this stage. As there is a limited amount of testing before the season starts, it will be difficult to get much track time in to prepare, but I hope to be on his pace from the beginning. From there, I hope I will be able to match his speed and results and maybe even beat him at some point.
Is he the kind of team mate you would prefer?
I don’t really mind. I just want the best team mate I can get. Someone who is quick, experienced and a good driver, and that’s what I see in him.
Will you go to him for advice?
I would be stupid not to! I think I can learn a lot from him and his experience, particularly by seeing how he works over a race weekend.
It’s been five years since Williams’ last victory in Formula One. From what you know so far of the new car, do you think the team can turn their fortunes around?
I certainly hope so. I’m in the factory a lot so I see how hard the guys work, but you never really know how quickly and effectively the other teams’ development programmes are going until you get to the track. It’s only then that we will be able to tell.
What are your thoughts on the team running a Cosworth engine?
I think it’s looking positive, but it’s the same as the development of the car; you have to wait to judge until you get out onto the circuit with the others.
How do you feel you’ve grown as a driver following your year in GP2?
I think GP2 is a tough series. In your first year, you have to compete against drivers who might have been in the championship for two or three seasons. They already have the experience of pitstops and the circuits. That is difficult to compete against and we definitely found the opening races hard work. After a few races, though, we quickly settled into a good rhythm and started to work well together as a team which helped. That was all a good learning process for me.
Do you think there is more pressure on you because Willi Weber is your manager because he managed Michael Schumacher in Formula One?
No, not at all. There’s no pressure from Willi. I have a great relationship with him and he’s always supported me, both on and off the track. We work very well together and I hope it stays that way.
How do you feel about racing against the generation of young German drivers?
Six Germans is a lot, but there are quite a few Brazilians now as well. For me, though, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where someone is from when I’m racing against them.
Does the success of Brawn as an independent team give you hope that Williams will be able
to take on the might of McLaren and Ferrari?
The hope is always there. Independent of what Brawn does, however, I know that Williams can be successful.