Nico Hulkenberg was one of the stars of the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend after securing a sensational pole position with the Williams. The German driver spoke about his weekend and about how it affects his future in F1.
Q. What is your overall verdict on the Sao Paulo weekend?
Nico Hulkenberg: Positive. Yes, a positive weekend. Qualifying was a big highlight for the team and myself while in the race we made the most of our opportunities. The race pace looked very poor, especially in the first stint I was struggling a lot with the Option tire, so I made the most of it and took the points, which has put us one point ahead of Force India and that is the positive news.
Q. What were your nerves like before the start of the race?
NH: I was obviously a bit more nervous than normally, but if you are nervous then it is also good as it keeps you awake and sharp. I am used to starting from the front from GP2 or F3, but this one was a bit more special, a bit different.
My start was OK, but I had too much wheelspin. I lost just one position to Sebastian who made a very good start, and then it was a case of trying to keep in front of the big boys as much as I could. I defended fairly and then drove the race without a mistake, with Robert Kubica behind me all the time, and I am happy with P8.
Q. How hard was it on those first laps knowing that the guys behind you were fighting for the championship?
NH: It wasn't very difficult. I knew where to brake and what to do, but my car was sliding a bit more than theirs'. I was a sort of an easy target for Mark, but Alonso was quite quickly past me while Lewis struggled a bit more. He did not even get past before I pitted.
Q. Did you enjoy the battles in the early part of the race, or was it stressful?
NH: No, I enjoyed it actually – fighting with the big guns. I think I defended hard but fair, and no one complained. Lewis came to me and said, 'well driven and good job' and it was good entertainment for the spectators and television viewers.
Q. Is there something about the car that makes it work very well on a green track but not so well as the track rubbers in?
NH: I think on Saturday, the circumstances with the way we have the car set-up and with my driving style, which is quite aggressive and sometimes too hard on tires, also fitted that situation very well. I got a lot of heat in the tires and it just got better every lap. That is why I kept banging the times in and the car felt great at that time, compared to all the others. And that was the key result from Saturday.
Q. How were the tires in the race?
NH: More difficult. I struggled a lot with bottoming and vibration in the car, especially when the tires were worn down. I suffered a lot of understeer and oversteer, so I was not very happy with the balance. If we had a better car pace we would easily have finished fifth or sixth as we only got overtaken on the pit stops. Both Mercedes GP cars and Jenson [Button], even people who came from P14 were ahead of us, which were quite unfortunate. With half a second better pace per lap we could achieve a lot more.
Q. What has your performance this weekend done for your chances for the future?
NH: I don't know yet. You have to ask Patrick or Frank. I can't tell you what they think right now. I think I have done everything right this weekend, and made the most out of my chances. It was a solid performance in the race, a good one in qualifying and we will see where we end up.
Q. One weekend does not make a whole season, but will you feel a sense of injustice if you are not retained?
NH: Obviously, talent should come ahead of money in Formula 1. But with the economy having some trouble it has become a valid point and may change some things, but I still hope that things go the right way, how they should go. I think Rubens and I are the perfect driver combination and I really hope we can drive together again.
Q. So what do you rate your chances of staying then?
NH: I've no clue. I am neutral. I am right on zero right now.
Q. Do you feel like a different driver after this weekend?
NH: No, not really. It was a very good effort, a good team effort, but I am still the same guy. It is my first season and there is a lot to be learned. That is my learning curve and I am making good progress. It is natural and it has to be that way.
Q. How do you explain to people who do not know much about F1 that a driver like you might not be retained?
NH: How can I explain it? I don't know! It's if teams have financial problems, that is why.
Q. Would you say this has been the best grand prix of your season?
NH: I had a very good race in Monza. I had a strong weekend there, and a good race in Singapore. In the second half of the season there are more races to point out where I have done a good race, but clearly this weekend was one of the strongest.