- 5 minutes with ... Nico Hulkenberg
'Everybody wants to have security'
GP Week's Abhishek Takle spoke to Nico Hulkenberg about his prospects of a 2014 race seat with Lotus, and any other options on the table
Let's talk about your season. You joined Sauber hoping for podiums, I'm assuming. But that wasn't quite the case, initially struggling for points and there's been an upturn in form recently again with the car. How would you describe your season?
I have to clarify that a bit. I wasn't signing up here thinking we were just going to be on the podium. That would be very naïve and unrealistic, but I was signing here in the hope and in the faith of having a strong performance and last year's performance and car was definitely strong and had a lot of strong results and performance in it and I was hoping for that again this year. We know then from 2012 to 2013 few things have changed, the regulations were pretty stable but tyres, etc., etc. and unfortunately we found ourselves not as strong as we would have liked to be in the beginning of the season - pretty much half-way through the season, we were struggling. Only seven points in eight or nine races, or whatever it was. A pretty tough start to the year. Not tough, more disappointing is probably the right word. But the team never gave up, they kept working hard, they kept ticking away, and I think there's a combination of factors coming together why we're moving up now so much.
Right, so would that be the tyres, would that be that the upgrades have started coming now with the financial situation a bit clearer?
I think everything together. I think the tyres have done their bit as well and helped it. Then we introduced a major upgrade in Budapest. For me personally, I see the positive trend starting to come up since Nurburgring and that was the race before Budapest. Then Budapest we got the big upgrade together with the new tyres so it's difficult to tell which one is doing what. But for sure we measure more downforce with the upgrade package we brought. So that has helped a lot. And then I think our general understanding of how to set up the car which is you know basic, simple set up things which we have in the car, set up tools, we have learned how to get around some of the weaknesses from the car and you know, masking them, and that has helped significantly as well.
Going to get this next one out of the way; I'm sure you're tired of answering it as well. What's the update on your negotiations with Lotus, because you had said you wanted a clarification by the end of this month?
I said I would like to. [Laughs] That is the ideal scenario.
Like to, yes. That's why I avoided using the word deadline…
That is what I hope for. See everybody wants to have security rather sooner than later, but sometimes, things take a bit longer and don't happen overnight and you've got to be patient. That's the game in Formula One. There is still no news, still no decision in terms of my future. Still having contacts and negotiations with a couple of teams so we're still in the process of sorting it out and hoping to select the right one.
And have Lotus said they might be able to get back to you by the end of the month?
We're talking, obviously, and there's always updates and situations but I can't really talk about it in too much detail.
Eric Boullier was saying that he wouldn't want to commit to a driver unless he got his investment sorted out with Quantum/Infinity, that consortium. So is that one of the major sticking points in the negotiations? Obviously you want the financial surety because this year there were some financial issues at Sauber as well.
Yes, you do want it. Of course that's an important point nowadays in Formula One, just for a team to be able to keep the development up, to keep going, to keep being competitive. It is an expensive sport to run if you've noticed; it's no secret. I think for the team, for themselves, for Lotus, I think it is important to find that deal and finalise it and have the security and stability.
Because you found yourself in a similar situation at Sauber where I think around Silverstone the team said they owed you some salary which hadn't been cleared at that point. And then you're reading all these stories about Kimi also not being paid. So does that worry you while talking to Lotus in any way?
No, I think Kimi has a very different salary to mine. [Laughs] That is the first point, it is a lot larger. You know, I think, it will be a different case. Things change and I'm not super worried about that. I think you have three or four big teams which are financially quite stable. Everybody else is struggling a little bit in terms of finance so it's difficult.
Every Sunday you turn up, you put in the performance that is expected of you, you're impressing on the track, doing the job on the track, but for some reason or the other the call from the bigger teams doesn't seem to come. Is it annoying that some drivers are bringing money with them and that plays a role? Because you're doing the job on the track…
Yeah, yeah, I do. But on the other hand it's only my third year. I'm still relatively fresh and young in Formula One. And it's very rarely that someone - only Lewis comes into my mind - comes into Formula One and is right away in a top team and in a competitive car. Most of the drivers have to earn their way through and really fight for a top drive and maybe it's not the time yet but I think my performances show that I would be ready to deliver good things.
You have Dekra backing but it's not as…
No, Dekra is just my personal sponsorship, there is no backing, no money to the team.
But would you consider going down that route where you start looking for money because you wouldn't be a pay driver in the traditional sense…
No? You wouldn't be a pay driver in the traditional sense right; you've already proven you can do the job…
Yeah, but it's not my mentality. For me the minute where teams expect me to bring money to do what I'm best at and what I'm good at, for me that's wrong and I don't want to do that. That's not the right way.
And your options outside of Lotus and Sauber? What are the teams you're in talks with? Force India is one name that has been mentioned.
Well only what I can say is there is a couple. I don't really want to go into too much detail and into names.