Getting to Formula 1 means more than just driving the fastest single-seater in the world. That’s what new kid on the block Nico Hulkenberg of AT&T Williams discovered in his rookie F1 season last year. Always a winner, the 23-year-old German is the reigning champion of the GP2 Series, and former champion of the Formula Three Euroseries, A1 Grand Prix and Formula BMW-ADAC. He is only one of three F1 drivers to win GP2 in his maiden season, the other two being 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes GP.
Ask Nico Hulkenberg what the toughest part of being a Formula One driver is and he will tell you that it has little to do with what happens on the track. Instead, he will point to commercial commitments as the one thing that sets F1 apart from GP2. ’There is a lot of media work (in F1),’ he stressed. ‘Even if you’ve had a bad day and just want to be left alone, you still have to do all sorts of interviews.’
Unfortunately, his contract with the team was not renewed for this year and he found himself without a drive for the 2011 F1 season!
Q: If you were not an F1 driver, what do you think you’ll be?
A: No idea because since I started racing when I was seven, I’ve always wanted to be an F1 driver and it has worked out well so far. So I’m not sure what I will do if I weren’t racing now.
Q: How has your rookie season in F1 been?
A: It has been difficult, with downs and ups. The season didn’t start too strong, especially for me as a rookie; I didn’t get it all right with very little pre-season testing. But the team has done a good job developing the car and we are now in a good position to score points at every race.
Q: How different or similar is F1 compared to the rest of the formula series?
A: The racing is not so different – from Formula BMW to Formula 3 to GP2 – Formula 1 is just the quickest car. But the media attention is massive and there are a lot more commercial aspects compared to GP2 or Formula 3. I like Formula 1 and I like driving, but sometimes I don’t like the media work but I have to do it.
Q: How is the pressure like being a new driver on the F1 grid?
A: Pressure has always been there, since I started go-karting when I was seven. You then grow up with pressure and learn how to deal with it.
Q: Which was the most challenging track of this season so far?
A: Monaco is always very challenging, very narrow for the Formula 1 cars on the streets.
Q: How do you find Singapore?
A: This is my first time in Singapore; I’ve only been here one day (at time of article) and have not seen much of it. But from what I have seen, the country is clean, there are many big and nice buildings, and also many parks and greenery. I especially like street circuits a lot, plus it’s special because it’s a night race.
Q: What sports or activities do you engage in outside of F1?
A: Tennis, I’m a big fan. I also do bungee jumping, skydiving and crocodile hunting.
Q: Three words to describe yourself.
A: Competitive, funny, ambitious.
Q: Toughest thing about being in F1?
A: To keep performing at every race and getting the most out of the car.
Q: Inspirational quote for aspiring racing drivers?
A: Write this down – “Pedal to the metal, FLOOR IT!” Always be self-critical, try to improve yourself constantly and work very hard. It’s not all fun and just driving, there’s a lot of work to do.
Q: Do you prefer girls with long hair or short hair?
A: Long hair. Why? Because it’s my taste!
Q: Craziest thing you’ve done?
A: I’ve done many crazy things but I’m not sure if I should tell them to you.
Q: One person – dead or alive – you would like to meet?
A: Roger Federer.
Q: iPhone or Blackberry?
A: Blackberry. Yes, I use one.
Q: Slippers or sandals?
A: Sandals as in the one Jesus wears? Slippers then.
Q: Berms or jeans?
A: Bermudas are shorts, no? Well in the winter when it’s cold I’ll wear jeans and in the summer when it’s hot I will wear berms.
Q: Tattoo or piercing?
A: None of the two, but if I really have to choose, then tattoo. WHY? Because it’s none of your business that’s why!
Q: What cars do you drive back home?
A: I drive a blue Volkswagen Scirocco R, manual gearbox.
Q: Favourite foods?
A: Italian food like pizza, sushi and Mum’s pancakes. Aawww.
Q: Lastly, generic advice on life for our readers?
A: Believe in yourself, keep working hard to achieve your goals and never give up.
Team: AT&T Williams
Debut: 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix
Date of Birth: 19 August 1987
Place of Birth: Emmerich an Rhein, Germany
Marital Status: Single
Languages: English, Dutch, German