Hülkenberg: “I’m hot”
Nico Hülkenberg is still considered a candidate for the cockpit of Alex Albon at Red Bull. He talks about it in the interview
Mr. Hülkenberg, have you already realized that you spontaneously drove three Formula 1 races this year?
Nico Hülkenberg: Yes, yes. It was a while ago since all of the events. My missions have always been very short and very concentrated. But very exciting. I like such crazy challenges! In retrospect, it’s easy to say how great it was anyway. Because everything went well. But I’m grateful that I got the stage again, otherwise my name would certainly be less present now.
You are now known as the Formula 1 firefighter. Is that a confirmation for you too?
The firefighter story is a by-product of the stories. Of course I also notice that. But I’m rather proud of the achievements and what I was able to implement.
© Racing Point
How does a qualifying feel without preparation?
(laughs) Ungrateful at first. It was clear to me from the start that it would be almost impossible to get past last place. Because the circumstances were just too extreme: completely out of the cold pants! Luckily I still had Sunday. (laughs) But in the end I had nothing to lose either. So: sit in and do it! These are opportunities in life that you just have to take advantage of.
I wasn’t really aware of that before. However, that of course also reflects Sebastian’s difficult year in numbers.
No. You couldn’t expect that. So I’m all the more grateful that it went like this to here.
What would it mean to you if you managed to get a place in a top team after all? You were close to it several times.
Once I was realistically close (at Ferrari; d. Red.) And of course that would be a great story. To get another opportunity like this in the autumn of my career, I’m extremely hot. And in general I also feel how much I miss the competition.
Why do you actually need a home loan and savings contract? You mentioned it on the Red Bull broadcaster Servus TV when you were asked about a new contract.
It is always good to make provisions (laughs). You never know what’s coming. My year showed that.
Nico Hülkenberg with Max Verstappen
© Racing Point
This is this Dutchman who does a lot for you at Red Bull. And one of the greatest natural talents of all time.
Right. I’ve heard of him (laughs). I get along very well with him … Seriously: Max feels like a lot more than a super talent, a real house number. But at the moment I am not concerned with such thoughts. That’s too much subjunctive for me.
Who has been your strongest teammate so far?
It’s hard to compare. In the first year Rubens Barrichello was of course also a good thing for me. I was new, he was extremely experienced. At the same time, I have to highlight Checo (Perez; d. Ed.), Who was and is an excellent driver. Then at Renault, of course, Daniel too.
Why did it never work out with Red Bull in the past? You weren’t exactly slow when you were a junior either …
Our paths have crossed again and again, but have tended to run parallel over the years. I competed against a few Red Bull Juniors in the youth series. Later also in Formula 1.
Why should Red Bull take you now? Here you can verbally submit your application …
(laughs) In Formula 1, it doesn’t work that way with an interview and a résumé. People know the results and know how to assess the drivers well.
It’s an amazing achievement that Lewis has been delivering since 2014. In combination with Mercedes, he just built up such power. There are of course also reasons for this, because Mercedes simply does an extremely good job – better than anyone else. And Lewis is an absolute killer on the track who just keeps doing it – even under the most difficult conditions such as in Istanbul. Lewis knows how to get right to the point. You have to give him credit for that, that makes him a champion.
You come from the generation of Michael Schumacher fans and have seen his record hunt as a child and adolescent. Would you ever have dreamed that there was someone better? Barely. Michael’s performance was overwhelming and great. It was always unthinkable that someone would come again to top it.
Sebastian Vettel actually wanted to be the one. But now he has had a very difficult season with Ferrari. You only showed this year with your unprepared spontaneous missions that you don’t forget how to drive so quickly.
Seb also showed in Turkey that he has not forgotten how to drive. Obviously a lot of things went wrong with the team and the driver this year that affected their performance.
Now Vettel is practically getting the car you drove in three races this year. What can he expect there?
First of all, of course, a completely different team awaits him compared to Ferrari. An English team with a long history that was never a top team, but with limited resources often – even when I was there – beat themselves above their weight class. And who now want to make a difference with a financially strong, serious new owner. I am sure that Sebastian will do his part for the success.
Can he expect a car there whose rear is more stable than that of his Ferrari?
Of course, like any driver, he will need some time to get used to when he changes his racing team. He has to groove himself in, in the car and in the team. But he will master that too. In the end, every car reacts critically at the limit – and it is our task as the driver to find the absolute limit area and deal with it.
That would be nice. But who’s in the other cars is of secondary importance. With Sebastian, Alonso, Max and Hamilton there are enough top-class drivers that I would like to compete against. Mick does his job well. He gets a lot of attention from a young age and it’s not always easy to deal with. But he did well in the youth series.
Now we’ve talked a lot about the Formula 1 opportunity with you. What if it doesn’t work.
Then I keep looking. I have various inquiries from other racing series, but nothing specific. If it doesn’t work, I’ll probably have to look around for alternatives.