Hülkenberg: "We often have chance to let our hair down"

In a DEKRA Special ahead of the German Grand Prix, Nico Hülkenberg talks exclusively about how he feels the Formula One season has gone so far. The German also gives an insight into his private life.

Formula 1 driver Nico Hülkenberg, who is sponsored by DEKRA, has finished in the points at all nine of this season’s races so far. In an interview with DEKRA, "Hülk" not only discusses his sporting highs of the current season, but also gives an insight into his private life, answering questions regarding his girlfriend Laura and birthplace Emmerich. The German driver also explains the origin of his scary nickname and reveals what he gets up to on a day off.

How do you feel the season has gone so far?
I think we have had a good season so far. Finishing in the points nine times in nine races is no mean feat. It is certainly an achievement we can be proud of. It goes without saying that expectations also grow when things are going so well. However, we have coped with that so far. It is now a development race between the teams to see who can progress the fastest with their car. We are right in the heart of the battle and are obviously trying to keep up and continue has we have done in the last nine races. The German Grand Prix is now the next important step for us.

What has been your personal highlight of this season so far?
My personal highlight was definitely Monaco. Finishing fifth there was really cool – as was the way it happened. It was remarkable to be able to hold off the two McLarens, including former World Champion Jenson Button, despite the fact my tyres were falling away badly. That was a really good performance. Generally speaking Monaco is a great circuit, and it is always particularly pleasing to get a good result there.

You switched team at the end of the 2013 season, returning from Sauber to Force India, for whom you drove until the end of 2012. Do you still feel that the change was the right decision?
I think so. When you look at the performances of the two teams I definitely made the right decision. Also, I have to say that I feel right at home with Force India. The whole team has a super moral and we are all really motivated. As such, we are obviously really looking forward to the remaining races.

DEKRA has been a loyal companion since the start of your career. How would you describe the partnership?
The partnership is almost one of a kind. We are now in our tenth year together, and DEKRA started supporting me very early on. I also received this support in times when I did not have a seat in Formula 1 and was only a reserved river. Over the years we have developed a close and trusting relationship, and I hope to spend many more good years with DEKRA.

Formula 1 is increasingly about the money, which in turn increases the pressure on you drivers. Does it ever cross your mind that a good result is not only about scoring points in the championship, but also justifying your place in Formula 1?
Formula 1 is obviously very performance-oriented. You always have to perform, otherwise people are quick to ask questions and criticise. As a driver, you are completely transparent for your team: everything is recorded, everything can be reproduced and analysed. But that is just part of motorsport these days. I grew up with that, and you just have to deal with it.

As a Formula 1 driver, you are often invited to parties and major events. Do you sometimes envy people who can really let their hair down at those kind of events?
We often have chance to let our hair down. Obviously not on the Friday or Saturday of a race weekend, but the opportunity is there. It is not as though you miss out as a Formula 1 driver.

If you watch drivers like Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Adrian Sutil, you often see their girlfriends at the circuit. How do you manage to keep your girlfriend away from the glare of the public?
What do you mean keep her away? It is my job to race on weekends, and that obviously requires a certain calm and concentration. My girlfriend comes to a few races each year. She is also in the middle of her professional life, so it is not always possible for her to be there.

Your parents own a shipping company in Emmerich, where you also learned to work as a forwarding merchant. How often do you return home each year, and do you still work with your parents?
You can probably count the number of times I go to Emmerich each year on one hand. However, I obviously try to get back for big occasions like Christmas and birthdays. My life definitely no longer centres around Emmerich.

After the race in Hungary on 27th August, Formula 1 takes a break for almost a month. How do you spend this free time? Can you describe a totally normal “lazy day” in the life of Nico Hülkenberg.
For me, a totally normal “lazy” day means sleeping in, then a big breakfast before checking the news and surfing the Internet. After that I’ll go for a run for an hour, and later maybe watch a film on the couch or meet up with friends in town to go for a bite to eat or to the cinema – just normal things really.

The media often call you "Hülk", as in the comic character "Hulk". Nicknames are relatively common place in sport. Does that annoy you, or do you like this nickname?
A South African newspaper once referred to me as “The Incredible Hulk” when I was racing in the A1GP series. This has then become "Hülk" in German and "Hulk" in English. The name doesn’t bother me. I actually rather like it.

As a Formula 1 driver you get around a bit, and have seen a lot of different places all over the world. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
That is tricky. We travel to a lot of cool countries. However, I have obviously not explored the whole world. Of all the places I have been to so far, Sydney is my favourite. I like the city and the surrounding area. I always feel at home there and like to spend a few days there ahead of the season-opener in Melbourne.

Before the start of the season you opted for the number 27, which is strongly associated with the legendary Gilles Villeneuve. Why did you go for this particular number?
I was initially able to specify three preferred start numbers. Number 27 was one of them, and that is what I was then assigned. The number 27 comes from adding the numbers in my date of birth together (19.08). I never even considered Gilles Villeneuve.

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