Crash.net
Hi Nico, happy 2017!

Nico Hulkenberg
Thank you, hello!

Crash.net
Congratulations on landing your first manufacturer drive with Renault - how much are you enjoying being full factory?

Nico Hulkenberg
It's still early days, we're just starting so it's probably a bit early for that question, I think so far so good, I would say that I found and got more or less what I expected with a manufacturer team. More people, bigger team, more resources, all of these things pretty much.

Crash.net
In terms of your progression how important was this drive for your career?

Nico Hulkenberg
It's very important to me, it's where I've wanted to go to be with a manufacturer in the long term, building something up together and basically, I see this as a very good opportunity for my career. I believe that Renault can provide me with a competitive car in the future, and that's what a driver needs and what a driver is looking for.

Crash.net
How are you feeling the team's building up for this season given Renault re-purchased a cash-strapped Lotus team quite late in 2015?

Nico Hulkenberg
I think they've done a good job so far, I mean they've definitely strengthened and structured in all of the different departments a lot in the past 12 months, so where we stand now I think is a solid starting point. I think there's still work needed to grow and to improve on, but I think they know as well it's a work in progress situation pretty much.

Crash.net
Given your talent and your success in the junior championship categories, how much do you feel this is finally where you can really showcase your talent with the resources behind you?

Nico Hulkenberg
I hope that this is where it's going to pay off, and that it will give me what I'm looking for. But now here we are together as a team and it's in our hands to make it work and to write the history, so I'm very much up for it and motivated and happy and keen, that's all I can say.

Crash.net
What was your first reaction in the first lap of the car?

Nico Hulkenberg
My first reaction was, faster. Definitely the cars are faster with more downforce, more downforce means more grip, more grip means going faster around the corner and braking later, having that sensation of speed is bigger. It's more enjoyable, more challenging also.

Crash.net
Do you get the feeling of being "physically beaten up" after a race distance?

Nico Hulkenberg
I can see that coming, it's definitely a lot more demanding than previous years so I think probably to the extent that fitness levels will make a difference in racing again.

Crash.net
Tell us a bit about your training programme ahead of the new season?

Nico Hulkenberg
We had a few different training blocks and weeks which already started in December back home in Monaco with my trainer, more of that in January, and February we went to the Dominican Republic for two weeks just to change the scenery and have a nice surrounding and easy going and relaxed environment which worked out very well. It was just that usually in previous years in the off-season I give myself 'off-time' let's say, less training but more cleaning the head and relaxing, this year we just kept that training going pretty much throughout to keep sharp and not let it drop away.

Crash.net
Do you have one favourite exercise in the gym?

Nico Hulkenberg
Well you always have your favourites, and least favourites, I'm generally a cardio person, I love running that's what I enjoy the most from everything that I do, and swimming is the least favourite and the toughest for me because I'm not so good at it! Weight-wise, I enjoy doing the core to be honest, a lot, core exercises.

Crash.net
What will a successful 2017 be for you once Abu Dhabi rolls around?

Nico Hulkenberg
To have really consolidated ourselves and our position as a team in the midfield, to have scored decent points and a couple of highlights would be good. I'd be very happy.

Crash.net
Has the team outlined much of a development plan for the season?

Nico Hulkenberg
Yes of course, I know the plan and what's in the pipeline and what they're working on, for sure there's that, and obviously that can change and gets adjusted when you start driving and racing and you find more things.

Crash.net
Do you feel like there's more pressure on you given you are the more experienced driver and could be looked at to lead the team back up the field?

Nico Hulkenberg
I don't feel that way to be honest. Pressure and expectations are a part of this business, I don't have a different sensation or do anything different, I'm here to do my job, a good job for myself and the team, and that's basically the way I see it.

Crash.net
How has your relationship with Jolyon been like so far?

Nico Hulkenberg
Yeah good, very good actually. I think he's a very cool and relaxed, chilled-out guy. We get along really well, obviously now we start to compete a bit more, and the heat gets on, but I don't see any big issues on the horizon there.

Crash.net
When you're not racing what sort of things do you get up to?

Nico Hulkenberg
I love being at home! We travel a lot so I really enjoy being at home, having a lazy day on the couch, watch a couple of movies, meet friends, cook dinner, go to the cinema, play tennis.

Crash.net
Along with the new car comes a new season and new owners, are you happy with the direction Formula 1 is taking?

Nico Hulkenberg
I think so. I mean it's something that's not on my first priorities that I rack my head about because that's not my cup of tea that much, but I think the change in ownership - change is always new, exciting, interesting, I think they will bring in some new ideas which probably will be good.

Crash.net
I know it's not your cup of tea, but if you did what to see something new or changed what would it be?

Nico Hulkenberg
For me I think the sport is as good as it is, I really personally miss the sound a lot of the old engines, the V8s, the V10s. That is personally my biggest regret or miss, what is lacking I think with the sensation of Formula 1, a lot of people associate also with that.

Crash.net
What are your thoughts on opening up social media for the drivers and teams?

Nico Hulkenberg
I think it's good, I think social media is huge, you know? It's taking over already, and it's only going to get bigger in the next couple of years, so there's a huge market there and a huge amount of interest and followers. It's good that F1 opens up a bit and follows that trend.

Crash.net
Thanks Nico, good luck for the season

Nico Hulkenberg
Thank you!

Interview by Josh Kruse