Nico Hulkenberg admits that the 2011 season has been the toughest of his career as he hopes to secure a return to an F1 race seat next year.
Despite taking pole in Brazil last year for Williams, Hulkenberg was unable to retain his seat for the current campaign after being dropped in favour of GP2 title winner Pastor Maldonado – leaving the German without a drive.
Hulkenberg instead took up a test and reserve role with Force India that has seen him take part in a number of Friday practice sessions, with rumours suggesting he could now be promoted into a race seat for 2012.
However, Hulkenberg admits it was difficult to find himself sidelined for reasons other than his results on track after he managed to score more than four times as many points as Williams has picked up this year.
"There were cockpits available but they were also taken by drivers with a bit of financial support and obviously that broke my neck for this year," he told Reuters
. "But now I have survived that year, it's the last grand prix and I'm looking ahead and not backwards. It's been a pretty tough year, maybe the toughest of my career, but hopefully I will fight back even stronger.
"It is pretty sad bearing in mind that this is the pinnacle of motor racing and the best drivers in the world are supposed to race here and some of them clearly, you see them perform well but also without the money they wouldn't be here. That's how it is. When the world is not so healthy financially things like that happen in sports which are very expensive."
Although he hasn't now taken part in a race since Abu Dhabi last year, Hulkenberg said he felt he is a better driver than twelve months ago after a solid showing in his Friday outing at Interlagos.
"I feel good,” he said. “Even though I wasn't racing (this year) I was still able to learn some bits and maybe progress in different ways as well.
"It's very important for me to go out there and perform like I did. And obviously it's good for my self-confidence to still prove to myself that I am able to do the job, which is very important for a racing driver."
Force India has yet to reveal its driver line-up for 2012, but Hulkenberg could find himself partnering Paul di Resta if rumours are to be believed, with the possibility that Adrian Sutil could be set to move to Williams.