Nico Hulkenberg, who will return to the F1 grid this season with Force India, has predicted that team-mate Paul di Resta will have an advantage through the early part of the 2012 campaign.
Hulkenberg, who was forced into taking a year out after being unceremoniously dropped by Williams in 2010, believes the opening races may be a little tricky as he settles into the groove of a race weekend.
Di Resta by contrast, is going into his second straight season in a race seat.
“Yes, especially during the first races I guess. He's used to the procedure of a race weekend, DRS, KERS etc," Hulkenberg answered when asked by the official F1 website whether di Resta would have an advantage. “I will have to find my rhythm again first. But this disadvantage will probably be gone after a few races.”
Despite missing a full season the 21-year old admits his situation shouldn't be too much of a hindrance, given his Friday running last year allowed him to keep relatively sharp.
Along with this, the young German has enjoyed a seemingly faultless winter testing program so far and believes a top five constructor's finish is a realistic goal.
"I think the 14 free practice sessions I drove in during 2011 kept me in the loop pretty well," Hulkenberg explained. "But as I said, if there's a deficit then I will feel it more during a qualifying or a race. During last week's test I had two good days with lots of running, which was important to build a good feeling for the car.
"I think we have a realistic chance of finishing fifth in the constructors' championship. It will definitely not be easy, but I'm sure it's possible."
The former Williams man also believes his Force India team will enable him to pick up the pieces during the 'rainy and messy' races, should they arrive; conditions in which the German thrives in after clinching a 'dream' heroic pole position in the changeable conditions at Interlagos during the 2010 Brazilian GP.
“I hope for some rainy days and some messy races that will allow smaller teams like us to enjoy some surprising results,” he said. “The dream would be to have many more moments like Brazil 2010!”
by Simon Evans