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Hulkenberg impressed but not ready to judge

16 January 2013

Nico Hulkenberg says he has settled into life as a Sauber driver following his move from Force India, but insists that he won't be able to pass true judgement on his new team until its 2013 car hits the track.

The German, who was being considered by both Ferrari and McLaren for the coming season, will partner rookie Esteban Gutierrez at Sauber and admits that he has been impressed by what he has found at Hinwil, but insists that the real confirmation that his decision was the right one will have to wait until the opening pre-season test at Jerez early next month.

“There are no issues at the moment, [but] it's not until you are out on track, running the car, that you uncover issues or weaknesses,” he told the official F1 website, “Jerez will be the acid test.”

The new C32 is due to be unveiled on 2 February, giving Hulkenberg and Gutierrez a full chance to develop the car through the three scheduled tests at Jerez and Barcelona, but the German is already pleased with the progress being made in his new working relationship. Sauber is the third team of Hulkenberg's short F1 career – following one-year stints at both Williams and Force India – but the former F3 and GP2 champion has shrugged off the challenges of settling in to his new surroundings and is focused on the job ahead.

“[Changing teams] was not always my choice, except for the switch to Sauber,” he reasoned, “At the end of 2010, I was more or less forced into a team change!

“Being confronted with such a situation, you simply have to get on with the job and get to know the new people you work with from now on. Some procedures in the teams are similar, nevertheless there are differences in details, which you have to learn and get used to. You could say that I am right now in a new phase of learning.

“I have been around many times in the last couple of weeks to meet the team, including my future engineers and mechanics, [and] the most difficult thing at first is to remember all the new names. Otherwise, there is no difficulty, as such, in becoming part of a new team. It is a process and experience which takes a bit of time, but it's a very valuable time that can pay off during the season.

With no track action permitted between the final race of 2012 in Brazil and the start of testing in southern Spain next month, Hulkenberg's attention has been on fine-tuning aspects of his new office before it hits the road.

“During this time of the year, [the focus] is always to make me comfortable in the car,” he confirmed, “Making a good seat in which I feel comfortable is very important. Luckily, I fit in well, so I am ready for testing in Jerez at the beginning of February.”

With Kamui Kobayashi's services being dispensed with at the end of 2012, Hulkenberg assumes the mantle of senior driver at Sauber this season, with Gutierrez stepping up from a middling GP2 campaign largely as a result of his familiarity as test driver and the backing he brings from Mexico. Hulkenberg, however, does not expect any additional pressure as Sauber looks to build on a season that yielded four podium finishes and sixth spot in the constructors'' standings.

“The fact that people are regarding me as the team leader doesn't change much,” he claimed, “At Sauber, both drivers get the same equipment and treatment. I will just work harder together with Esteban to bring the team forward.

“I don't see any deficit [in having two new drivers], to be honest. Indeed, I am new in the team, but not new in F1, and Esteban has gained experience as a test driver with Sauber, so he is not new to them.

“I want to build on the good basis they had last year, and keep working hard from there. Of course, I am looking for good results - in that sense, the team and I are already looking for the same thing – but it's a new season so we have to wait and see how things pan out and how strong our package is on the track.”


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