The Australian Grand Prix kicks off Nico Hülkenberg’s third season with the team and his ninth year in Formula 1. After posting the fifth fastest time in pre-season testing, Nico is pumped up and chomping at the bit ready to begin the campaign at Albert Park.
How excited are you for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix?
I’m very excited to head out to Melbourne. At testing, and across the winter, there was a lot of speculation and anticipation, but the first race weekend is when the talking stops and we find out for real where we stand. Testing went reasonably well, but we don’t know anything for certain until we hit the track in Australia. The midfield will always be competitive, but we focus on ourselves, stay on top of things and ensure our developments give us improvements.
What’s the mindset heading to Australia?
Our main goal is to put ourselves in a better position than last year. We want to reward ourselves with more points and better results. A lot of hard work has gone into this and we head to Melbourne as prepared as we can be, and I’m quite happy with that. I have a new team-mate who brings a positive challenge. We’ll bring out the best from each other. He’s a quality driver and we’ll test each other and that’s a challenge I look forward to taking on.
What are the early feelings of the 2019 package?
It does feel similar to last year’s car but that’s not a huge surprise given a lot of it is quite stable from last year. I feel comfortable in the car and it was nice to go over 500 laps over the two weeks. We built up a good database ahead of Melbourne. We’ve certainly improved our package in many areas, but there are also many areas which we need to develop; that’s an ongoing story in Formula 1. We’re happy with our baseline.
How challenging is the Melbourne Street Circuit?
It’s always a challenge going from a two-week test on a smooth circuit to racing on a temporary street track. You feel those bumps in the early Friday running and there’s usually a lack of grip as the course won’t have been rubbered in. Having said that, it does improve as the weekend goes on, once you grow more accustomed. The setting is very pretty inside Albert Park and it’s always packed with fans. There are some fast sections and good kerbs to ride which is satisfying when you get them right. It’s a great venue to start the year and I’m very excited to jump in the car for FP1.