Nico Hulkenberg enters his eighth season in Formula 1 with high expectations and the will to succeed. Now, with one season under his belt at Enstone, The Hulk is raring to race around the picturesque Albert Park for the 2018 opener.
How is The Hulk feeling ahead of the 2018 season-opener?
Nico Hulkenberg: I'm ready to go and I can't wait to get the season underway. Australia is one of my favourite races because Melbourne is a great city, and the fans are always fantastic, knowledgeable, passionate for motorsport and know a lot about Formula 1. I really enjoy Melbourne as it's a comfortable and very relaxed atmosphere there.
What do you like about the Albert Park circuit?
NH: Albert Park itself is beautiful, especially in the morning when you see it's packed with fans. The circuit is unique and packs a couple of challenges in places. Sector two is probably my favourite part, just after turns three and four as there is a quick right-hander, narrow on the exit and no run-off area, then the following right-hander is also bumpy on entry, underneath trees, with some nice kerbs. It's a great track to race with some fast sections even though it's a street course. It's a good way to kick-off the season as everyone is pumped and very excited to get into the car and race.
Is your preparation different for this race given that it's the first of the season?
NH: We arrive there quite early to get acclimatised to the time change and the conditions. It's been a long off-season, but now I'm ready and relishing getting out to Melbourne. Once you're sat in the car, on the grid and watching the lights, it's business as usual and I'm buzzing to experience that feeling again.
Do you head to Australia with confidence?
NH: I feel positive. We've collected a lot of miles and data over winter testing which isn't always the case, so that's really beneficial to the team. I have a year's worth of experience with the Renault family so that's a good advantage for the first race. We've certainly made progress, not just over the whole of 2017 but also over the winter. We won't know anything, or where we're at exactly, until Saturday's qualifying. I'm ready for that challenge and excited to get down to it and give it my all.
How prepared are you for the first race of the 2018 Formula 1 season?
Carlos Sainz: I'm ready and if there's a race you're ready for, it's Australia. You've been thinking and preparing for it for months, so it's a race which brings high levels of motivation. I've done my best to pass the time through the off-season, I've done a lot of training, driven at Rallye Monte-Carlo and enjoyed testing in Barcelona. But now the time has come to get down to it and we have to refocus the body and the mind to getting the best results in 2018.
Why do you think your record in Australia is successful?
CS: It's one of my favourite tracks, not only for the layout, but also for the weekend itself. I have a positive record in Australia as I've finished ninth twice and eighth last year, so it's one I have a bit of consistency at. Last year it was the first race with the wider cars and it was exceptionally noticeable around Albert Park we had to change our trajectory into corners to not touch the walls especially as it's quite a narrow circuit. There's no room for error as it's quite unforgiving in that regard!
How do you feel ahead of the first Grand Prix?
CS: I'm feeling good and that confidence has been boosted by pre-season testing. We gained a lot of data, and from both a personal view and the team view, we know we have to begin the season in Australia on a bright note and all of our efforts will be going in to achieve just that.
What will you do in the build-up to the race?
CS: Because Australia is the first race of the year and it's the furthest away from home, it's a race we arrive at the earliest. It's important to have some free time there and get acclimatised to everything. The time change is also significant and that's something we consider in our preparation, probably more so than at any other race. But, the early arrival means we have some extra time to see the beautiful city of Melbourne and go and visit some cool places. I visited the zoo in Melbourne one year, and I'm a big lover of meerkats, so maybe I will go and say 'hello' to them again!