“Excuse me, I am searching the Sahara headquarters,” Nico Hulkenberg asks while being stranded in the Sahara desert! That small comic strip in his website perhaps sums up the Sahara Force India driver's quest for the right path in Formula One.
After his brief debut for Williams in 2010 and the subsequent shift to being Force India's reserve driver during last season, Hulkenberg has seen quite a churn.
Promoted as race driver this year, the 24-year old German failed to finish in the Australian GP and then came in at the ninth and 15th spots respectively at Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai.
Hulkenberg idolises the late Ayrton Senna, whose spirit was aptly captured by Richard Williams in `The death of Ayrton Senna'.
Williams wrote: “Once he (Senna) was in the car, he didn't go in for second thoughts; not about the dimension of his own talent, not about going for a pass at the first and slightest hint of an opportunity. He knew that this willingness to work in the margins was what gave him the advantage.”
It is still early days for Hulkenberg but if he can achieve even a fraction of what Senna did, he would have served Force India well. Hulkenberg was in the city on Tuesday and spoke extensively to the media.
Starting blues: I am still getting to grips with Formula One. I feel comfortable inside the car. I did well in qualifying in Melbourne but I wasn't as lucky in the race. Malaysia was good fun and in China, we showed good speed so overall I am happy.
The clutter at the top: I don't remember the last time it was this close. It's not like last year where it was (Sebastian) Vettel, Vettel, Vettel all along. It's different this season. McLaren is fast, Red Bull is beginning to look quick and it's going to be a fun season.
Force India's proposed upgrades ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix: We have a very good car on the baseline. Now we are trying to extract as much performance from the car.
We will look in good shape from Barcelona onwards. We are developing our car right now and that should make it easier for us to make it to the top ten.
The Malaysian experience: It was a difficult race due to different circumstances — heavy rain and slight rain — and so we ran the full array of tires.
Force India still young after 75 races : We are still developing and we have a lot of races and a lot of circuits. Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going.
Political unrest and the Bahrain GP: “I am a Formula One driver not a politician. As I am aware, I am safe to go there. Obviously I don't know how it's going to be when I am there.
Team-mate and rival: “Your team-mate is the only one with the same car as you. So we can compare and both Paul Di Resta and I are in the second year of our F1 career. We are young and hungry. We have a great relationship. There is still that feeling of ‘I want to beat him'.
Team goals, the abiding yardstick: Our goal is to defend the sixth place and ideally finish fifth in the constructors championship.