Exclusive: Nico Hülkenberg Discusses the Surge of F1 Popularity in Germany

In an exclusive interview with Paddock Magazine, Audi’s first factory Formula 1 driver, Nico Hülkenberg, emphasises the importance of Ayao Komatsu’s contribution to his current F1 team and how F1’s perception in Germany can grow again.

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Haas has a new team principal for this season. Has the impact of Ayao’s work already been seen, and is the team heading in the right direction?

I think Ayao is doing a good job, and obviously, many new things are coming at him after he switched to the team principal position. It’s not all about the engineering and technical side anymore, but he also has to deal with the commercial aspects of running a Formula 1 team.

I know that he’s got a lot on his plate. He has already made some good changes to our technical infrastructure and moved some things around. It’s been positive, and we are heading in the right direction.

I know he’s got a lot on his plate.

Nico Hülkenberg

You’ll be joining the Audi project next year. What do you think about F1’s perception in Germany?

From my perspective, I’ve noticed a resurgence of interest in Formula 1 in Germany. It’s important to remember that Germany has always had a strong presence in the sport, with the Schumachers, Seb, Rosberg, and Mercedes. We’ve consistently performed at a high level, and I believe this trend will continue.

It’s expected that, eventually, there will be a saturation effect. We’ve seen that, and maybe we’ve been through that cycle. F1 has changed a bit since the new owners took over; they’ve reworked it and made it more funky and entertaining. It is again on the map in Germany, and I’m optimistic about its future. Audi’s entry will also contribute to the sport’s popularity in Germany.

Looking back to 2010, what are the most significant changes in your driving style now? What are the main improvements? What’s made you such a rounded driver now?

It’s a continuous process for any driver, not just for me. You constantly try to improve your driving skills and input.

And yeah, it just takes time. After all these years with different generations of cars, you constantly keep learning, adjusting, and improving yourself. So it’s like in any sport: whether you’re a tennis player, golfer, or basketball player, you always try to improve your game and get an edge over the competition.

Fernando Alonso mentioned several times that you’re one of the best drivers on the grid. How does it feel to receive compliments like this from your competitors?

I mean, it’s nice. It’s better than mentioning you the other way around or not mentioning you at all. I guess it’s a sign of respect, and we have mutual respect.

We’re both kind of two of the oldies on the grid right now, holding up the oldie flag. But we still get on well with the young guys, so a few more years to come for both of us.

Probably I will go to a match and watch it.

Nico Hülkenberg

As you mentioned, you’ve got plenty of years left in your F1 career, but what will be next for you? Do you have some post-F1 career options in mind?

I have no idea, and I don’t think about it, to be honest, because I have to be fully invested in the present to maximise the next couple of years.

I feel like thinking ahead to the future or what I would do afterwards would be a waste of energy and time. I already know what I’m going to get because the break I had gave me a little insight into what to expect if I eventually retire. However, don’t worry; I will find stuff to keep me busy and happy.

We’re in Monaco this weekend. Is Monaco still the most prestigious race on the calendar?

Absolutely, yes. I’ve lived in Monaco since 2015. This will be my 11th Monaco Grand Prix, and I’ve watched the race many times growing up. Monaco is iconic; it’s all about tradition. It’s a ride on a knife edge, challenging every year, and one of my favourite tracks to drive.

I look forward to the ride and the challenge.

Finally, Germany is going to host Euro 2024 this summer. Are you going to follow the matches, and what do you expect from the German national team?

I think I will definitely follow. I’m not going to watch every game, but the German one’s for sure. I will probably go to a match and watch it. I haven’t been to a football game in a long time, so that seems like a good occasion. On the other hand, we are also pretty busy in July, so let’s see.

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