In an exclusive interview with Paddock Magazine, Audi’s first factory Formula 1 driver 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 has to deal with all the commercial aspects of running a Formula 1 team as well.

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 likes of 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 a bit and made it more funky and entertaining. It is more on the map again 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?

I think 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. Obviously, 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 get compliments like this from your competitors?

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

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 yeah, 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 still left in your F1 career, but what’s going to be next for you? Do you have some post-F1 career options on mind?

I have no idea, I don’t think about it to be honest, because I have to be fully invested in the present times to maximize 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. More or less I already know what I’m going to get, because obviously the break that I had gave me a little insight to what to expect if I eventually retire. However, don’t worry, I will find stuff to keep me busy and happy.

We’re here in Monaco this weekend. Do you think that Monaco is 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 and challenging every year and one of my favorite tracks to drive, I look forward to the ride and the challenge.

And then finally, Germany is going to host the 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. Probably I will 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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