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I'd love to support Nico, but will he have to kiss Vijay's lucky coconuts? // Force India could provide a lot of the entertainment this season

Published by Christine

Like most Formula One fans, there are one or two drivers that I support more than others. I can be impartial enough to enjoy race weekends as a whole, but there are still names that capture my attention more than others. It is well documented that I am partial to the French drivers on the grid, and this year I am spoilt for choice with no less than three representatives from La France. However, at the moment, I find myself more interested in the returning German, Nico Hülkenberg.

Dawwwwwww!
Dawwwwwww!Credit: Sahara Force India Formula One Team

Pole dancer

It’s an unexpected development, but as the season draws closer, I want to support Nico as he makes his return. He made headlines in his debut year with the awesome Williams pole position. It was a lucky event, a headline-grabbing qualifying session that was never going to last until Sunday. But it changed the shape of the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2010, and made plenty of F1 fans raise their eyebrows in surprise.

This year, I want to see him repeat that Williams pole position and prove it wasn’t a fluke, I want to see him pick up good results to enable him to move onwards and upwards, and I want him to provide an excellent inter-team battle with Paul di Resta. Having so many expectations on a driver is an odd feeling for me, something I am not that used to. I’m sure Hülkenberg can handle it, though.

The German has proven himself a funny character, during interviews, and particularly when interviewing. On the Force India podcast last year, he was tasked with visiting different members of the team at the factory and in the garages to ask them about their jobs. It was a great listen, and he displayed a sense of humour and personality that we didn’t get from the more stage managed interviews with the drivers.

He made no secret of the fact that he wanted to move up to a race seat as soon as possible, and that sitting on the sidelines was not a comfortable place to stay. I quite enjoyed the honesty, and although occasionally it tended towards whining, at least it showed the hunger to get back into the saddle/cockpit.

Of course I learnt it a little earlier than the public. And there had been some positive signs in the middle of the season. I always got good feedback from the team, so I was actually quite optimistic that in 2012 I would be back and that there would be no more 'third-man' role for me.

- Nico Hülkenberg

So, with a promotion to the main race seat, I’m looking forward to hearing from Nico during race weekends, and hoping that he doesn’t turn into a stilted spokesperson as often occurs. Part of that will be down to the team, and that doesn’t fill me with hope. Force India are not one of my favourite entrants in Formula One, particularly of late.

Coconut man

How do you support a driver when you very much dislike the team? Is it possible to cheer on your favourite to the finish line, when also hoping the team don’t do so well? Force India, and more specifically Dr Vijay Mallya, have proven to be erratic and more talk than substance. The revelation that Mallya encouraged his drivers to kiss a lucky coconut before taking to the track was stunning. There’s plenty of superstition in sports, I know, but inflicting your routines onto other people is a bit much. Particularly when it is a hairy fruit based action.

Already it has been a difficult start to the year for Nico, with half a day’s testing taken away from him by a lack of parts in testing. Jules Bianchi’s crash in Jerez yesterday was only small, but the team were forced to bring their day to an early halt whilst waiting for a delivery from the UK. It’s only half a day, but at this point in the year, learning as much about the car as possible can make a huge difference when the action begins in March. As the man said when he was confirmed for a race seat:

At the beginning of next year I will need some time to regain the level I had at the end of 2010, but with the help of the team, I hope to get there again pretty quickly.

- Nico Hülkenberg

Yesterday, he took to Twitter to share his disappointment, but no blame, crucially.

No running for me today unfortunately. Hoping for a better day tomorrow.

nicohulkenberg nicohulkenberg

Nico doesn’t tweet that often, perhaps a man of few written words. Really, where the talking needs to happen is out on track. I’m putting my faith in the Hulk to spice up the season, and I think he can do well. Equally, I’m hoping that Force India don’t do that well. It’s a difficult, mixed up position to be in, but more than anything, I’m just crossing my fingers that we don’t catch sight of any more lucky coconuts.