New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS) Nico Hulkenberg's immediate focus is to win the elusive podium for Sahara Force India's "proper" home race at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) near here later this month even if he eventually decides to race for Sauber next year.
Hulkenberg goes into the Oct 26-28 Indian Grand Prix on a high, having performed impressively in the second half of the season. The German came fourth in the first race after the break in Belgium, followed up with seventh in Suzuka and sixth in Korea Sunday.
Hulkenberg will be racing at BIC for the first time as he was a Force India reserve last year.
"As a team it is a very special race for us -- the proper home race and one of the busiest races of the year. As a target we have to aim for some good points. The last few races have shown the speed is there to do that and even get close to the podium," Hulkenberg told IANS from Yeongam, South Korea.
He feels the tracks at remaining races of the season in India, Abu Dhabi, Austin (US) and Brazil should suit the car, leaving the possibility of overtaking Sauber for sixth place in the constructors' championship. Force India are on 89 points while Sauber on 116.
"The races coming up should suit us quite well, especially somewhere like Abu Dhabi with long straights and slow corners. Those are the sort of corners where our car has looked quite strong so far. We need to be up there in the points at all the remaining races (to beat Sauber)," said Hulkenberg, who got ahead of teammate Paul di Resta in the drivers' standings after the result in Korea.
Speculation over the 25-year-old moving to Sauber was rife at the paddock last weekend. Hulkenberg, however, plays it down saying his focus is on 2012.
"I really enjoy racing for this team, I know all the guys well. Right now my focus is on the current season and doing my best."
Asked how the season has panned out for him after very little track time last year, Hulkenberg says, "I think it took me a few races to get back into the groove because I was only the team's third driver in 2011. Even though I was able to take part in some practice sessions, it is not the same as racing every week.
"Another thing is that we know our car very well now. We have understood where we can find some more performance and found some good directions with the set-up."
He has 45 points from 16 rounds while di Resta 44. How he sees the rivalry with the Scot?
"The fight with Paul is very close. Of course we both want to beat each other, but the main task is working for the team and hopefully catching Sauber. That's a big task, but not impossible."
(Bharat Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)