sport

Hulk: New line-up no handicap

Nico Hulkenberg doesn't believe Sauber's chances of further progress in 2013 will be hindered by an all-new line-up.

In 2012, Sauber enjoyed by far their most competitive season since Peter Sauber bought back the team he founded from BMW three years ago, the Hinwil outfit claiming four podium finishes and finishing on the tail of German giants Mercedes in the Constructors' Championship.

The team are now targeting a further step forward but go into the season as the only team on the grid to date with an all-new driver line-up with former Force India driver Hulkenberg and rookie driver Esteban Gutierrez drafted in for 2013 after Kamui Kobayashi was dropped and Sergio Perez departed for McLaren.

But while both 2013 drivers will naturally need time to bed into their new positions, Hulkenberg isn't concerned that the process could prove a handicap for the team.

"I don't see any deficit to be honest," Nico declared in an interview with the official F1 website.

"Indeed I am new in the team, but not new in F1, and Esteban has gained experience as a test driver with Sauber so he is not new to them.

"I would say there is no deficit, but rather the chance to make good acquaintances."

At 25 years of age, and with two full seasons of racing in F1 behind him, Hulkenberg is being viewed as Sauber's de facto team leader for 2013 given that Gutierrez has only conducted test driver duties at the top level to date.

Hulkenberg, however, is unfazed about the prospect of being the more experienced driver in the line-up.

"The fact that people are regarding me as the team leader doesn't change much," Hulkenberg insisted.

"At the Sauber F1 team both drivers get the same equipment and treatment. I will just work harder with Esteban to bring the team forward."

Hulkenberg was speaking in an interview for the first time since joining Sauber at the start of the month, and says that while he's happy with how his early days at Hinwil have gone, it won't be until the new car is tested at Jerez next month that the real work starts.

"There are no issues at the moment, it's not until you are out on track, running the car, that you uncover issues or weaknesses," he added.

"So Jerez will be the acid test."