What is your history with the Nürburgring?
The first time I went there was in 2000 when I was racing in ADAC Formula Junior, during my first season of car racing. Since then I’ve been there quite a lot, particularly before I reached Formula 1 in 2004 as basically all my racing was in Germany. So it feels like a second home to me. It’s also a race where I have generally always had success; I won or was on the podium in almost every race I’ve had there.
What is your best memory of the track?
I have a lot of good memories but the best is probably from GP2 in 2007. The year before I was not in a competitive car and I struggled in the midfield, which is basically my only bad memory of the track. But when GP2 went back there in 2007 I was with iSport so it was a different story. I qualified on pole by more than half a second and won the feature race, then finished fifth in the sprint race. That was a really good weekend for my championship and it’s the last time I raced at the Nürburgring so I hope I can keep up the good record!
Is it special for you to race there?
Nowadays it is a great feeling to race at the Nürburgring because I am in my own country, with lots of my fans in the grandstands and some family and friends around as well. It’s also one of Toyota’s home races so that makes it special for the team too. But I have to say until I started competing in Formula 1 or GP2 it wasn’t unusual at all to be racing on home ground because I grew up in German racing so every event was a local one! Once I moved into international competition I only raced in Germany once or twice a year, if at all, so then it became a really special thing for me.
Do you have a favourite corner on the current Formula 1 lay-out?
I don’t have a favourite corner as such but the left-right Schumacher S is an enjoyable part of the track. It was flat-out last year but with the new regulations it might be different this time. Apart from that the track has a nice flow, although the revised first sector is a bit slower than it used to be and overall it is really difficult to overtake.
Is it more motivating to race in your home Grand Prix or does it put you under additional pressure?
I don’t feel any extra pressure at my home race; everything is positive. From track to track my motivation doesn’t really change; I always give my all and do my very best to get a strong result for the team. Sure, it might be a bit more enjoyable to succeed in my home race but it doesn’t make any difference to my lap time – or to the number of points given out at the end. Every race is important so if you’re not giving 100% you are not doing your job properly.
What do you think of the Nordschleife lay-out?
It is a massively impressive track and it’s really quite incredible to think they used to race Formula 1 cars around there. I first drove it around eight years ago and I was completely taken aback by the place; I had never seen a race track which is 22km long! Even in a road car you feel the speed and the excitement so it must have been awesome in a Formula 1 car. There are a lot of corners and I can’t remember all the names! But I can drive a whole lap and know what’s coming next; that’s the important bit. I don’t have one favourite corner because they are all fantastic. It’s just a really, really nice track to drive.
How often have you experienced the Nordschleife since that first time?
I haven’t driven it so much since then, maybe 10 laps or so, but I was there a few weeks ago in a Toyota Auris, which was great fun. I did a few laps and it still gives me a great feeling of excitement. I used to play on some video games quite a bit and drive the Nordschleife, but I don’t have time for that now.
How is your relationship with the German fans?
I feel a lot of support from the German fans. It’s good to have a lot of fans in the grandstands; it’s a nice feeling to see people wearing Toyota caps and shirts. With five German drivers on the grid the German fans have a lot of guys to support and we all feel very much at home at the Nürburgring or Hockenheim. Toyota is the local team for the Nürburgring so we will have plenty of support and I hope we can give them the result they expect.
If you weren’t a Formula 1 driver, would you go to watch the German Grand Prix?
That’s hard to say because it’s tricky to consider what I would do in a completely different situation to the one I am in. But I’ve seen the fans in the campsites with their loud music, having a few drinks and just being passionate about Formula 1 for the whole weekend; they seem to have a lot of fun. Maybe you get more information from the TV but you don’t have that atmosphere so I think I’d be there with the fans where the action is.