Nico Hulkenberg says there have never been so many question marks ahead of testing
Force India driver says formbook set to be finely balanced
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 14/01/14 3:20pm
After several years of anticipation over the sport's dramatic return to turbocharged engines, the new-look cars will hit the track for the first time at Jerez in two weeks' time with few indicators over teams' likely performances and widespread concern over the reliability of the V6 units out of the box.
Hulkenberg, who has rejoined Force India for the new campaign after 12 months at Sauber, admits he has never known a situation like it in his four years in F1 and is aware teams' fortunes could drastically go either way.
"Never before there has been a situation like this, when with just a couple of weeks before the first test nobody has any idea of where everyone is," he told Force India's official website.
"It's a pretty unique situation for everyone. It's a challenge, an opportunity to do something special, but on the other hand it opens up the opportunity to do mistakes, so we will need to do our work well."
Although many pundits are already predicting a massively unpredictable start to the season once the racing gets underway in Australia in March, and the opportunity for some of the grid's lesser lights to claim shock results, Hulkenberg says that strong in-season development will still be as crucial as ever.
"It is obviously always nice to start in a strong way, but it's also very important to keep that strength during the year - the season is quite long, from March to November," the German stressed.
"A lot can happen in such a long time and last year was a very good example: the form of many teams came and went as the year progressed.
"The target is to start well and try to maintain this kind of performance throughout the year. That's the challenge - to keep up the development, bring new parts and keep competitive all the time."
Force India have paired their returning German with McLaren exile Sergio Perez for 2014, a combination that has already provoked plenty of intrigue.
"It will be really interesting to work with Checo. We both have four years' worth of experience in Formula One, so you can say we are at a similar stage in our careers," Hulkenberg acknowledged.
"Of course, we will both try to be in front of each other, but that's normal when you are in these circumstances. We thrive in a competitive environment and this is what we will have here."
The Sky Sports F1 Online team will be providing live commentary of all three winter tests, starting in Jerez on Tuesday January 28, with live updates from trackside also on Sky Sports News.