Hulkenberg readies for his first F1 race at familiar Nurburgring

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Coming off of his first points-paying finish in over two months at Sunday’s British Grand Prix, Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg is now preparing for a challenge he has never faced: Racing a Formula One car at the Nurburgring, site of this coming weekend’s German Grand Prix.

While “The Hulk” has been part of the F1 paddock for the last four seasons – three in a race seat, one in a reserve capacity – he’s only competed in his home event when it’s been at Hockenheim, which has alternated the event yearly with Nurburgring since 2007. The last time F1 visited the latter facility came two years ago, when Hulkenberg was in a test driver role at Force India.

But Hulkenberg does have plenty of experience in other categories at Nurburgring. In fact, he was quite successful there while heading down the road to F1, winning in multiple feeder categories such as the Formula 3 Euro Series and GP2.

Obviously, those series are quite different from F1 but track knowledge is track knowledge, and it has Hulkenberg confident that he can enjoy a productive weekend on home ground.

“The Nurburgring is another traditional track with a lot of changes in altitude and good combinations, which makes it a lot of fun to drive,” he said. “Of course, the fans will play a big part and I am looking forward to taking to the track in front of a home crowd.

“Although this is my third [racing] season, I have never raced at the Nurburgring in a Formula One car, so this is a first for me. Overall, however, I know what to expect. I guess everything will be a bit faster and I might perceive things a little different, but I know the track well and I am looking forward to a nice weekend.”

With only six points overall this season – all from Hulkenberg – the Sauber team is likely hoping for that as well.

You can watch the German Grand Prix this Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m. ET on CNBC, as well as on your online and mobile devices with NBC Sports Live Extra.

McLaren unveils 2018 F1 car, the MCL33

Photo: Getty Images
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McLaren F1 Team became the latest to launch their 2018 challenger on Friday, taking the covers off their new MCL33 chassis early on Friday morning.

McLaren endured a difficult 2017 season of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, with their partnership with Honda eventually dissolving after a troublesome power unit saw them plagued by unreliability and low power.

A switch to Renault power units is expected to see them get an uptick in form, and the MCL33 chassis itself is actually an evolution on last year’s MCL32. Still, the team highlighted areas to improve upon, and aims for a return to prominence in 2018.

“The McLaren team was created by a brave pioneer, and has had bravery at its core ever since. Whether it’s been with brave drivers, brave leaders or brave fortune, this team has always fought back. And we definitely view 2018 as the year when McLaren will move closer to the front, fighting teams and drivers as we improve our fortunes,” said Zak Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology Group.

Brown also highlighted the car’s new papaya orange livery, a throwback to some of the most popular color schemes that have adorned McLaren entrants in a variety of disciplines. Brown indicated that this came about from requests of fans who wanted to see such a livery return to the McLaren marque.

“Our return to a papaya orange livery for this year wasn’t simply an emotional decision; it demonstrates that we are listening to our fans, building deeper engagement with them and the Formula 1 community as a whole. We want McLaren to earn respect on and off the track, and this felt like a good starting point. We want to show everyone what makes this team special, whether that’s our fans or our partners – there’s room for more on our journey.”

The team’s racing director Eric Boullier expressed optimism about the team’s potential for 2018, but also acknowledged the season will be sure to see its fair share of challenges.

“I think the whole team feels proud of this car,” he asserted. “The design, engineering and aerodynamic departments have done an incredible job delivering a new car with a new power unit in an extremely short timeframe. We never took the easy route or looked to shortcut a process or a solution; and the result is a car that is neat and well-resolved.

“That said, we are under no illusions that it will be difficult to splinter the hegemony at the front; and that the midfield will be full of well-funded, experienced outfits with plenty to prove. We are humble about the challenge ahead, but feel we’ve prepared well, have a solid package that we can build upon and exploit as the season progresses, and have two excellent drivers who will make the difference in races.”

The MCL33 took to the track on Friday for filming at a test track in Spain, and will be run in anger for the first time when testing begins next week at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

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