Nico Hulkenberg says his priority remains getting comfortable with his new Sauber

German driver cautiously optimistic over C32's form

By Mike Wise in Barcelona.   Last Updated: 20/02/13 7:43pm

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Nico Hulkenberg says his main priority remains familiarising himself with the new surroundings of his Sauber car.

Taking the wheel of the C32 for the first time at the Circuit de Catalunya on Wednesday, the German failed to make waves ending up ninth fastest overall.

Hulkenberg was similarly anonymous during his allocated running in Jerez two weeks ago but reckons that matters such as fine-tuning set-up and extracting performance are currently secondary.

"For me, it's getting happy in the car," he said after completing 88 laps and setting a fastest time of 1:24.205.

"More mileage makes you happier in the car, more comfortable with the buttons, with the steering wheel. Because once you get racing, that really wants to be glued in your head.

"That's what we're here for (and) then understanding the car further - trying to extract performance, opening up the areas where we can improve. We need to be developing: which road we need to go down and these kind of things."

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Hulkenberg's time was 2.3s slower than that managed by the pacesetting Sergio Perez -his predecessor at Sauber, of course, and someone also adjusting to new surroundings at McLaren.

Like Perez and every other driver in the Barcelona paddock, Hulkenberg also had something to say on the level of tyre degradation - described on Wednesday by the Mexican as "extreme" - experienced this week.

The former Williams and Force India driver said he only had a lap or two available with which to gauge the potential of his new car but added that all teams are being affected.

Even so, halfway through his testing programme, the 25-year-old sounded cautiously optimistic.

"It's not too bad," Hulkenberg said. "(There's) still work to be done and I think there's still room for improvement. We're still learning, still getting familiarised with the car. I'm not negative about it."

Sauber did at least introduce an interesting new development on Wednesday: their own version of Lotus's passive DRS system. Hulkenberg tried it during the morning but made no effort to set a time.

"It was not proper running," he added. "It was just data gathering. It was the first hour of the day, which is not really suited for testing anyway because it's really cold from nine o' clock onwards to 10, 10:30."

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