Q&A with Norbert Michelisz
He will carry the hopes of a nation on his shoulders
Norbert ‘Norbi’ Michelisz will carry the hopes of a nation on his shoulders when the Hungaroring hosts the MOL Group WTCC Race of Hungary this weekend. But the Zengő Motorsport driver, 30, is not just a fan favourite, he’s also a firm favourite for success in his Honda Civic WTCC, with the Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy for independent racers far from being the limit of his ambitions.
Big fun or big pressure – how would you describe your home round of the WTCC?
“My home race is always very special but I can’t say I can enjoy it because there is a huge amount of pressure. It’s also a very busy time before the race and afterwards if it has gone well.”
How do you cope with the pressure?
“The first year in 2011 it was very, very difficult. The mistake in the second race was due to the enormous pressure. But I have to say the routine from the last four seasons has taught me to focus on taking the positive energy from this huge amount of support and love I get from the fans. And I have to say that the positive energy is just amazing and something you really have to enjoy.”
Is there such a thing as a home advantage for you?
“You can have an advantage if you arrive to a new circuit where you are the only one who knows it, but you have an advantage for the free practice and that’s all. The drivers in the WTCC are top level and when they arrive at a new circuit it’s soon business as usual because, after many years, they know how to cope with a new situation. I can’t say I know the Hungaroring more than any other driver – the only advantage I have is the support and positive energy I get from the crowd.”
The Hungaroring has a reputation as being a tough place to overtake. Do you agree?
“Because of the layout overtaking is difficult. You can try to out-brake a rival but you will always have the problem that he can do the same to you at the corner that follows. If you miss the rhythm in the first corner you will end up losing a lot of time to the end of the sector. Then you have a very technical second sector where you don’t have any time to breathe or be relaxed.”
You’ll get the chance to meet a few Formula One drivers during the Street Show in Budapest. Do you have a favourite?
“Kimi Räikkönen is one of my favourite drivers in Formula One. His personality is very relaxed and he knows how to be himself. I met him in 2012 and I hope to have the pleasure of talking to him again. The parade is an amazing event. There are thousands of people and the atmosphere is just a moment to enjoy what is happening around you. You are not on the race weekend yet so you don’t have the stress of competing to the last millimetre.”
What do you think about MOL Group becoming the Event Presenting Partner of WTCC Race of Hungary?
“It’s amazing. MOL Group is a huge company and they are sponsoring my team, me and now the Race of Hungary. To see that amount of commitment from a Hungarian company having the same goals, the same targets is a very nice feeling. It shows to me it could be a long-term relationship and that could help me a lot.”
And what about your targets – some people have tipped you for the championship after you finished fourth last season?
“Of course the main target prior to starting the season is to improve the results I had in the previous one. But until you have a clear picture of your performance against your rivals it’s difficult to say what you can achieve. I was very optimistic before the season started and I still am now even though we have been lacking in performance compared to Citroën. I know we will have some difficult weekends but there will be some weekends when we will be really strong. The most important thing is to be consistent like last year.”
Will you be really strong in Hungary?
“I expect a lot from Hungary because last year, even with a very new car, we were performing really well and Tiago [Monteiro] scored two podium finishes. I know we have some development parts coming throughout the season and the first package that will be delivered is for the Race of Hungary. So maybe with the right positive energy, some luck and better possibilities with the car I think we will be able to fight, even for a race victory.”
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