Interview – Before Great Britain GP

By Sylvain Langlois 3 years ago
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Silverstone is one of the fastest tracks in Formula One, but it’s not necessarily from long straights but rather from long, flowing corners. Can you describe the feeling of speed you experience at this power circuit?

“It’s a really cool track, especially the fast part through Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel corners. When you have the grip in the car there, you really get the sensation of the g-forces. Everything’s pushing down. You really want to get the first part of the flowing corners right. If you don’t, you just lose a lot of time. When the car is very stable and has good balance, you can go flat out and really push it to the limit.”

Knowing how fast these current-generation cars are, what are your expectations in terms of how the car will feel at Silverstone, particularly through the Maggots, Becketts and Chapel corners – an area of the track where you really feel the g-forces being exerted on your body?

“I think it’s going to be one of the most exciting tracks of the year to drive. With the new cars, we’re really going to have a lot of downforce, a lot of g-forces through the high-speed corners – which were already really good with the previous cars. Now we’re going to get to another level and I’m looking forward to discovering that.”

With speed playing such a role at Silverstone, how difficult is it to overtake? And if the opportunity presents itself, where can you overtake?

“There are a few spots. On the straights and through the high-speed corners, you have an opportunity if your car is much better balanced than the car in front of you. After turn three or turn four, there’s the long section after the slow-speed corners, and that’s a good opportunity as well. But the thing about Silverstone is really the difference between a well-balanced car and an unbalanced car – that’s where the opportunity lies.”

What do you need at Silverstone to have the proper balance in your racecar?

“Silverstone is not an easy track. You’ve got all the high-speed sections, where you really want to carry some speed and get fast. Then you’ve got the twisty turns three and four, then the whole last corner, which is tricky on the throttle application. Generally, you need a good rear-end, and if you get that, you can then put some front-flap on and go faster.”

Is Silverstone the track where you’re able to run at full throttle for the longest periods of time?

“I think probably Baku we were flat out for longer periods of time, but Silverstone is a power track as well. You need good power to get a good lap time there. There are a few straight lines and a few overtaking opportunities but, mainly, Silverstone is about the grip of the car through the high-speed corners.”

How do you find that edge to determine when you can be flat-out and when you can’t?

“Well, you find out quickly when you’re wrong, but you have to try. It’s as simple as that. You go step-by-step, but definitely the last step is going flat-out.”

How much downforce do you want at Silverstone? As much as you can get, or do you want to be able to slide the car a bit and have a little less drag?

“As much as you can get. You’ll always slide the car, so the more downforce, the better.”

At most circuits, pole position is critical. But for some reason, not as much at Silverstone, where the pole winner has only gone on to win five times in the last 19 years. Is this happenstance or is there something about the track’s layout that provides more opportunity for those a little deeper on the starting grid?

“Silverstone is in the UK, and the UK weather is known to be sometimes rainy, sometimes dry. That plays a part. It can change a lot between qualifying and the race, and then even in the race itself. You can also have a good car in qualifying, but if it’s not quite perfectly balanced for the race, you’ll pay the price. That’s where success lies, and probably why most of the winners didn’t start from pole position.”

Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at Silverstone?

“I’ve had some good races there. I remember GP2 in 2009 – I scored the pole position by a big margin, that was pretty good fun. In F1, back in 2012, I had a first-lap incident where I had to change the front wing and from there I just pushed all the way. I remember overtaking (Jenson) Button and (Lewis) Hamilton through Maggots, Becketts – the high-speed corners. I came back to sixth from being last on the first lap, which was pretty good.”

What is your favorite part of Silverstone?

“The high-speed corners at Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel.”

Describe a lap around Silverstone.

“You start off on the new main pit straight before taking the first turn flat-out. Then you come into two hairpins. The first one is more open than the second one, and the second you really want to go for as early as you can. Then you go through the old last couple of corners – very tricky braking here – before going along the old pit straight. It’s very tricky here on power, as well. Then you get to the very high-speed section. It’s a great sensation in the car here. You stay flat-out as much as you can into Maggotts and Becketts, and then downshifting every corner a gear, and then you’re onto the Hanger Straight to Stowe corner. This is another tricky one where you enter very quickly. You want to go on the power as quick as you can, but the corner is closing down more than you think. Then you go to the last chicane – heavy braking and it’s very bumpy. Then you’ve got your final throttle application with a lot of g-force on the right-hand side and you cross the finish line.”

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