You’ve had the pace this season, but not the results. Does knowing the capability of the car and team allow you to persevere and look ahead to the next race because it provides the next opportunity to get the results you want?
“Yes. I think the car is really good, and the team has done a good job. We haven’t had much luck yet. We’ve had three races where we were looking at points, and three times where we haven’t scored. Knowing that we’ve got a good baseline and a good car is very exciting. I know it’s going to come our way at some point. Hopefully, that’s going to be in Baku.”
The Haas VF-18 has proven quick, thanks in part to its Ferrari engine and also to its overall balance. What are your expectations of the car at Baku City Circuit, which melds two different tracks into one layout?
“Baku is definitely a different circuit from the rest. There’s that massive long straight line – where top speed plays a key role – and then you’ve got the very twisty part around the castle, where the balance needs to be good. It’s going to be a good challenge. It’s not a race where we were very competitive last year. It’ll be interesting to see how much progress we’ve made. It’s a really exciting grand prix – a lot can happen. There are always good opportunities, so we’ll try to get them there.”
Three races into 2018 and we’ve seen two Scuderia Ferrari wins and one Red Bull win with defending champion Mercedes still looking for a win. It seems there’s parity among the big-three teams, as well as throughout the midfield. What is your take on the competitiveness of this year’s Formula One field?
“I think this year it’s been pretty good. There’s a nice battle at the front, then there’s quite a significant gap, then there’s the midfield battle, where one race it’s the Renault that’s the fastest, the next one it’s a Toro Rosso, another race it’s the Haas or maybe the McLaren. That makes it super exciting. We need to get everything super right – down to the last tenths of a second – to be qualifying in front of the others and race from there. It’s pretty exciting. Obviously, the front is a different situation, where Mercedes hasn’t won yet, but they’re still up there fighting really hard.”
It appears that the fight for the top of the midfield is wide open. Can Haas F1 Team be best of the rest?
“I’m hoping so. We’re working on that. If we do achieve that at the end of the season, it would be amazing.”
What needs to happen for Haas F1 Team to maintain the speed it has shown early in the season through the rest of the Formula One calendar?
“It’s development of the car, bringing updates, and making sure we exploit the platform 100 percent as much as we can. That’s really what we need. We’re competing against big teams, and they’re going to bring updates. We need to stay there as well.”
Baku City Circuit is a track where fuel consumption is high. Is there anything you have to do during the race to ensure you have enough fuel to finish the race?
“There are a few things we can do in terms of modes and how you use your engine and how you drive, as well. You can lift and coast before the braking to save some fuel. As soon as there’s a safety car in the race, fuel is not a problem anymore. If there’s no safety car though, fuel can be a bit of a challenge.”
Fuel levels are set to increase in 2019, from the current allotment of 105 kilograms (27.3 gallons) to 110 kilograms (28.6 gallons) in order for drivers to use the full power of their car’s engine at all times. As a driver, what can you do with those five extra kilograms (1.3 gallons) of fuel? Would it give you the freedom to push as hard as you want, whenever you want?
“Yes, I think it’s a good decision. Fuel saving is not something you necessarily want to do as a Formula One driver. You want to be pushing from the first lap to the last lap. There are times when we have to manage the tires, which does manage the fuel, so maybe no fuel limitation and a slightly better tire would be the perfect combination to get a 100 percent exciting race.”
What is the most challenging part of Baku City Circuit?
“It’s a very challenging circuit. I would say the section around the castle, where the road is tiny. It’s quite tricky to drive with a wide car.”
What is your favorite part of Baku City Circuit?
“Actually, the same part. It’s the most challenging one. It’s pretty high speed and you’ve got to get the right balance in those corners as well as the braking. It’s pretty exciting when you get it right.”
Describe a lap around Baku City Circuit.
“You’ve got the first part of the circuit – big straight lines and then big braking into 90-degree corners. It’s not the most exciting, but it’s good for overtaking. Then later the track changes a lot. There are very tight corners, but flowing ones. Around the castle it’s uphill and very fast. The two last corners are downhill with a lot of camber before the long backstraight. It’s really two different circuits in one.
“The difference in the current-generation car is really in the braking points. You’re braking much later and carrying much more speed through the corners, like turns one, three, five and six. You’re going on power earlier. You just get a better grip around the track, and on a city circuit, it does make a lot of difference in how you drive and how you feel it.”