Haas F1 Team continued to show speed in the Spanish Grand Prix. Despite the outcome of your race, how satisfying was that, considering it’s the benchmark venue for teams because of all the time spent testing there, and because of all the new upgrades other teams outfitted on their racecars?
“It was really good to see that Kevin (Magnussen) had a good race and that the pace was there. We were both in the top-10 in qualifying. Obviously, yes, it’s a shame when your race ends on the first lap, but it does happen sometimes. The most important thing was that Kevin was fast. We then went testing and I had a good feeling in the car.”
When you endure some adversity in one race, what do you do to come into the next race with a fresh perspective, especially when we’re still in the early stages of a 21-race schedule?
“We’ve got 16 races to go. It’s been a tough series recently, with tough luck. There’s a lot more races, and as we’ve said, the car is fast at a lot of circuits. I’m very much looking forward to the next race.”
Qualifying is always important in Formula One, but is it exceptionally more important at Monaco because it’s so tough to pass?
“Qualifying in Monaco is pretty much everything. Then in the race, you need to stay in between the walls and wait. Sometimes nothing will happen, sometimes a lot will happen and you can gain some positions. We’re going to focus on qualifying.”
You already have some adversity to overcome with a three-race grid penalty to serve in the Monaco Grand Prix. Does that factor into your strategy for qualifying at Monaco, or does it not matter because despite the circumstances, you’re always trying to qualify as close to the front as possible?
“It’s probably one of the worst races to get a penalty. It is what it is. We’ve got to live with it. Our strategy will be to qualify as high as we can and move from there.”
You sampled the Pink hypersoft tire extensively during the recent in-season test at Barcelona. How did it perform and how helpful will your time spent running that tire be when it makes its race debut at Monaco?
“It’s a good tire – probably the best Pirelli has produced so far. I think they should work pretty nicely in Monaco. They were working very well in Barcelona, so let’s see.”
With the racing debut of the Pink hypersoft tire, how will that play into your strategy for qualifying? The tire will give you a fast lap, but it won’t last as long in the race.
“They’re going to be faster and I think the endurance of the tire will be good enough. Knowing we could do some pushing in Barcelona during the test – the energy is much slower in Monaco, so it should last for a good amount of time.”
It seems Haas F1 Team has a better handle on tire management this year. Is that accurate?
“Yes, that’s correct. We’ve got a much better understanding of the tire. The boys are doing an amazing job to help us to put them in the window and, therefore, it’s much easier to drive the car.”
The posh, elegant lifestyle around Monaco meets head on with one of the most demanding and unforgiving circuits in Formula One. Monte Carlo is obviously a cool place to visit, but how difficult is it to race there?
“It’s pretty difficult to race there. Every city racetrack is complicated. In Monaco, you can’t make any mistakes or you’re straight into the wall. It’s hard to find the right limit of the car. You always have to drive underneath (the limit), unless you’re in qualifying on a very fast lap. It’s very tight there, and it goes very fast between the walls. It’s a great challenge.”
The Monaco Grand Prix has been held since 1929. Does the history of that race resonate with you, and is there a particular race that stands out for you?
“I do remember Monaco in 1996 when Olivier Panis won. He was the last Frenchman to win a grand prix. I remember that race, especially, as it was a crazy race. He started 14th and was one of only three cars to cross the finish. Of course, the history of Monaco, and all the racing cars, and the changes to the circuit over the years – we love it because Monaco is Monaco.”
Because Monaco is so technical, do you consider it a driver’s track, where one’s skills can trump another car’s sophistication?
“That’s a tricky question. Yes, it’s a driver’s track, where you need to have confidence in your car. But, on the other hand, if your car doesn’t give you any grip, you won’t have any confidence and you cannot make any difference. It’s just finding that very fine balance in between the car, the driver pushing it, and the fact that yes, once you’re very confident, you can actually make a bit of a difference.”
It seems like good days at Monaco become great, but bad days turn even worse. Is success at Monaco so cherished because it’s so difficult to succeed?
“That’s probably true, yes. It’s probably one of the most difficult races to win. Everything needs to be perfect, from the first free practice to the end of the race. You need a good pace in practice and, hopefully, get a top-three place in qualifying. After that you need a good start, a good strategy and a good run to the end. It’s very difficult to get that right.”
You mentioned how Monaco is sort of a home race for you. Is your family able to join you? Are you able to enjoy the area on Friday when there is no on-track running?
“My wife is probably going to be onsite working, but my kids are not going to come. I love being in Monaco. Having the Friday off is cool. There are always meetings in the afternoon, and meeting fans, which is great, but in the morning you can have a quiet one far from the crazy glamour that is Monaco.”
You’ll have an actual home race in about a month with the return of the French Grand Prix. How important will that race be to you and what experience do you have at Circuit Paul Ricard?
“I don’t have any experience at Circuit Paul Ricard. I’ve only raced there once in a GT car, so it’s kind of going to be like a new track for me, but I’m very much looking forward to it. It’s going to be amazing to race in front of my home crowd, and I’m hoping we’re going to have a good race there.”
What is your favorite part of Monaco and why?
“I quite like the run up the hill to Casino Corner. It’s a high-speed part of Monaco.”
Is there a specific portion of Monaco that is more challenging than other aspects of the track?
“Every part of Monaco is quite challenging, even the straight line going into turn one is very bumpy, the same under the tunnel. It’s one of those circuits where you cannot rest.”
Explain a lap around Monaco, especially now after having competed there with the faster, current-generation car.
“It’s one of the places where we’ve gained the most time, and you really feel a lot of difference with the new cars. There’s a lot of minimum speed you can carry and you’ve got to be much more precise than you were before, which is great fun.”
Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at Monaco?
“I won the GP2 race there in 2009. I would say that was a good moment.”