With a run of three-straight grands prix, along with this back-to-back set of races in Germany and Hungary, how important is the summer shutdown for team personnel?
“I think it’s going to be important for everyone. There have been a lot of grands prix in a little amount of time. Since Melbourne, it’s been pretty much flat out, especially in the first part of the year with the car being new and so on, there’s always a lot of work. Of course, that first triple-header was quite challenging, so I think everyone is quite happy to go on holiday, and they can come back recharged for the second half of the season.”
What will you do for your own well-being and self-preservation during the summer shutdown?
“I’ll have family time, do some sport, get some holiday time in, just generally enjoy being home.”
What are your expectations for Hungary? Does the tighter track pose more of a challenge for Haas F1 Team?
“It’s not an easy grand prix. It’s a small circuit and it’s like a rollercoaster. It’s very twisty. We’ll see what we can do there, but it’s a grand prix I love. I always love going to Budapest but, definitely, it’s a challenging one.”
In six career Formula One starts at the Hungaroring you’ve finished in the top-10 three times, with a best finish of third in your first race there in 2012. What makes it such a good track for you?
“It’s difficult to explain. I’ve always had a good feeling in Hungary. I’ve always liked the track. It used to be very bumpy, but they resurfaced two years ago. It’s a low-speed circuit. How the car handles is important. I’ve been lucky to have had cars that have performed well there over the years.”
The Hungaroring has historically been known as a slower racetrack because of its tight layout, but did that change last year because of the speeds you’re able to achieve in the corners with these faster, current-generation cars?
“I think the biggest difference was the resurfacing of the Hungaroring. It used to be very bumpy, and now it’s pretty flat, which is a bit of a shame. It’s not a high-speed circuit, but saying that, sector two is quite cool – going up the hill and coming back down to the last two corners. It’s not as slow as it used to be.”
Did the faster speeds change how you attacked certain portions of the Hungaroring?
“No, not really. You try to maximize every corner with whatever grip you’ve got available.”
You’re constantly turning the wheel at the Hungaroring and with the slower speeds, very little air flows into the car. Combined with the normally high temperatures experienced in Budapest, how physically demanding is the Hungarian Grand Prix?
“It can get very hot in Budapest. It’s not an easy race, but on the other hand, there’s not many high-speed corners on the track, so it’s more about keeping your focus and concentration all through the race. Regardless, we’re always keeping fit to prepare ourselves.”
How difficult is it to overtake at the Hungaroring and where are the overtaking opportunities?
“It’s very difficult to overtake at the Hungaroring. To be fair, I made one of the best overtakes of my life there in 2013, outside of turn four, on Felipe Massa. I got a drive-through penalty for that one for having four wheels off the track. That didn’t matter to me as it was one of my most beautiful overtaking moves ever.”
What made the move so rewarding for you, even with the penalty?
“Because it came at a corner where nobody is expecting you to overtake. It was an outside overtake on a high-speed corner. The penalty, I thought, was questionable, but I just enjoyed the move. It was a key time in the race for me to be able to try and win. I really had to push hard and I just really enjoyed that overtaking maneuver.”
A lot of grip, a lot of braking and a lot of high-energy demands all conspire against tires at the Hungaroring. How do you manage the tires and get the most out of them?
“They don’t get much rest in Budapest, that’s for sure. There aren’t many high-speed corners, which doesn’t put too much energy into them, but there’s no rest either, and temperatures can be really high. It’s a good challenge on tires, and getting them to work nicely in the window.”
Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at the Hungaroring?
“I’ve had some great races at the Hungaroring. I had my first pole position in GP2 there in 2008. I had some good races after that in GP2. I also qualified on the front row of the Hungarian Grand Prix back in 2012.”
What is your favorite part of the Hungaroring?
“I like sector two, the flowing section of the track, which is quite nice.”
Explain a lap around the Hungaroring, especially now after having competed there with the faster, current-generation car.
“The biggest difference now is it goes from turns four, five and onward to the middle section, where all the low-speed and medium-speed corners are, and the last corner as well. It’s much faster than it used to be, which is actually quite cool.”