The same tire compounds you ran in the most recent race in Singapore are the same compounds you’ll have in Sochi. It seemed that getting a handle on how each of these compounds would perform proved difficult. Despite your struggles in Singapore, do you feel that experience has you better prepared for Sochi?
“Yes and no. I think we had good pace, which we showed in qualifying. We had good pace on every compound. Saying that, the problem in Singapore was qualifying in the top-10 with the hypersoft, which didn’t last very long in the race compared to the ultrasoft and the softs. It made the strategy very complicated. In Sochi, we’ll need to see how the hypersoft performs. It’s a really good tire on one lap, but what’s the tire life? We’ll need to decide if we want to go through to Q3 in qualifying, or if there’s anything we should do differently. You don’t want to be qualifying in the top-10 and then not have a chance to score points in the race.”
Heading into Singapore, there was some trepidation because it was a tight and twisty track that didn’t suit the Haas VF-18 as well as other circuits. Does the Sochi Autodrom allow for a return to the style of racetrack that better suits your racecars?
“In Singapore we qualified eighth, almost best of the rest. I think the car worked very well, which is very encouraging after a difficult Monaco. Sochi should be a good track for us. It’s key to get the tires to work in Russia, and that’s something we haven’t done very well in the past. I’m sure this year we’re going to be much better. I’m very much looking forward to getting there and enjoying it.”
The fight for the top of the midfield seems to have ramped up of late. Renault is fourth and Haas F1 Team isn’t that far behind in fifth, but McLaren and Force India have cut the gap to each of you. How would you describe the current midfield battle?
“It’s very exciting, very interesting. A lot can happen. It’s very open. I think it’s going to go until the end of the year. It’s great fun. We’re going to do everything we can to definitely get that fourth position in the constructors’ championship.”
What is your favorite part of the Sochi Autodrom and why?
“I do quite like the fast turn three. It’s a very high-speed corner, flat out, then just going into turn four, coming out of the corner, then braking straight away for turn four. I think the corners flow into each other quite nicely. It’s a good track to drive.”
Is there a specific portion of the Sochi Autodrom that is more challenging than other aspects of the track?
“Yes, there’s the braking after the second straight-line DRS zone. You’re braking with g-forces then going underneath the bridge. It’s very twisty and the tires are having a tough time around there. That’s where you really need to get a good balance.”
Explain a lap around the Sochi Autodrom.
“There’s a very long straight line to start, followed by big braking into a right-hand side corner, taken in third or fourth gear. Then you have the famous turn three, which is flat out in qualifying. Then you go into turn four – you can carry quite good speed into it. The next few corners are very similar. They flow nicely and you enjoy some good speed in the car. Then you go on the backstraight, again with very tricky braking. Then the last section of the track is much slower, in particular the last two corners. The pit entry is also a bit tricky. The finish line is straight at the last corner, so depending if you’re on a qualifying lap or a racing lap, each one is different.”
The Sochi Autodrom runs around the Olympic Village, as Sochi hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics. Do you follow the Olympics when they take place? Do you have a preference for either the Winter or Summer Olympics, and is there a specific event you like to watch?
“I do follow the Olympics. My grandfather competed twice in the Olympic Games as a skier. The Olympics are something very important to my family. It’s always a pleasure to see where the flame is and sharing in that spirit.”