After some tough race weekends in the United States and Mexican Grands Prix, how fulfilling was it to finally get a double-points finish in Brazil to take some positive momentum into the season finale in Abu Dhabi?
“It’s great, and that’s what we want for the last two races – double-point finishes. It’s great for the team. I think we had a really good weekend in Brazil. For the future, we need to understand what happened in Mexico and Austin as it just didn’t go to plan, but I was very happy with Brazil.”
Regardless of the outcome in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team will have nearly doubled its point tally from last year. Are points scored the surest, most tangible examples of progress, or are there other elements of progress not everyone is able to see from the outside?
“Yes, there’s plenty. There’s been a lot of improvement within the team, a lot of progress made. It’s not finished either. There’ll be more in the future. Whatever the outcome in Abu Dhabi, we can be proud of our season.”
What were the team’s challenges this year?
“The same as always, getting the tires to work, getting the best of the car. Also, creating a nice car, developing it over the season and focusing on 2019, as well. There’s been quite a few.”
What were the team’s strengths?
“I’d say the atmosphere. It’s a real racing team. We’re focused on getting the best of the car and driving fast. There’s a great atmosphere, and everyone on the team really does their best to get us to where we want to go.”
Is there a particular moment from this season that stands out the most for you?
“Obviously, Austria was the best-ever result for the team. For me also, I’d say Germany. I enjoyed the race. Those last 10 laps were pretty awesome.”
When the season starts, Abu Dhabi seems very far away, yet here we are. Has the season gone by quickly?
“Very quickly. The second part of the season has just flown by.”
As you head into the offseason, how much “off” is there, or is that just a misnomer because preseason testing tends to arrive quickly?
“You’ve got a month-and-a-half with very little on, except your own physical preparation. You’re not doing things like sponsor events or going to the simulator. It’s not too bad. No complaints there. I’ll take a week or two off, not doing much, but the rest of the time will be dedicated to physical preparation.”
What is the first thing you’ll do to begin the offseason?
“Probably take my wife out to a nice restaurant.”
Yas Marina Circuit is a showplace. What makes it stand out on the Formula One schedule?
“It’s the show, the overall race view, the fact you start in the day and finish in the night, and the fact it’s been the finale for a few years now. It’s a very nice venue with superb facilities.”
With the race beginning in the late afternoon and ending at night, how much does the track change as the air and track temperatures cool and, in turn, how does that affect tire management?
“It does change a little bit, and that’s why FP2 is very important in Abu Dhabi. That’s the only session where you’re going to get the same conditions as qualifying and the race. You do need to work there. It does make a big difference if it’s sunny or dark.”
Yas Marina Circuit consists of three distinct sectors. How do you find a setup that suits all aspects of the track, or do you have to compromise in one section to take full advantage of another section?
“It’s always about compromise and finding the best setup to go faster. You just have to find where you can find the lap time. That’s the key. You’re never going to be perfect in every corner, but you can try to be as good as you can over the lap.”
Yas Marina is a smooth track and it seems that it takes a while for the track to rubber in. As the grip level increases over the duration of the race weekend, how do you determine where the limit is from Friday to Saturday to Sunday?
“The most difficult thing in Abu Dhabi are the conditions between FP1 and FP2. You only actually have one session that is representative of the race and qualifying, and that’s FP2. FP1 and FP3 are warm, therefore you have an hour-and-a-half to determine the best setup.”
Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at Abu Dhabi?
“I won there in GT1 (in 2010 with Matech Competition). That was my first-ever GT World Championship start, and the first race with that team, and we won. It was a pretty good moment taking the win and leading the championship.”
What is your favorite part of Yas Marina Circuit?
“I quite like the first part with turns one, two and three. It can be fun.”
Describe a lap around Yas Marina Circuit.
“Straight line to the first corner – it comes pretty quickly – a 90-degree left-hand corner, normally in fourth gear. Turns two and three are then flat out. You go down the hill, braking into (turn) six – very tricky braking turning into six, then straight away into (turn) seven. You need to be well positioned for the hairpin going down the backstraight. It’s tricky to get the car to turn. Long straight line, big braking for the chicane, and again you need to be well positioned between the left- and right-hand side corners. Then it’s another straight line on to (turns) 11, 12 and 13. It’s a triple chicane and as soon as you exit that part you go flat out then brake for turn 14, which is a 90-degree left-hand side corner. Flat out again into (turns) 16 and 17, two right-hand side corners flat out. As soon as you go out of (turn) 17 you have to brake again for (turns) 18. (Turns) 19 and 20, you’re going under the hotel, with a tricky exit out of (turn) 20. The second-to-last-corner is good. It’s high speed in fourth or fifth gear. Then the last corner is very tricky. It’s very wide on the entry phase with the pit lane on the right-hand side. It’s not easy to find a line. Then you go as early as you can on the power to finish the lap.”