You’ve advanced to the final round of qualifying in every event this season. How has the team’s methodology and execution augmented your own skills behind the wheel?
“I think the car is fast in qualifying, and we know it, so that’s how we’ve managed to go through to Q3. Obviously, what happened in Q3 in China was not ideal, but the car is fast in qualifying and that’s why we’ve made it into the top-10 each Saturday this season.”
Emulating the success of qualifying in the race has proven to be difficult, at least in the last two races. What are you feeling in the car during qualifying that you’re not feeling in the race?
“The grip is going. We have good grip in qualifying. On new tires, the car is amazing, but when we go into the race, we’re losing the grip and things become a bit more complicated. That’s the problem we’re facing at the moment. It’s probably coming from the way we use the tires. We haven’t managed to get on top of it yet. That’s our number one priority for the next few races.”
The tires seem to have an even smaller operating window than they did last year. Is that accurate, or is it more a matter of getting the tires into their operating window rather than keeping them in that window?
“That’s what we’re trying to find out. The window may have moved, or the operating of the tires may be a bit different with the thinner treads. Obviously the chassis is good, otherwise we wouldn’t be so fast in qualifying, we wouldn’t be so fast over one lap. We need to understand the tires a bit more, and where the window is and how we get there. That’s the next task for the engineers.”
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team had speed throughout the Australian Grand Prix race weekend. With it taking place at a street circuit, do you envision some carryover of that kind of sustained speed when you return to Baku City Circuit?
“No, not really – for various reasons. Australia was very warm, we managed to get the tires to work well. Baku is a different circuit, it’s probably closer to China. We need to work really hard before Baku to try to understand how to get the tires to work. That’s really going to be the key for us there.”
Baku has been described as a mix between Monza and Monaco. That means high speeds at a very tight track. How do you expect this year’s new aero package to impact the race, both in terms of the speed you can achieve and the overtaking opportunities that will be available?
“Overtaking in Baku has always been good. The straight line is so long that you get a massive tow, a massive slipstream, which is always good. It’s probably a racetrack that is much more fun in the race than in qualifying. In qualifying, you’re dealing with those 90-degree corners, it’s not as good as some other places. The race is always very exciting. It’s probably one of those circuits, along with Monza, where the new aero package won’t have much impact. Racing has always been good there, so there wasn’t a big need for changes. Let’s see how we get on.”