You trialed the latest Ferrari engine in Monaco. How did it perform and what are your expectations for it as you prepare for a more power-sensitive track in Circuit Gilles Villeneuve?
“In Monaco, it’s very difficult to know what your engine’s doing, or what the power difference is, so I’m really looking forward to driving in Canada. I believe it’s a good step, and that should be clear in Montreal.”
The tire compounds you ran in Monaco will be the same for Montreal. Considering these three compounds are the softest available from Pirelli, will they allow you to extract the kind of performance you want out of them, as the team has historically been able to make the C3, C4 and C5 compounds work?
“We did really well in Monaco, and I didn’t know what to expect in getting the tires to work. Obviously, we got them to work very nicely, and performing really well in qualifying with Kevin, and managing 51 laps on the softs in the race on my side – which was pretty amazing. We had a really good pace. So, I believe it’s going to be OK. We need to wait and see, but I’ve got hope that we’re going to get them to work.”
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team is coming off back-to-back points-paying finishes with its runs at Barcelona and Monaco. After struggling in Bahrain, China and Baku, do you feel you have a handle on what you need to marry the characteristics of the Haas VF-19 with the Pirelli tires to get the best out of both?
“Now we’ve got a clear idea of what we need to do in terms of tires. We’ve been working really hard, so we know exactly where the window is. Now the question is how to bring the tires into that window. I think we’re getting better and better at that. Things should get a bit smoother, and I still believe we’ve got the fourth-fastest car on the track.”
Qualifying remains Rich Energy Haas F1 Team’s strong suit. Considering how tight the midfield is again this year, is qualifying perhaps even more important than the actual race since it has so much influence in the outcome of the race?
“Well, it really depends on the circuit. In Monaco, definitely, qualifying is key, but in Canada and other tracks, it’s a bit less important. Obviously, the higher up the grid you are, the better it is, but the race can always bring a good surprise if you haven’t qualified where you want.”
Only four points separate fifth place from ninth place in the constructors’ standings. Can you provide some insight into the level of competitiveness in the midfield this year through the opening six races of 2019 and how you see it playing out through the summer stretch?
“The midfield this year is super, super tight. Three tenths of a second in qualifying can put you in P6 or P7 or even P15. It’s very exciting. It’s a good challenge for the drivers. You’re pushing to the limit all the time. I think it would be nice if you were fighting for the win, or for pole position, but obviously the big teams are a bit too far ahead. We’ve got the potential of getting fourth place, but we need to put everything together, stop the small mistakes, and get those points going. I’m looking forward to being in Canada.”
Montreal is home to one of your best finishes in Formula One – a second-place effort in 2012. What do you remember about that race and how did you achieve that result?
“That was a great race. I started P7. I had a one-stop strategy while everyone else was on a two-stop strategy. Initially, I thought I would finish fifth or sixth as I was stuck behind the Mercedes of (Nico) Rosberg. I couldn’t overtake. Then, everyone pitted. The ones who didn’t were really struggling with grip, so I could overtake them. I didn’t quite have the pace to chase Lewis (Hamilton) and take the win.”
How important was that second-place finish at Montreal in 2012 during the early portion of your Formula One career?
“It was a great race and, obviously, a great result. I always try to do my best. It was a good race. I enjoyed it. It’s always important to strive for the highest finish you can and be as high on the podium as possible.”