Reflecting on testing, and the fact it was two days shorter than previous years, what was the impact of that condensed running on your test preparations?
“I thought it was both interesting and exciting. We had a lot of laps to do in a short amount of time. On my first day of testing I did 158 laps of driving and I certainly felt it in my body a little bit. It’s also good after the winter to get a lot of mileage done. I did enjoy the condensed element.”
How much input do you as a driver have in setting the test-plan for each day and does that evolve over the pre-season test based on your time accumulated in the new car?
“First of all, we have to discover the new car. We have to try to see what the positives and negatives are. Then we work on the test program. Obviously, it’s going to evolve a little bit over the running days, subject to any issues we have and the time of any changes, as well as how much running we want to do. It’s really a team effort between the engineers and the drivers to see what the best thing is to do and what we want to test to be ready for the season.”
The Australian Grand Prix hasn’t rewarded you particularly well over the years – the notable exceptions being 2016 and an incredible sixth place finish on Haas F1 Team’s debut, along with five top 10 qualifying starts. What are your thoughts on the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit and why the race has produced mixed results for you over the years?
“I love the Albert Park circuit and I love Australia and the city of Melbourne. To me it’s one of the best races of the season. I’m happy to go down to Australia every year. I’ve had some good qualifying sessions there, I’ve always been pretty much in the top 10, with a couple of exceptions. The races, yes, my luck hasn’t been good in Australia. I’ve got the feeling things will be different this year and I’m looking forward to it.”
Melbourne is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a Formula One venue – what’s your first memory of watching Formula One in Melbourne, and other than your own personal highlights there, what other moments in Formula One stand out for you from Melbourne’s heritage?
“I don’t remember a lot of races from Melbourne, I guess because of the time difference when I was younger. I do remember, I think it was Sebastien Bourdais’ debut, every car was dropping out and he got into the top six. He didn’t even finish the race, he retired something like two laps from the end but was still classified in seventh. Australia in the past has always been quite entertaining because cars were having issues and the reliability was not as good as it is today. There were always a lot of retirements and so you never really knew what to expect. For me though, 2016 is the one memory that stands out.”