Describe what’s required from your set-up to be competitive at Autodromo Nazionale Monza and how do you evolve that set-up from Friday’s practice session through to preparing for Sunday’s race?
“Monza is a very atypical circuit. There’s a lot of straight lines, so obviously top speed and drag is key on the set-up. But also because of those high speeds, there’s big breaking and you use the kerbs a lot. The set-up is really about putting confidence into the car. From Friday to Sunday, normally what you do is keep removing downforce from the car, you keep pushing the limit of it.”
The Italian Grand Prix is renowned for the passion of its fans with the famed ‘Tifosi’ adding to the atmosphere over the weekend – something that will unfortunately be missing on this visit. Where does the atmosphere of a race weekend hit you the most – is it on arrival each day, in and around the paddock, or on the grid before the race – and will Monza in particular feel even stranger without fans on-site?
“Monza will definitely feel strange without the fans, especially when you get to the paddock. Usually all the fans are waiting by the car park and it’s almost difficult to walk to the paddock – but it’s mega to be a part of it. For me this season, it’s usually Sunday on the grid where you miss the fans the most. At Monza we’ll definitely feel it every day.”
What are your own memorable Monza moments from your career to-date?
“I had my first ever Formula Renault 2.0 race at Monza in the Eurocup back in 2004. It was also the first race for my team (SG Formula), it was brand new team. I qualified second from something like 45 cars on the grid. I surprised everyone, including myself, it was mega.”
The additional races now confirmed for the end of the season include the return of the Turkish Grand Prix. It’s not a track you’ve personally raced at in Formula One, but do you have any experience there in the junior categories? If not, what do you know about the circuit and its challenges?
“The Istanbul Park is a mega circuit. With the new Formula One car it’s going to be absolutely amazing. I raced there a few times in the GP2 Series. I won the last time I was there in 2011. It’s a great circuit for racing and action. Turn eight, which everybody talks about, it’s really going to be a moment in these modern Formula One cars. It’ll probably be flat out, there’ll be so much g-force going on. It’s a tricky track. There’s a good variety of corners – mostly flowing in sectors one and two, then going into the last few corners it’s much lower speed, so it’s quite a challenge in terms of set-up. I think it’s just going to be great to be there.”