With just two and a half hours between your only practice session and the start of qualifying at Imola thanks to F1 trialing a two-day race format – how did you adapt to processing the data with your engineers in a shortened time window. Does experience come to the fore as a driver in those situations?
“Yes, I think experience is important in those situations. You know quicker what you expect to have for the race, and I think we did a good job in that aspect – we had every tool prepared in the car. Obviously, working with the team for such a long time also helps in those circumstances.”
At Imola you again expressed your love of driving an old school circuit in a current-spec Formula 1 car. What is it that delivers those elements of pleasure, what makes the difference to you behind the wheel at each circuit? Would those circuits feel the same in other race cars or is it the visceral speed of a Formula 1 car that is the difference maker?
“I think they would feel the same in different cars. It’s the up and down, the elevation, the different types of kerbs, the scenery, the atmosphere. I guess though, elevation and camber, the different corners and kerbs – those are the keys.”
You reached out with a message of support to George Russell following his crash under the safety car during last Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Was it important to you to show empathy to a fellow driver in those circumstances?
“I’ve had a good relationship with George. When the announcement was made that I wasn’t going to be with the team next season, he was the first and only one to send me a WhatsApp message. That really shows that he’s a great guy. I know how painful it is to crash under a safety car period – especially when it’s going to be your first point of the season. I believe it was the same for me at Baku in 2018. In the lower part of the field, you really need to work the tires a lot. I’ve said it many times, if I was doing Baku again, I’d probably do the same thing as I did three seasons ago. George didn’t do anything crazy, but he just lost the car. It was a tough day for him, but he’ll have plenty more (good days) to come.”
You’ve raced at Intercity Istanbul Circuit before – taking a victory there in 2011 in the GP2 Series. What are your memories of the circuit and what can we expect from the return of the Turkish Grand Prix?
“I think it’s going to be an outstanding circuit, another really good one. It’s very high speed, there’s ups and downs, different kerbs – again, everything you need to have. There’s some low speed at the end of the circuit for some good overtaking. I think it’s going to be a very good weekend.”