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Interview – Ahead of Russia Grand Prix

25 April 2017
You said in Australia that this year’s car is brutal to drive due to the increased speeds and heightened g-force. But after three races, have you become accustomed to how the current car affects your body? “Yes we have. The first few races yes, you always feel a bit rusty from the winter. But then after three races, now you know what to expect. Some circuits are always more difficult than others, and it depends a lot on how the tires are working. In Bahrain we had quite a big (tire) degradation. That means you lose the grip, and then it’s not as hard as the first lap in the car. I’m pretty sure at some racetracks, like Suzuka, it will be physically demanding, and some others, like Bahrain, it’s a bit less.” Track records have been broken at every venue this year, emphasizing the drastic increase in speeds. How has this affected your role as a driver? Is there less margin for error because you have to be more precise, more accurate? “With this year’s car you need to be much more precise, your coordination with your eyes, point of vision and everything else. You need to be more on it. When you turn two-to-three tenths later than you should have, it’s already one meter, whereas in the past it was maybe 50 centimeters. It makes a big difference.” Coming into the season, there was a question as to how much overtaking was actually possible. Between China and Bahrain, there seemed to be a lot of passing, and you did your fair share, including early in the Bahrain Grand Prix where you were holding off both Toro Rossos and going three-wide with the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg and the Force India of Esteban Ocon. Are you surprised at the amount of overtaking opportunities this year and do you feel it puts more of the race in your hands? “I think overtaking is clearly harder than it was in the past, which is maybe not a bad thing. You have to be a bit more creative in trying to go for it. That’s pretty cool. Again, overtaking at some tracks is going to be very tricky, and others it’s not.” You’ve said all along that the Haas VF-17 has speed and a good overall balance. How important was it to finally translate what you’ve felt in the car to a point-paying finish at Bahrain? “It was good to score points in Bahrain. Clearly, we deserved them – since race one, actually. I think the most encouraging fact for now is that the car is performing well everywhere we’ve been. So now we go to Russia, which was a bit of a tough one for us last year. We’ll see if we’ve made progress and if the car is working well at every type of circuit. If so, then pretty much everywhere we could score points.” The Sochi Autodrom seems to emulate Bahrain in terms of setup. How much of what

Interview – Ahead of Bahrain GP

13 April 2017
Bahrain is the site of Haas F1 Team’s best finish – your fifth-place result in last year’s race, which was only the second race for Haas F1 Team. Can you talk about the impact of that race and perhaps how it was even more important than the sixth-place finish you earned in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, as it seemed to validate the team and show that Australia wasn’t a fluke? Bahrain last year was pretty special. Of course, coming from Australia where we’d had a bit of luck with the red flag, we had no more expectation going into Bahrain. From the first free practice lap I thought the car’s not too bad. In qualifying we just managed to be P9, which was what we wanted not going into the Q3, which at that time was the top-eight. We knew we had a set of tires for the race. We had a very aggressive strategy. We had our first ever pit stop in the race – it was then a three-stop race. The car felt good. I was overtaking guys. Before I knew it, I had crossed the line P5. It was not down to luck or anything. It was the pure pace of the car. It was a pretty special race. I still remember having a lot of fun driving the car. In five career Formula One races at Bahrain, you’ve had four point-paying finishes, including two podiums (back-to-back third-place finishes in 2012 and 2013). And in scoring those podiums, you came from seventh and 11th on the grid. In fact, in every race you’ve picked up positions from where you qualified – 23 positions in all. Is there something about Bahrain that plays to your strengths? I love the track in Bahrain. On paper, it doesn’t look like the most exciting one, but driving it is pretty good fun. Big braking – I brake late. I love braking hard and late. It probably explains why my qualifying sessions in 2012 and 2013, I could have done better. The car was pretty good on tires in the race. It’s hard on tires as well, but I was good with that, probably another thing that helped. I love racing in Bahrain. You’ve proven that you can overtake at Bahrain. Where do you overtake and how do you do it? There’s plenty of places where you can overtake. Basically, turn one is DRS, and going up to turn four is another good place. Down to turn eight, on the first few laps of the race, is a quick one. Before turn 11 is a bit more tricky. Even though you’ve got the DRS, it’s a tricky place to overtake. There’s only one corner where you could overtake, but you don’t really want to do it – it’s the last corner, because the guy behind you has the DRS and he’ll just take you back. With all the newness this year, how helpful is it to have the same tire compounds

Ahead of China Grand Prix – Interview

3 April 2017
Even though the outcome of the Australian Grand Prix produced a DNF, the race weekend as a whole seemed to go well, which was best exemplified by your sixth-place qualifying effort. How is the Haas VF-17 to drive and what makes you so optimistic going into the Chinese Grand Prix? “The car felt good to drive from the first lap. We made some setup changes and things reacted pretty well, so that was very positive from the weekend. I felt comfortable all weekend long in the car. Qualifying was, of course, a good moment with the new tires and the new cars running on full power with an empty tank, everyone just going for it. It was pretty exciting in that aspect. I was very pleased with how the car was. Even on high fuel in the race the car felt good. It’s a shame we did not finish the race, but things are good and we keep our fingers crossed that she’ll be as good in China as she was in Australia.” You were not alone in suffering a DNF at Australia, as six other drivers failed to finish. Reliability is important and it will come as the year progresses and more is learned about the racecar, but at this stage of the season, will you take speed and potential over reliability? “It’s always good to have a fast car, one that’s maybe not 100 percent reliable, over a slow car that is reliable. I wouldn’t have much fun finishing the grand prix in 15th, but if I’m always fighting in the top-10 and having some good results, sometimes having an issue at the beginning of the year is not a huge deal. We’ve got the performance, which is what we want. Of course, it’s not ideal not to finish the race – that’s not what we want. But again, if the car is fast, we can aim for some good points and the reliability is something we know we can fix.” In five career Formula One races at the Shanghai International Circuit, you’ve had three point-paying finishes and all of them came from a top-10 starting spot. It shows how important qualifying is, but it also seems to showcase your talents. Is there something about Shanghai that plays to your strengths? “No. Shanghai is a tricky track because it’s very different from the early stages in the year. It’s a front-limited circuit, meaning that the car needs to work well with front tires. If it doesn’t, then it gets very tricky. Overtaking in Shanghai is not impossible. There’s the long backstraight with DRS helping overtaking maneuvers. In general, if the car is good in qualifying, the race should be quite good. If not, then in the race you’re going to struggle. If you qualify in the top-10, you should finish in the top-10. If you’re not, then it’s harder.” There was a lot of talk about the start of this year’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix, specifically, how it

My 2017 Helmet

7 February 2017
I’m very happy to reveal the design of my 2017 helmet. With the blue-white-red color, I hope to highlight my country this season. Jules Bianchi will also be with me. #JB17 on the both sides of my helmet.
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