The Turkish Grand Prix was a weekend unlike any another seen in Formula 1 in recent memory. Now you’ve had a bit of time to digest events from Friday through to Sunday – what’s your take on how events played out and the challenges, notably the sheer lack of grip, drivers faced from start to finish. Did you embrace the challenge, or did it detract from the potential of what might have been?
“It was a challenge, but it was the same for everyone. It wasn’t something we were expecting from Turkey, but everyone did the best they could. I think I would have preferred the circuit with the normal tarmac – it would have just been more fun to drive. It shook up the order though, at least in qualifying.”
The traditional grand prix layout at Bahrain International Circuit has seen you finish twice on the podium and record a memorable fifth place finish for Haas F1 Team in just its second ever Formula 1 race back in 2016. Tell us what you like about racing there – what suits your style?
“I think in general Bahrain’s a really cool circuit, it’s very good for racing. It’s got quite an abrasive tarmac, so strategy normally plays a big part of it. It’s dominated by low-speed corners and traction at the rear. I guess if you’ve got a good car on traction, and you don’t destroy too much the rear tires, you’re normally pretty fast.”
The Sakhir Grand Prix will utilize Bahrain’s shorter, faster 3.5km Outer Track layout. As it marks the first time Formula 1 cars will have raced on that configuration, what can we expect to see in terms of lap times and the layout lending itself to overtaking and hard-charging racing?
“In all fairness I have no idea what to expect. Let’s wait and see how it turns out. Obviously, there are going to be some challenges, but let’s see if we can face them better than others.”
We’ll be racing under the lights twice in Bahrain and again at the season finale in Abu Dhabi at the end of this triple-header stretch. When was the first time you raced at night and are you a fan of it?
“I think the first time I raced at night was the Singapore Grand Prix. The biggest surprise for me was that the visibility was very good – it wasn’t a problem. Everyone’s looking forward to these races. Let’s go there and finish the best we can with Haas.”
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.”
Imola marks Formula 1’s first official two-day race weekend. Does it increase your anticipation and excitement, or does it add pressure knowing there’s a solitary practice before qualifying?
“I guess it’s not easy. There are a few tracks, like Barcelona, where you don’t really need the Friday as you know it by heart. But Imola – well I raced there a very long time ago, so I don’t really remember it that well. Saying that, the Nürburgring was kind of the same and things turned out well for us. I think it’s quite exciting. It brings some unpredictability into the race – that’s something Formula 1 has been generally lacking. Hopefully it will spice things up.”
Formula 1 has visited several tracks either new to Formula 1 or perhaps not utilized by the series in a long time – such as Imola. Have you enjoyed the opportunity to run at some of these venues in Formula 1 this year?
“Yes, very much. First, it was a very good job by Formula 1 managing to get so many races into the season, second, it was really cool to discover, or re-discover some tracks like Mugello, Nürburgring, Portimao, Imola, and I think Turkey’s going to be mega. To me they are tracks that should be on the calendar. I know we cannot go to 30 races a year, but I would love to see a change from year to year in terms of the tracks Formula 1 visits. It’s really cool to discover new places and see the different types of racing.”
The flip side to visiting those venues in 2020 is that you’re missing out on driving some favoured F1 tracks normally found in the latter half of the calendar. Which circuit are you missing the most from the regular F1 schedule and why?
“Suzuka, as it’s my favorite track. That’s the one I’m definitely missing. I’d include Singapore, it’s always quite an iconic one. Austin’s a pretty good place. There are many tracks I’m disappointed we didn’t get to. That’s why seeing a calendar that maybe one year is more European based, the other year more newer circuits, it could be quite cool. Then you get the best of both worlds.”
Imola was a happy hunting ground for you in 2011 in the GP2 Asia Series – where you scored a pole position, two fastest race laps and a win in the double-header event. What are your memories of the circuit and your thoughts heading into the weekend?
“It’s actually pretty fast. There were some bumps on track, I don’t know if it’s been resurfaced, but it was a bit bumpy. There are some cool old-style kerbs. Obviously, it’s a track with a lot of history – notably with Ayrton (Senna) from 1994. You can’t go there and not think about that. It’s generally a pretty cool track. I’m really looking forward to discovering it with a super-fast car.”
The Eifel Grand Prix, courtesy of the weather, was effectively a two-day race weekend. Did you enjoy the challenge of the shortened program and how does it impact your preparation for both qualifying and the race?
“Yes, I thought it was actually quite fun – it was good preparation for Imola. In life, a mix of things is good, and I think those two-day weekends are quite exciting. But the three-day weekends are also quite good, so I think a mix of both could be a nice way forward in the future. Obviously, you get less information, mainly going into the race because you haven’t really had the chance to try all the tires – so you need to get creative going into the race. In qualifying, if you manage to get out of Q1 then you usually manage to find some good pace in Q2 because you just have a bit more running going on.”
You took time to state on the radio in practice how enjoyable it was to drive the Nürburgring. You’re a fan of many of the old-school circuits so where else would you love to drive a modern Formula 1 car?
“I’m really enthusiastic about those old circuits. It’s just the character of the circuits – the kerbs are different, the radius, the camber, the undulation. I think all those things together, it’s quite attractive in all the circuits I really like. Normally they’ve got a lot of elevation, a lot of camber, different types of kerbs. Magny Cours could be quite nice in Formula 1. It’s obviously very tricky to overtake, but it could be a very nice circuit. This year with our calendar, I think we’re racing at a lot of different circuits that are really good. I think we’re really covering most of the top circuits.”
You scored your first points of the season at the Nürburgring with a ninth-place finish at the checkered. What was the key to keeping the VF-20 in the top 10 and just how hard did you have to work to keep tire temperatures up after the safety car period?
“We decided to go for a different strategy from most of the field. The first stint was key for us – we kept the medium tires alive for 28 laps without losing too much pace. We did that very well. We pitted, changing from an initial two-stop plan, to basically a medium to hard tire race. Before the race we didn’t think we’d use the hard tires because they were far too hard for us. But actually, they worked really well, especially in free air at the beginning. Obviously, behind the safety car was always going to be a disadvantage, especially against the runners behind me on new tires, Hulkenberg and Gasly on softs and new softs. Because we could un-lap ourselves, I was just able to generate enough tire temperature – so it wasn’t too bad at the restart. I could keep the rest of the field behind me apart from the two soft runners.”
We welcome the return of the Portuguese Grand Prix this weekend at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. At a new circuit such as this one, what’s on the priority list in terms of what data needs to be analyzed together with your engineers to help fast-track your learning curve? Is it tires, is it aero-balance – combination of everything?
“On a new circuit, I guess, the most important thing first is to familiarize yourself with the layout. Obviously, you have to find the right baseline set-up, but the boys have been very good at that. Seeing what the simulation is saying in terms of speed in the corners and gear ratio – that gives you a first proper idea of how much speed you’re going to carry through into the corners and help you get up to speed as fast as possible.”
Recent Formula 1 races have brought much talk about track limits and track design. Do you feel there should be more consultation with drivers on such topics?
“Yes, I think so. I think track design is very important for the show, and to the drivers and fans. Obviously, some tracks have been absolutely amazing while others have been a little less attractive as such. I think maybe there could be a way where we all work together and make sure that things could get better. We’ve seen tracks like Mugello which are absolutely amazing, where it’s a bit old style, and I think there’s merit to look at those circuits for reference.”
The Nürburgring, while new to some of the field, is a track you’re familiar with – notably for your third-place podium finish at the 2013 German Grand Prix. Is real-world track experience an advantage in this day-and-age of simulators, and if yes, how specifically?
“To be fair, 2013 was a very long time ago, so I’m not really sure that’s an advantage. I don’t really remember the track more than that. So, obviously it’s going to be a bit of challenge to learn it. I haven’t had the chance to do it on the simulator. I’ll just have to go with my memory. I know it’s a mega track. The biggest challenge there will be the weather.”
Going back to that 2013 German Grand Prix – was it a case of job well done coming away with a trophy or is it a case of what might have been in terms of challenging for the win that day?
“I was very happy with my weekend, but I should have won the race. It was pretty clear I was going to win the race until the safety car. Yes, a podium finish is always mega, but missing out on the win was a big thing – I really had a big lead. No hard feelings though, it was a good race on a great track, and obviously a podium in Formula 1 is always super good.”
Describe a lap of the Nürburgring and what the highlights will be there in terms of hustling a modern-spec Formula 1 car around it.
“I think the biggest challenge in a modern Formula 1 car will be sector one, because of the weight of the car and the camber and so on. The first hairpin, there’s that big drop at the apex, then turn three is a long corner combined with turn four. It’s obviously hard on the tires. The second sector is much more flowing with mid to high-speed corners. The bottom hairpin, which actually looks like a bulb, it’s really mega going up flat-out. The last two corners are very important for lap time, with the chicane and final turn, it’s quite open and quite wild. I think it’s going to be a pretty cool place to go racing.”
The issue of restarts and safety was prevalent after the Tuscan Grand Prix. Having had some time to digest all that happened in the race – what are your thoughts on how events played out and what, if anything, could be done to ensure such incidents are avoided?
“If you look from our onboard cameras, it looked like the whole field accelerated then slowed down. That’s really what I felt at first. Then when you look from the outside cameras, obviously it’s much less clear as Valtteri (Bottas) kept a slow speed at the front. I think some tried to get the momentum, but then realized they were a bit too quick and had to slow down. Little-by-little, the whole field, by the time you were in P18, 19 or 20, it just became a long acceleration followed by big braking. I think that was a surprise for all of us. We couldn’t do much about it. I don’t know what to say to avoid this incident. Maybe, possibly, thinking of restarting the race at the safety car line – which is much earlier on the straight line and therefore we’re not having the risk of having the whole straight slower. I don’t know if that’s even going to work.”
The consensus seemed to be that the Mugello circuit was a popular stop on this year’s revised Formula One schedule. Would you like to see some flexibility in Formula One’s calendar with circuits like Mugello rotated into the line-up every couple of years for added variety?
“Definitely, yes. I think this year, with having a different calendar, it’s really brought the spotlight on some circuits. My personal view is that there’s merit in swapping one year with the typical calendar, with one that’s more like this year, and back again. That way we wouldn’t have the same routine.”
Looking ahead to the Russian Grand Prix – what do you need from the car’s setup to attack the characteristics of the Sochi Autodrom? Which elements pose the biggest challenge technically?
“I think technically it’s a circuit that’s very smooth, and therefore not easy to generate the grip on the tire. That’s been an issue in the past few years. Hopefully this year we’re in a much better place. It’s again a circuit where you need to mix the very long straight line and the flat-out turn three, and the much more technical part at the end of the lap when you need more downforce. Drag versus top-speed is always the key at Sochi.”
What’s your favorite part of the circuit to drive and from your time racing there, what’s your best Russian Grand Prix moment?
“I think my best moment at the Russian Grand Prix was my first race there with Haas in 2016 – we finished P8. My favorite part of the circuit would be turns four, five, six, seven and eight. It’s quite a cool section and you carry some good speed.”
Back in 2012 you participated in a mid-season Formula One test at Mugello – setting the fastest time of 1:21.035 in your Lotus-Renault. What do you remember of the track in terms of the layout, the challenges, and how fast do you think the 2020 Formula One cars will go there?
“The layout is absolutely outstanding. The region, first of all, it’s beautiful, and then the track is built in such a way that you go up and then down a little bit. It’s very fast, there aren’t any low speed corners. There’s mid-to-high speed corners, a very long straight line. The two Arrabbiatta corners are absolutely outstanding. I think with the 2020 cars it’s just going to be bloody awesome.”
While 2020’s revised calendar simply couldn’t afford any in-season testing, were you a fan of those tests once the season was up and running and what were the key benefits in that added run time amidst the Grand Prix action?
“I don’t mind going testing in mid-season, but I also don’t mind not testing mid-season either. I guess both are fine with me. I think it’s always great to be able to have testing, especially if you’re bringing parts to the car. For us, we’re not really bringing any upgrades, so it wouldn’t do much for us just now to have in-season testing.”
The Tuscan Grand Prix marks the ninth event in 11 weekends for Formula One. What are your thoughts on the intensity of the current run of races and what has been the impact on both yourself and the team?
“It’s been really intense. After the previous triple-header it took me a week to get back to some kind of form, I’d be having a siesta and then a long night every day. I guess it’s the same for the team, and I have to say the guys are doing an amazing job, especially for us as we don’t have that extra bit of happiness when you win races – you can surf on that euphoria. We don’t have that, which obviously makes it a bit harder.”
After the checkered flag drops at Mugello is there an opportunity to mentally reset and prepare for the second half of the season knowing the flow of races returns to a regular pace starting with the Russian Grand Prix – and specifically what will your preparations consist of?
“I guess so. I think the first thing is that the week after Mugello I’ll rest again and then start to get ready for Russia. I have to find out how I’m going to travel to Russia – it’s not as easy as we’d like. We’ll then, as you say, get into more of a normal rhythm, which should make it a little easier. There’s a bit more traveling but it’s not too crazy. We’re going to some really cool tracks, and I’ll pack my winter jacket for going to the Nürburgring. The best preparation you can have is to be driving the cars.”
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.”
What was your first experience of racing a car at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and how did you get on?
“I think it was back in 2004 in a Formula Renault Eurocup race. There was something like 45 cars on the grid back then. I know we didn’t qualify that well, and in those circumstances, Spa always becomes an interesting race. When you see the circuit on TV, it’s one of the few where you really see how up and down it actually is. But when you get there in real life, it really goes up and down. I think the maximum gradient of Eau Rouge is something like 20 percent. It’s a big thing. In a faster car though, the better Spa gets.”
Describe the feeling of wheeling a Formula One car around Spa-Francorchamps for the first time, picking up speed and testing the limits of the circuit. What stood out most on your debut there in a Formula One car?
“Obviously, at Spa it’s all about the speed, you really see that. When you drive a Formula One car you go down Raidillon, reaching 300 kph before you go there then you feel like the wall’s in front of you. The corners are very flowing through the middle part of the track, then you’ve got Pouhon, the double-left corner – which is absolutely mega. That’s probably the best corner of the whole season. The low speed corners, the last turn and first turn, they’re quite key for overtaking. The key is always finding the right balance between the flowing corners and those two low speed ones. Every year in Spa though, when I go through Eau Rouge for the first time in the weekend, I feel sick. My stomach really goes up and down, but it goes away after the first timed lap. It’s an amazing circuit.”
You last stood on the Formula One podium at Spa in the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix after a heroic drive in the troublesome Lotus E23. Where would that drive rank in your list of personal bests and is it extra special to savour a podium at such an historic circuit?
“Yes, obviously it was a very good weekend for us – well, sort of a good weekend, there were a few issues outside of the track, but on track everything was good. From free practice the car worked really well, then I think I qualified fourth. In the race I came back from ninth, we had a gearbox penalty after quali. Everything worked to plan in the race. I could overtake the Red Bull, the Williams and we had a good level of drag versus grip. On that day it just felt easy – those are your best drives as everything just feels natural. Taking a podium at Spa is always very special. Especially for me, I’ve had a bit of a hate-love relationship with Spa. Obviously, a lot of people remember the start in 2012, but I’d rather remember the 2015 podium.”
Off track you keep yourself busy now, amongst other things, managing your own esports team? What led you down that path and what excites you the most about that side of the industry?
“Well the lockdown and self-isolating this year pushed things forward. I really enjoy managing my esports team, finding the sponsors, talking to the drivers and looking at which races they’re going to do. I also get involved in some of the races. It’s time consuming and now that the season has started, I’m not as involved as I was early on, even though when I get home I do a bit of driving myself. I always keep an eye on the results and make sure our cars are good. I just think it’s great that anyone in the world can drive against guys like Max Verstappen, Lando Norris – they’re on the games, as well as myself and so on. It’s great fun. Yes, it’s different from real racing, but it’s also as close as it can get in terms of simulation. It’s great that we get to chat with people, race against them, and things like Twitch make it easy to engage with people.”
With tires and tire management having dominated much of Formula One’s double-stint at Silverstone – does that frustrate you as a racing driver or is it simply part of the package in modern Formula One?
“I guess it is part of modern Formula One, but if you ask me what I think of it, yes – it’s a bit disappointing. It’s not that the tires wear, that’s understandable, the more you push the more you wear the tire. I think the disappointing part is that you need to manage the temperature for overheating, therefore you have to drive slower to keep the grip, so you reduce your lengths. I think the driver should have an impact on the tire wear, for sure, but not so much on the performance of the tires because they overheat.”
Is your Q2 qualifying performance from the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix the highlight of your season to-date? What was the key to unlocking those qualifying laps both in Q1 and Q2 in the VF-20?
“I guess the key to getting the laps in both in Q1 and Q2 was to keep going in the direction we worked on at the British Grand Prix. I didn’t have a good qualifying session, but I thought we had the pace to go into Q2. I was really hoping at the second race weekend I was going to do the job – I did, and the car felt good. The set-up direction we took worked really well for me; I was happy with it. I have a much better front end on the car, and that’s really helping me to improve qualifying. So, yes, it’s a highlight of the season, and I’d say in both races I was performing as well as I could with the VF-20. The Silverstone races were really good.”
Is there value in going to Spain now and comparing the data from the VF-20 with what was learned in pre-season testing in February, or does the temperature difference racing there in August simply negate any possible comparison?
“I think we need to see the weather, but it’s most likely that it’s going to be hot. It will therefore be very different from winter testing. The car has matured, and we’ve evolved from where we were. I guess we’ll have a look, just out of interest, but my feeling is that it’s going to be very different.”
What are your Spanish Grand Prix highlights from your five point-scoring performances there in Formula One?
“I think it’s from 2012 – where I scored my only fastest-lap in a grand prix in the Lotus E20. It was good race, I really enjoyed it. 2014, I had a terrible car, but I managed to score points. I’ve had some good races there. We all know the track very well, but obviously we always try to do the best that we can.”
The old phrase states ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ – do you feel that applies to team strategy with some bold calls at the Hungarian Grand Prix and again in Sunday’s British Grand Prix – where you ran deep on the medium tires to run as high as fifth?
“Yes, I think we try as much as we can. Obviously, the last two strategy calls have been the right ones. It paid out in Hungary with Kevin (Magnussen) scoring a point. It didn’t really happen on Sunday, but we tried. We brought the car up to fifth, I was having a good race from there. It’s good and I think we need to keep doing that.”
What are the key takeaways from the British Grand Prix that can be applied to this weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone?
“I think it will again be another interesting race. The tire selection is a bit different, so everything we learned throughout the weekend and on Sunday is good. We can try to optimize everything. We have some ideas as to where we can get better, that’s what our focus will be on.”
With Formula One announcing a return to the Nürburgring in October – where you scored a third place podium in the 2013 German Grand Prix, plus the addition of Portimao and Imola, do you relish the return to a circuit with some happy memories and what experience, if any, do you have of the other circuits?
“I’m very happy with the addition of those tracks. Nürburgring is a great track and 2013 was a very good race. We had a bit of a different strategy and without the safety car I’d have won the race. I raced at Imola in the 2011 GP2 Asia Series, taking the pole and winning the feature race. It’s an incredible circuit with a lot of history obviously. I’ve only ever seen footage of Portimao, but it looks really good – let’s see what we can do in a Formula One car there.”
From a driver’s perspective is it exciting to go to new circuits and have that element of the unknown ahead of a race weekend?
“Yes – 100 percent. It makes a change from the routine we normally have. I am very happy with the calendar, I think it’s great fun. I think we’re going to have a good year going to these tracks.”
How do you work with your engineers to prepare for those tracks, is it predominantly simulator work? What do you specifically focus on as a driver in this scenario?
“Yes, I think the simulator is important. Also, getting all the information from the track, the scanning, the layout – everything to ensure we are ready for when we go there. It’s going to involve some work in advance, some simulator work, some onboards and so on, to really discover the track.”
The Hungarian Grand Prix proved to be the highlight, in terms of the overall performance of the VF-20, from the opening three races of the 2020 campaign. What made the difference there?
“I think we understood the car a little bit more, we tried to put it in a better place. I guess the layout of the circuit worked a tiny bit better for the car, so we were a bit more on the pace – matching the pace of others, which was good.”
Do you adjust your mindset for qualifying knowing it’s an area that so-far hasn’t been an area of strength for the VF-20? Do you feel Q2 should be achievable for both cars on Saturday afternoons?
“I think Q2 for both cars is our next target. I don’t know if that’s achievable in the next few races, but it’s definitely where we’re aiming to go. We’ll work as hard as we can and obviously try to get there without affecting our race pace.”
It feels like we’ve had a bit of everything across the first three race weekends – notably the one thing that has been consistent is the inconsistency – from variable weather session-to-session, reliability issues, qualifying performance versus race performance etc. Has it been hard to get a true feeling on where things stack up? And now that you’ve had time to reflect a little, what are you hoping for in terms of how the team develops the VF-20?
“I think now this year we start to have an idea as to what the VF-20’s like. We’re now fighting with Alfa Romeo and Williams just a little bit behind the midfield, so we just have to try to get the car in an even sweeter spot. I think we’ve done a good job, but we’re going to keep pushing and see what comes to us and see what we can improve.”
What are the ingredients for a successful weekend setting up a car for Silverstone with its long, fast corners and how much of a role does experience play in working through that set-up plan?
“First of all, with Silverstone you need to see what the weather’s going to be like. It’s Great Britain, you can have a lot of surprises, but that’s the first thing to check. Silverstone completely switches from being a fast circuit to a low speed circuit. Most of the high-speed corners are now either flat out or near flat out, the time you can gain is made into turns three, four, six and seven, and the last chicane – those are the low-speed corners. That’s where you want to be performing very well in a modern car.”
What are your favorite Silverstone moments, either from your junior career or from competing in the British Grand Prix throughout your Formula One career?
“I’ve had some good moments at Silverstone, some great wins. The 2012 British Grand Prix was quite good fun. I had contact on the first lap, it took my front wing out, so I was forced to pit. I came back from being last on the first lap to finishing sixth at the checkered flag. I remember overtaking Jenson Button in the McLaren on the outside of Copse, then Lewis Hamilton through Maggots and Becketts, I was just flying through the field having a lot of fun. That was definitely a good one.”