You saw the checkered flag for the first time this season at the Styrian Grand Prix finishing P13. Specifically, what areas of the car had improved in race trim compared to what you experienced the week before in the Austrian Grand Prix?
“Compared to last week, I think the cooler track temperatures helped us to get the temperature of the car under control. We still have some work to do on that point, but obviously it was better. We also learned from the set-ups, we changed things from the first week to improve. The car behaved okay for the race. We’re still not as fast as we want to be, but we’ve made some good progress. We now have a solid base from which to start working on for Hungary.”
The Hungaroring is another relatively short track, not too dissimilar from the Red Bull Ring. What are the main characteristics of the circuit and what’s the key to a good run there – both in qualifying and then in the race? What do you need from the car in order to be competitive?
“Yes, it’s a short circuit, but it’s different in the way that the straight-line is much less important. You can run maximum downforce on the car – that should help the characteristics of the VF-20. You need good tire management over your qualifying run and for the race as well. It’s normally very hot in Hungary at this time of the year. You need to have a car you can trust going into all those fast corners through the middle sector. The last two corners are also very important in order to get a good lap time. That’s actually where I lost pole position back in 2012, I didn’t go as fast as I should have on the last two turns – that’s where you can gain some good time.”
You have a mixed history at the Hungaroring in Formula One – tending to either score points (including a third-place podium in 2012) or DNF. Do you think about that history and those results when you start preparing for the weekend or is it a clean-slate each time?
“For me, Hungary holds two good memories. Obviously, there’s my first time being on the front-row in qualifying from 2012 – my best qualifying slot to-date. Then in 2013 I should have won the race, but I had a couple of drive-through penalties, but I still finished sixth despite the 50-second penalty. I got home and the next morning my son, Sacha, was born. Hungary’s normally the time of year we celebrate my first son’s birthday. I love the atmosphere there, love the fans, love the circuit. It can be hard on you, it’s a tough one, as I said, it’s very hot normally. But let’s see where we can go this weekend.”
Hungary represents the third and final leg of the opening triple-header to start the delayed 2020 season. Knowing there are at least two more triple-header stints to come on the calendar, what’s your take on the flow of back-to-back race weekends – where do the challenges lie, or is it a benefit to simply keep the momentum going and continue racing?
“I think you can argue a couple of different ways. It’s good to keep the momentum going, to keep that flow, but it’s also hard on the body for everyone. The key is to rest well between races and make sure you come back stronger. I’ve said it a few times, but I really like the calendar. I like the fact that we’re staying a bit more in Europe this year. I think we can have fun and it’s going to be exciting as it continues.”