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2020 Russian Grand Prix – Preview

22 September 2020
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.”

2020 Tuscan Grand Prix – Preview

8 September 2020
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

2020 Italian Grand Prix – Preview

1 September 2020
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.”

2020 Belgian Grand Prix – Preview

25 August 2020
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
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