"I have had some big results at Monza throughout my career, so it holds lots of good memories."
How do you like Monza, the Theatre of Speed?
I like Monza a lot because it is so distinctive. Monza is a great track that has a lot of great racing history. This makes it nice for us to compete at a place where all our heroes raced too. There is a lot of atmosphere around the track and to race in the setting of the royal park makes for a really special ambience. Of course the Ferrari fans are a big part of it and it is really nice competing at such a legendary venue.
Any special memories from Monza?
One of my first ever races in cars was at Monza back in 2003 when I was driving in a category called Formula Lista where I won and then went on to win every race of my rookie season in that formula. I have had some other big results at Monza too throughout my career, so it holds lots of good memories.
What aspirations do you have for Monza this weekend?
I think that it will be tough for us. On paper it is not one of the races that we should do that well at. But as always we will be fighting hard and trying to get the maximum from the weekend, so that it gives us good momentum for the Singapore weekend later in September when we should be stronger and the track should suit the E22 a little better. We will have a one-off rear wing for Monza and the key will be to make the car as quick as possible from an aero point of view, so that we can get back some of the performance from our straight-line speed disadvantage. Then we have to manage the tyre degradation. Also for us it will be tricky in the big corners like the Lesmos and the Ascari chicane because the less downforce you have then the more difficult it is to get good grip in the turns. It is a tough compromise but one I am sure that the team will get the best solution possible.
Do you think that the ’14 spec cars with reduced downforce will be tough to drive at Monza?
Yes but this is the same for everyone. Especially without the blown diffuser it will be more challenging than last year for sure. But this is F1 and you have to meet the challenge which we will do. The reality is that we will probably have to run less all-round downforce to make up for the time we lose on the straight, but we will just have to stay positive and extract the most from the package we have in Italy.
What do you make of the revisions to the run-off at Parabolica?
Parabolica is a very challenging and quick corner so from a safety point of view it is a good thing to have some more margin for the drivers. I remember sometimes in the past coming in to the corner and knowing that to brake even a little bit too late then you could be straight in the gravel and then straight to the wall at high speed. I think that now what you will see is the drivers finding the limits sooner, because we know there will not be the big gravel and crash penalty like previously.
Pizza or Pasta?
I know a great Pizzeria close to the track, so it is pizza all the way for me. But I am always careful because it can catch up very easily on the weight side of things! Italy is a magic place and the cultural aspects are a big part of that. Like a lot of drivers I did a lot of racing there, even since karting days so I feel like I know the country very well. I don’t know anyone who does not enjoy being in Italy.
"I think it will be interesting to see the new 2014-spec cars here because the track is so unique."
What are your opinions of racing in the Parco di Monza?
I like Monza and I love Italy. I actually used to live very close to the circuit when I was starting my career here in Europe. I have won races here so it holds some good memories and special feelings for sure. I have a lot of friends here and a lot of supporters who come and see me at the track, so it is very nice to catch up with them all. The track is totally unique and of course it is great to be racing where all the old heroes did too. Monza has changed only very slightly over the years and it still has the character of the old banking and the parkland trees as you drive through it and of course the fans create a great atmosphere which is a great soundtrack to the Grand Prix.
Any particular expectations for the Monza weekend?
For sure it is going to be a tough weekend again for us at Lotus F1 Team. Monza is all about power combined with a low downforce set-up so it is a big challenge. I think it will be interesting to see the new 2014-spec cars here because the track is so unique and there is a very particular way to get the best out of the cars. They will be difficult to drive I think for everyone but we will be doing our best to put the Spa weekend behind us and to get more positive energy going before we head off on the long haul races.
Tell us one word that comes to mind when you hear the word Monza?
Speed. It has to be speed because the track is all about how fast you can go on the start/finish straight and then also on the back straight too. We are reaching the highest speeds of the season on these stretches. One of the critical points is the Parabolica corner. You have to get this right at the end of your lap to ensure a good time, and if you get it wrong it also compromises you for the next lap. It’s difficult to do this as the car is set-up for low downforce on the straights, so it’s more difficult to drive on the corners – especially a long corner like Parabolica, which is tough and fast, the most crucial at Monza.
This year you have tarmac not gravel on the outside of Parabolica. Will this change the approach to the corner?
I don’t think it will make too much difference really. The approach will be the same which is to take it as quickly and efficiently as possible. Of course there is the obvious safety element which means that you have less risk if you go off. I think this is good from a safety point of view because it is a quick corner with not that much room on the outside.
A dry, warm Grand Prix would be nice again?
Yes. Spa was very tough with the conditions and also Hungary too. Monza is usually warm and dry which seems to suit the E22 more than the wet. We just need to have a trouble free weekend where we can further explore the low downforce bodywork, especially the front wing package that was introduced at Spa. The big challenge though will be the power issue. It is difficult to overcome any disadvantage on this front but everyone will be working to get as much speed as we possibly can.
Pizza or Pasta?
Both. Definitely both. But not at the same time of course!