How did it feel to score the team’s first points of the year in Spain?
It’s great for all the team and they certainly deserved it. they’ve been working very hard at Enstone and at the track and if you look at where we were in Australia and where we are now, it’s a massive step forward. So I’m proud of them all and happy with what we’re doing. It was a good reward for all of us.
What does Monaco mean to you?
It’s kind of the unofficial French Grand Prix first of all! It was great to see so much French support last year, with all the flags and banners. Then there are the unique challenges of such a special circuit. As a driver you have to stay calm and relaxed on a track that doesn’t allow for any mistakes. I’ve been super quick in the past, but also hit the walls! It’s an exciting and glamorous Grand Prix and always a step into the unknown, because it’s difficult to predict how well each car will work there. It’s a crazy week with all the focus and attention, but everyone loves Monaco.
What is your favourite part of the track?
Certainly not the walls! I do like the Casino corner which is quite nice, high-speed with a little bit of banking. The most difficult part would be the next section - Mirabeau, Loews and then the two Portier corners because you have to ‘create’ some speed.
How challenging will the new generation of F1 cars be to drive at Monaco?
It will be a challenge. There will be less grip than in the past, so we will have to be careful with the right foot. In terms of mapping, torque, energy and fuel saving I actually think it will be easier than most tracks because the race distance is shorter so we shouldn’t have to worry too much. Of course we’ll need the best drivability possible around the tricky sections, but the most important thing in Monaco is to trust your car and have confidence in it.
How satisfying is it when you put everything together for a good lap around Monaco?
When you finish a lap and you know it’s quick because you’ve given everything and you’re so close to the walls at every corner, it is something special. Finding the balance between pushing too hard and not enough makes a huge difference in Monaco.
Is it hard to keep your focus during such a busy event?
It's true there are almost too many things to do. I will try to find some time for myself in my room and keep focusing on what I have to do. It’s a home Grand Prix for the sponsors, so very important for them and for us.
Do you think the recent improvements to the E22 will pay off in Monte Carlo?
The emphasis at Monaco is on low speed corners, which is not our greatest strength, but the team worked with Monaco in mind during the Barcelona test. Bumpy straights and a low grip surface are the other main Monaco characteristics and how well you adapt to them can make or break your weekend. We’ll do our best with set-up and of course Monaco is less engine dependent than most circuits, which is better for us. It was nice not only to score points in Barcelona, but also to be fifth on the grid in qualifying - if we can do that again in Monaco it’ll be very good for us...
Was the Barcelona test as good as it looked?
Yes. I would say it was our first ‘normal’ test without any problems and we were able to complete our entire schedule. It was really important and a very positive test because we learnt so much more about the car. Everything is getting better and better in my opinion. Of course I’m happy with the result as well.
Can you feel the progress when you are driving the car?
The car has made a big step forward from where we were. The focus of the test was to continue to develop settings and try new ideas. It was a busy programme to be honest, but hopefully the rest of the season will be much better for us. We got a lot of data which our engineers took back to the factory to analyse in detail.
What’s the significance of such a positive test for the team?
I think it’s a great boost for everyone at Enstone and of course as a driver it gives me more confidence in the car so I can aim to achieve better results. If you think about where we were and where we are now it is an incredible step forward – particularly when the other teams are moving forward with their development too. It’s a true testament to the team’s capabilities and I hope we can start to get the results on track that we so deserve.
Looking ahead to Monaco, what makes it so special for you?
First of all it’s such an historic Grand Prix and an iconic race for Formula 1. I really love it. I’ve been very quick in the past and I think it is one of the most special weekends of the year. The atmosphere is unique. The track is really challenging and changes a lot over the sessions, which you need to anticipate. It’s difficult to be quick close to the walls and overall it’s a very tough race, demanding in terms of concentration and stressful physically and mentally. The only negative thing is that it is quite difficult to overtake, but it is not impossible.
What are your favourite parts of the circuit?
I really like the Casino and Swimming Pool sections. Every corner in Monaco has its own challenge, and own individual approach needed - that is probably the beauty of the circuit there. It’s where I live now so I might be biased, but it’s a very special place.
What are your early memories of Monaco?
Monaco was always my favourite track when I was watching Formula 1 on TV as a kid. Then the first time I went to a Grand Prix was also Monaco, in 2003, which was my first year in Formula Renault. Juan Pablo Montoya won and it was amazing to see how close they were to the wall and how quick the cars were, because they had V10 engines then. Another good Monaco memory for me is winning in GP2 in 2007 and 2009.
How difficult do you think it will be to drive the new F1 cars at Monaco, with all the new switches and settings?
We will be very busy in the cockpit with all the switches and changes to be made. We’re also going to face a big challenge as the tyres are harder than those we’ve used in Monaco in the past. In Barcelona we ran with the super-soft and were able to finish the lap without causing problems for the tyres, which was not the case in the past. So that’ll be a big question mark. For sure Mercedes is the strongest team at the moment but we are focused and pushing hard to catch them.
There has been a lot of talk about changes to improve Formula One, what would you like to see?
It’s difficult because ultimately the rules are the same for everyone. But I would like the performance of the cars to be closer. That is the main thing. Whatever the cars, whatever the teams, we need better competition. That’s certainly what we’re pushing for as a team; to be closer to the front.