"It’s a place that I really look forward to visiting every year."
What are your thoughts on Budapest?
I love Budapest and I love the Hungaroring. It’s a place that I really look forward to visiting every year. It is usually sunny and hot and is just before the summer break so you give all the energy you have before you go on holiday. It is an exciting Grand Prix every year.
What is it about the Hungaroring that you particularly like?
It’s a great track and one that’s suited us in the past. It was great to be on the podium there in 2012. I can remember feeling frustrated that year as we did have a chance to be fighting for the win, but that didn’t work out because of traffic. I like the circuit with its style of up and downs and twisty corners. I like the feeling you get when driving on the track and the grip you get from it. I’ve been very quick in qualifying every time there. I did one of my best overtakes in my career in Formula 1 last year and I got penalised for a few small centimetres which was tough at the time…Nevertheless, it is hard to overtake at the Hungaroring making qualifying very, very important, as is the race strategy.
What’s the key to a good result in Budapest?
Qualifying. It’s a tight and twisty track so you do need a good qualifying result. We showed in 2012 that being on the front row certainly helps and last year’s P3 wasn’t too bad either.
What other memories do you have of the track?
I scored my first GP2 Series pole position there in 2008. In 2011 I won and finished third, which was a pretty good weekend. Driving-wise, it’s not the most physically challenging in terms of high speed corners, but the heat you experience in the cockpit can be quite an issue. It can also be a difficult circuit early in the weekend as the track is not used very much, meaning it’s quite slippery when you first go out.
How was your German Grand Prix weekend?
Frustrating as we didn’t finish the race and we also lost some pace on the car with the move away from the interlinked suspension system. In terms of my driving, I was absolutely giving all I could. I had a great start in the race, but then we struggled with tyre temperature after the safety car. Our race pace was a lot better than our qualifying pace and I know the team will make progressto reclaim some of the speed we’ve lost.
With pace so hard to come by for the team in 2014, what’s the approach to a race weekend?
You just have to maximise everything. We’re fully focused on making the very best we can in every lap of each session. Of course, the results are very different from those we enjoyed over the last two seasons but our approach is the same. We are still learning a lot about the E22 and there’s still pace to come so we just keep pushing.
After Budapest there’s the summer break – are you looking forward to that?
Of course, as a racer you always want to be out on track, but as there are no Grands Prix it would be good to get a little rest and particularly to spend some time with my family. Naturally, I’ll continue with my training as that’s something you do all through the year, but it’s important to return refreshed from the summer break as there’s plenty of travelling for the final eight races of the year.
"I’ve qualified well there in the past so hopefully I can deliver a strong performance."
Are you looking forward to Budapest?
The Hungarian Grand Prix is one of the best of the season. We are very close to Budapest and I like the city very much. There is a big community of fans at the race weekend and the people are very friendly. On track, it can be very challenging. The weather is usually very hot there and it is very demanding from a physical point of view. It is one of the races that I enjoy best because of these demands and I really like the challenge that it presents.
What are your thoughts on the Hungaroring?
It is a very demanding circuit for drivers as it is often very hot and there are limited overtaking opportunities. It has quite a slow speed layout, so we’ll be able to see how much improvement we’ve made on this type of configuration. Qualifying is so important at this track because of the small number of overtaking opportunities, but I’ve qualified well there in the past so hopefully I can deliver a strong performance that will give the team a boost as we head into the summer break. I have won there in other categories so the track has good memories for me. The fans create a great atmosphere and it’s always good to race at a track where there is a strong feeling like this.
The team recently confirmed you for 2015?
I joined Lotus F1 Team on a multi-year deal, but there is always talk and gossip in Formula 1 about drivers and teams. We both know we haven’t had the first season either of us wanted in terms of results so this was a clear statement that we’re both committed to working together and getting results in the future. From my perspective, I’m fully behind Lotus F1 Team and I know we’ll achieve great things together.
How would you assess your German Grand Prix?
Though we didn’t score any points it was a good race as we had a reliable car and our lap times weren’t bad relative to our opposition. Qualifying was frustrating, as we didn’t get all we wanted out of the car so it’s always difficult when you start so far back on the grid. We had the suspension changes to get used to, so it was good to run the race distance and get a lot of data to help us for the next races. It was quite an eventful race; I’m happy that we made it to the end without any incidents to report.
What are your plans for the summer break?
Some time with my family of course! They are very important to me so that’s why I spend as much time as I can with them, even over Grands Prix weekends. I think the summer break is more important for the team and all the crew who do so many long hours over the course of the season. For me as a driver, I get pretty well looked after and I don’t have to work late nights on the car. There’s a lot of travel in the second half of the year so we all need to be refreshed and ready to go.