"A top ten grid place will be the first target for Hockenheim".
Your last two German GPs have seen contrasting results…
I’ve definitely got good memories of Germany from last year at the Nürburgring, when I led the race on the way to finishing a close third behind Kimi. However my only Hockenheim F1 race was one to forget, a grid penalty and then car damage early in the 2012 Grand Prix. I’ve got nothing against the track though - one of my first single seater races was at Hockenheim in 2003 and I’ve raced there in various categories over the years. The shorter layout may not have the same character as the original Hockenheim, but it usually provides plenty of overtaking and the atmosphere in the stadium is amazing. It’s another track where the fans are absolutely brilliant and really show their appreciation of the sport. I’m looking forward to returning.
What about the weather?
The weather played a part in the Silverstone weekend, just as it did at Hockenheim in 2012, so we’ll need to stay on our toes. I think as a team we have more to gain than lose from any weather changes so we should view them as an opportunity - the E22 seemed to like the damp conditions at Silverstone.
Will the circuit suit the E22?
We’ve worked hard to improve performance in the low-speed corners, so Hockenheim will be a good test of how much we’ve progressed. Apart from the run down to the hairpin there are no real straights to speak about so power unit emphasis will be on acceleration rather than top speed.
How would you sum up Silverstone?
I was lucky to avoid the incident at the first start and towards the end of the race our pace was quite good, but starting so far down cost us the chance of points. We can’t afford to give our rivals a head-start like that and a top ten grid place will be the first target for Hockenheim.
What can we expect from the two-day test at Silverstone after the GP?
I wasn’t driving but I did attend on Tuesday to see what we were working on. The aim was to complete a thorough aerodynamic programme and we did just that. It’s a bit too early to say what will come from it but it looked positive. At this stage in the new regulations, every outing on track is so valuable to keep the development curve going.
Do you prepare differently for a track that features every other year as opposed to every season?
Not really, we approach most tracks in the same way. The big differences training-wise come when we race in extreme conditions such as humidity or high temperatures, or more generally, if we’re going to a brand new track. We will pay particular attention to changes around the circuit during the Thursday track walk but that’s true of any Grand Prix.
You’ve enjoyed some interesting side projects lately, how is your cooking these days?
I had the pleasure of learning from a master recently, Raymond Blanc, which was brilliant. He’s a great man and was kind enough to show me how he prepares a salmon-based dish which is my wife’s favourite. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to do things like that, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of racing of course!
"The latest engine I used at the Silverstone test feels to be much stronger."
How well do you know Hockenheim?
I have raced at Hockenheim both with GP2 and F1. I’ve been quite quick there in the past - winning in GP2 - and it’s a fun circuit to drive so we’ll see how it goes. I really like the people there; the fans are great and so many of them come to the race. There is a great atmosphere, particularly in the final few corners with the big grandstands.
What has been the highlight to date at this track?
Winning in the GP2 Series there was great; I led pretty much from start to finish apart from one lap and it was the year I took the GP2 championship so that was a good experience during a great season.
Are there any key areas in terms of a quick lap time?
The final sector is challenging with lots of corners coming quickly after each other, so that is one area where time can easily be won or lost. Get it right and you carry speed from one corner to the next, but a small mistake in one corner can mean you are also punished at the next.
How big a part could the weather play?
We’ve had really changeable conditions in the past, with rain one session and a drying track the next so the weather could definitely have a hand in the run up to the race. We did see that the E22 seems to be much more competitive in damp conditions so I definitely want some rain in terms of assisting our performance!
Will the circuit characteristics suit the E22?
There’s potential for it to be a tough weekend for us. The surface is very smooth, there are some slower corners with strong traction demands out of them as well as several straights where you need as much power as possible. Certainly, the latest engine I used at the Silverstone test feels to be much stronger so that will be a benefit.
Did the mid-race incident with Esteban Gutierrez at Silverstone distract you at all?
The contact put my car into the air, but it was over very quickly and honestly I was so focussed that I didn’t give it a second thought. As soon as the wheels were back on the ground I was racing again. After the race, people told me it looked quite spectacular! I was told afterwards that there was quite a bit of damage to the car. Certainly, it didn’t feel like I had all the downforce I should have had and we could see the damage to the floor and rear wing.
Before those issues, how was your race?
It was a similar story to other races in that we struggled for power so I wasn’t able to fight the cars around me. I pushed as hard as I could but it was a difficult race and not what I wanted in front of the Enstone team and our fans. I’m disappointed to have not scored points but our car is showing that it can compete at different circuits.
What’s your approach for the next races?
It’s always the same. You arrive at the track and try to do your best for every element of the weekend. It’s the same if you have a car which is working as you want or one that has work needing to be done: You focus to optimize the package as best you can; you work with your engineers through the weekend then you focus on maximising every opportunity when you’re on track.