We caught up with our favourite Frenchie in the Albert Park paddock ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
You drove seven races for Renault back in 2009, and won the GP2 title last year. Welcome back. Do you feel like a rookie again?
Not a rookie because, as you say, I’ve done seven races before. Let’s say it’s my first real chance.
Who’s your biggest hero?
I don’t have one. Ayrton Senna once said he didn’t have any idols, he just respected people who gave 100 percent and worked hard. This sentence is written on the wall of the briefing room at Magny Cours. I read that when I was young, in 2004, and I agree with this philosophy.
How representative were Lotus’ times in winter testing, and what is your realistic target this weekend?
Honestly it’s quite hard to say. I think there are two teams ahead of us, Red Bull and McLaren. Every time I went in the car it went pretty well and we could really play with it. We’ll have to see what the order is in qualifying when finally we’re all on the same fuel load.
You’ve never driven at Albert Park. Will it be tricky?
Let’s see what the weather’s like. I hope we get some dry laps before going into quali. It’s not an easy track, because it’s not permanent. But I went out for a track walk yesterday just to learn the tarmac.
Malaysia will be easier? You have at least driven there…
Yes, but a long time ago in GP2 Asia in 2008. But it’s maybe one of my favourite tracks.
Are you under more pressure, having Kimi Raikkonen as your team mate?
You have to beat 23 other drivers to achieve your goal. I’ll try to do my best to beat everyone. Kimi and I never drove the same day in testing. It didn’t take him long to get back to grips with an F1 car. After five laps he was already posting fast times. It’s good to have him on board and if we work well together I think it could be good for Lotus.
Do you feel like you’re well prepared for your comeback too?
I have brought all my 2009 experience in my rucksack. We will see how much better I am this time – hopefully a lot!
Did you think you would get a second shot at F1, after that short experience with Renault?
I kept the faith. If you don’t believe in your dream it doesn’t happen. I’m proud that I believed in my dream, and that Lotus and Gravity believed in me as well. I’m looking forward to the future.
How much has this team changed since it was Renault to now, the Lotus era?
It feels different. I think the atmosphere is much better today and we’re all looking forward to the season and getting the best results we can.