F1’s newest star talks to the Toyota team after his second Grand Prix.
What did you think about the new Yas Marina Circuit?
The new facility is just amazing and I’ve never seen a racing track like that. The organisers did a great job with the facilities, which were perfect for everyone. The track itself was interesting and fun to drive; also you could overtake there which makes it even better.
How would you sum up your second Grand Prix weekend?
It was a great weekend for me and I have to thank the team for this opportunity. Sixth place was a fantastic result and better than I imagined at the start of the weekend, so I am very pleased with how things worked out. Still, there is room for improvement and I have several areas to improve, such as qualifying pace. My target was to qualify in the top 10 but I just missed out, so there is a bit of work to do there.
How did you feel when you crossed the line to score your first Formula 1 points?
I was just really, really happy because my goal since I was a little kid was to be a Formula 1 driver and to score points in only my second Grand Prix felt great. Actually, I had the potential to finish even higher but I lost a little time in traffic; otherwise I could have been fighting for fourth because I was getting close at the end of the race. It was a great moment to come back to the team after parc fermÃ© and see how happy everyone was.
You had another exciting race, tell us about it.
At the start I got a good getaway and managed to pass Kimi (Raikkonen) which was very important for our one-stop strategy. If I had been behind him during my first stint it would have been much tougher to score points but when I was past I concentrated on setting consistently fast lap times, even though I had a heavy fuel load. Towards the end of my first stint Jenson (Button) came out of the pits just in front of me. He was heavier than me and on cold tyres so I was able to pass him. Again that was important because I needed some fast laps at that time to make my strategy work. On the option tyres I struggled a bit to start with but then I found a rhythm and just kept going faster and faster, so at the end I was getting close to the battle for fourth.
How did it feel to overtake two World Champions?
I don’t think about them as World Champions; they are just my rivals on the track like everyone else and my job is to get past them if I can. It’s fun to battle on track, particularly when you can overtake, but I’m only thinking about my race position, not about what another driver has won or whatever.
How did you prepare for this race? Did you concentrate on anything specific after Brazil?
Well, I didn’t know for sure I would be driving until the week of the race but obviously there was a chance because of Timo’s injury. So I spent as much time as I could in Cologne at the factory; I was only at home in Paris for one day after Brazil. We looked at all the information from Brazil and identified areas to improve – things like car set-up, tyre management, communication with engineers. We studied everything and thought about improvements, which really paid off. One area I particularly worked hard on was race pace because that wasn’t perfect in Brazil, so when I started the race I was confident I had the potential to get into the points.
Were you happy with your qualifying performance?
It was not bad but I was aiming for the top 10 and I definitely think I had the potential to do that. In the end I was just a tenth of a second away which was a bit disappointing. But as we proved on race day, I was close enough to finish in the top six so everything worked out well.
What will you do now?
My first priority is to take a holiday! For the past two years I have hardly had a day off with GP2, GP2 Asia and Formula 1 testing so I am really looking forward to a bit of a break to relax and recharge my batteries. After that, we’ll see what happens.