“The race in Brazil was frustrating with being a lap down, but unfortunately, that’s the way the rules are written, and it was a missed opportunity to score more points. What was encouraging about the weekend was the speed. I felt like we had pace, and I felt really good in the car, and that’s always important. In fact, I think we had more to show when running in clear air.
“I’ve had a busy time since then. We flew back to the UK Sunday night, and I did a day in the simulator before flying out to California last Wednesday. I have a house there, so I was able to use the set-up of my gym and training and spent the remaining time just chilling and getting ready for Vegas. I’ve been to Vegas before, many times. It’s a fun place. I’ve always just been there for leisure really, like during summer breaks with my Australian friends, so it’ll be interesting to go there with a slightly different mindset. It’s such a surreal city, especially at night with all the lights. I think it will feel like we are racing on a movie set, so that’ll be cool.
“From what I’ve learned on the sim, it’s a really challenging track because there’s a lot of long straights and then these short 90-degree corners with a lot of turning and braking. The layout’s definitely interesting. I hope it provides good racing. I think the long straights definitely give it some opportunities, and because it’s also tight and twisty in some places, it’ll present quite a unique set of challenges. We know it’s going to be cold. I think getting the tyres working and the car to produce enough grip with downforce will be a big key to getting some lap time out of it. It could feel like Baku the first year when it was low-grip, which was interesting, as you had to push really hard on the out-lap to get the tyres going.
“There’s going to be a lot going on apart from the track action, so I aim to stay in the zone and block out the distractions. It’s the balance of obviously trying to promote the weekend, promote the race and also enjoy some of the extracurricular things. The bottom line is I’m there to race, and that’s the thing I need to prioritise and focus on. Especially now we’ve closed the gap to Williams, getting points is so crucial and critical. I would say it’s a very simple approach. Rest when I can rest, and then when I need to be on it, I’ll just focus and put my energy into that. If there’s a little bit of downtime, I’ll try not to keep my mind too occupied.”
“The last three races have been really good, scoring points at each of them, so the team has momentum right now. It’s very positive to see how much we have closed the gap to Williams. A lot of that comes from the upgrades we brought to Austin, which gave us extra confidence and pace. To be honest, I hadn’t expected this level of performance like we saw in Brazil, and now we need to take that positive feeling into the next two races to fight aggressively and get enough points to hopefully make it to P7 in the Constructors’ Championship for the end of the year.
“I’ve driven Vegas on the simulator, and it’s very fast with really long straights, but most of the corners are slow speed, which will require big braking. In the past, we tended to struggle at circuits that have long straights, but on a positive note, I feel this track has quite similar characteristics to Baku, where we normally perform well. I’m optimistic, but looking at the championship, I expect Williams will also be strong at this type of track, so we aim to fight hard and outscore them.
“The big talking point going into this race is that it might be very cold when the cars are on track at night. Of course, our engineers have been studying this, and it will be the same temperatures for everyone. It will definitely have an effect, especially when it comes to qualifying, how we warm up the tyres and how they will behave. Even though I’ve done plenty of laps in the simulator and the team has done a lot of simulation work based on the data we have about the track, it will still be a guess as to how much grip there will be from the tyres and the track surface. It’s all unknown, but I feel we are well prepared, with a lot of data and correlation work, so I hope we’ll have a good idea going into FP1. If the track is abrasive enough, a relatively low downforce set-up should work to deal with the long straights, as the amount of time we can gain from running low downforce in that situation is quite a lot, and an abrasive surface will also help with tyre warm-up. But if it’s very smooth, we might need to run higher downforce. We’ll have to wait until FP1. I just hope I won’t feel freezing cold in the car! Another interesting factor could be all the moving lights on the Strip. At other night races, there isn’t so much off-track lighting, so it will be something to check out. But I think the floodlighting of the actual race track should be bright enough to cancel out any other lights, so I don’t expect it to be a distraction.”