Although last season was quite difficult for the team, you personally made a big step forward in your second year. What was the key to these improvements?
Mainly, there were two reasons. The first was my physical development, which I worked on a lot before the season began. That made a big difference to my physical condition in general, meaning that my concentration levels and performance improved in the races. The second reason was that my level of confidence returned after I had lost some of it in my first F1 season and that had been my big limitation. I was able to rebuild that confidence little by little and especially in the last three races of 2021, after which I was able to build on that momentum in all the races last year. Those two factors were the key to my improvement as a driver.
How do you think you’ve improved since 2021, when you first stepped into an F1 car as a rookie?
I’m at a completely different level now, although I have still kept the good aspects of my first year. But now, I am definitely more in control, more involved with the team when it comes to the development of the car and I also act differently, having learned lots of things, not just when it comes to racing but also in my life away from the track. Even that has a positive effect in how I race. I had underestimated what was involved, but now I’ve figured out the things that are really important.
Over the winter, you were at a training camp in Dubai. What particular areas did you work on?
I was there for two weeks, working on my general fitness and the time was also important to get to know my new coach (Michael Italiano), who used to work with Ricciardo. One of the main targets of the camp was to build our relationship, so that we understand one another before testing and racing begins. That went well and so did the actual training, where we focused mainly on the endurance side.
Your performance this year will of course depend a lot on the car, but have you set yourself some personal goals for this season?
My main goal is to perform more consistently in every race, independently from the car’s performance, and to score points more consistently. I want to be more in control of myself at all times, work well with the team, understand the car as quickly as possible, right from the first race in Bahrain. I want this year to be my best performance of the three years in terms of getting to Q3 and scoring points.
There will be twice as many Sprint weekends this year (6). How does the format of a sprint weekend change your weekend structure in terms of preparation?
I am definitely less concerned this year about the Sprint weekends and the lack of practice before Qualifying. I am confident I can perform well straightaway from Free Practice 1 and get into a rhythm. I know how to deal with this format. I will feel less rushed and therefore I can be more in control and perform better than last year.
Apart from Japan, which races are you most looking forward to and why?
I feel pretty excited about all the races really! Of course, the first one in Bahrain is something to look forward to. Looking at the calendar, then obviously Japan is special for me and I am keen to race in front of my home fans again later this year. The atmosphere at Suzuka was really special. I think Las Vegas, as a new race, will be cool. But honestly, Japan is the one standout race for me if I had to pick one out of all the races this year.
You said you learned a lot from Pierre Gasly in your first two years in F1. How do you see your relationship developing with Nyck? Are you excited to see what he and you can do to push the team forward?
Nyck was also training in Dubai, so we got the opportunity to spend a little bit of time together. We knew each other before then from past years. We already have a good relationship, and we will build more on that now as teammates this season. I think together we make a strong pairing, with the aim of helping the team progress this year. I also believe I can learn things from Nyck.
You were in New York during Fashion Week for the launch of the AT04 livery and the AlphaTauri A/W 2023 collection. The clothes seem to reflect your personal style well, what would your standout piece be?
It’s great that we were able to launch this year’s livery alongside the AlphaTauri collection during Fashion Week in New York City. It’s one of my favourite places to visit, so it’s been great to see the AlphaTauri collection come to life here. I think my personal taste has evolved over the last few years and I’d describe by Winter style as quite classic, I often like to style the turtleneck sweaters with a jacket – it’s the perfect outfit when it’s cold outside.