“What we can take away from the last race in Turkey is that our pure performance was really good and in Qualifying we were fighting within a tenth of Ferrari and Red Bull. So, I was very happy with top five in Qualifying. The race might have been even better without the penalty but finishing ten seconds off the podium behind two Mercedes, two Red Bulls and a Ferrari is really positive and it’s nice to confirm that we are back nearer the front of the field once again. On the Wednesday after Istanbul, I had an enjoyable break from work and training, playing in a charity football match at the famous Olympique de Marseille’s Velodrome stadium. It was to raise money for Didier Drogba’s charity and UNICEF. It was an incredible experience to be on that famous pitch and play with and against some real football legends. I’m pleased to say I scored a goal!
Next round: USA. I’ve not yet had any great races in Austin, the best I did was 10th the last time we were there. In terms of driving, the track is really exciting, very fast and I particularly like the first sector which resembles Suzuka a bit. After that, the second sector is a bit slower and more technical. Overall, it’s very interesting, although I think it could be quite complicated this weekend. Having watched MotoGP a few weeks back, the bumps which were already pretty bad last time we raced there, seem even more severe now. It will require some sort of compromise on set-up, but we won’t really know until we get there. I’m not particularly worried about it, because our car is working well everywhere at the moment and we just have to avoid any problems waiting to ambush us, so that we can continue to close in on Alpine in the championship.”
“I think the Turkish weekend was pretty positive for me and I had good pace right from the start, all through practice. Track conditions changed massively for Qualifying and I struggled a bit to find pace and get the right car balance, but we got to Q3 and it was good to start from P9. With the race starting in the wet, I didn’t have the disadvantage of using the Soft tyre I’d used in Q2 for the start. In the race, I enjoyed my battle with Lewis, but after my spin, tyre temperatures were very low and I struggled for pace. It was an interesting weekend. I learned a lot and it will be good experience for the future.
From Turkey onwards this season, the only track where I have driven before is the final round in Abu Dhabi, so all the circuits will be a new experience, including this weekend in Austin. After Istanbul, I spent a couple of days in the simulator and drove the COTA track. It seems to be a very interesting circuit, with many different types of corner and that steep climb to the first blind corner. That first sector is like a rollercoaster. I’m looking forward to experiencing it for the first time. I saw that the MotoGP riders were complaining about the track surface, so we will have to see if they have managed to do anything about that in time for this weekend. It will also be my first trip to the United States and I’m looking forward to that. America has always been on the list of countries I really want to visit, so I’m excited about this trip. I’ve heard all about the barbecue restaurants in Austin and I will be keen to try that and see how it rates compared to Japanese Wagyu beef!”