Reflecting on testing, and the fact it was two-days shorter than previous years, what was the impact of that condensed running on your test preparations?
“To be honest, it didn’t really feel like much of a difference. I still got plenty of time in the car even though I missed half a day in week one when we had the wheel failure. I feel ready for the start of the season.”
How much input do you as a driver have in setting the test-plan for each day and does that evolve over the pre-season test based on your time accumulated in the new car?
“I have some input, but I largely leave it up to the engineers to figure out what they need to test. I then try and do a consistent job in the car and learn what I can while I’m driving. Of course, lots of the testing done in pre-season is not so relevant for you as a driver, but ultimately you do benefit from the learning process being worked through. As a driver your preference is to do things like race and qualifying runs non-stop but obviously that’s not productive. I feel like we got some good stuff out of winter testing this year.”
The Australian Grand Prix has proved to be a happy hunting ground for you – notably scene of your first career podium on your debut in 2014, and last year’s season’s best sixth-place finish. What is it about the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit that seems to work for you – is it simply a track that suits your particular driving style?
“I don’t actually think Albert Park suits my driving style, but that said, it’s not a track I dislike at all, I do like driving the circuit. It’s a pretty normal track for me and I think I’ve just been fortunate to have had good races there. I can’t really point out any reasons why Albert Park should be any better for me than other tracks. I think it’s just coincidence I’ve had good races there. Of course, when you have had good races at circuits, you always look forward to going back because those good memories create a good vibe. I guess you feel a little bit more excited going back to those tracks.”
Melbourne is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a Formula One venue – what is it that appeals to you about the track and the city?
“It’s obviously long been associated with being the season opener, which gives it a buzz and a certain excitement level. For me, it’s one of the best races of the year because of that, and everyone’s excited to see where they are and go racing for the first time in the new season. I like Melbourne as a city as well, I enjoy going there.”