Can you share the emotions and feelings you experienced as you prepared for your very first pre-season test back in 2012? Did you approach it any differently having already experienced a handful of race starts in Formula One?
“No, it’s always been the same level of excitement for the start of winter testing. You get the chance to discover a new car and get back into the groove. 2012 was my first winter test, so maybe it was a little more exciting, maybe you want to be at the top of the timesheet more than you do after. It’s always fun to get to work testing and learn a new car.”
As you head into your tenth full-time season as a Formula One driver what’s more exciting each year, the prospect of testing a new car and exploring its limits, or the first race start of the season?
“First race start of the season. If you’re in Formula One, you’re a racer. Testing is good but racing is much better.”
Is there a need to drive a brand-new car differently when starting out a test program or do you get straight into it the same way you’d approach a free practice session for example?
“It’s a bit different in pre-season testing. You need a little bit more time. You know that the mileage is key, and you need to get as much in the car as you can to make sure you’ve discovered everything about it. Driving it is different and testing, as it says, is done to test a lot of things. In free practice, it is exactly that, practice to get ready for the race.”
The team is just one-season removed from a top-five finish in the Constructors’ Championship. Mindful of the highs of 2018, and the lows of a troublesome 2019 season, what can testing offer you from a driver perspective to indicate where the new season might head? Are there markers you personally look for in and out of the car throughout testing that offer you a good feel for the car’s performance?
“It’s important to get a good first feel of the car. You want to feel comfortable in a new car. We’re normally quite effective at knowing quickly if the car is good or not. We’ve also learned a lot from 2019, when testing went well, but the rest of the season not so much. I think issues were masked by the fact that we had been fast in Barcelona at the start of the year. Then in some races we were fast but in others not. We’ll use testing to cover as many different scenarios as we can.”
As ever it was an active off-season for you. What were the personal highlights from your time off and what’s the one thing you wish you could have spent more time doing?
“It was a great off-season. I spent a lot of time with my family. The highlight is always Christmas with the kids. I’d like to be able to spend more time doing all of it, I’ve enjoyed my time at home. I’ve also enjoyed my training regime. Skiing’s been beautiful, and I’ve managed to get a bit of kite-surfing in as well, which is always fun. If I could have cycled a little more in warm weather, I’d have taken that, but summer will come and there’ll be plenty of time for that.”