This round of the 2021 F1 Championship will be the first race weekend featuring the Sprint Qualifying Race format, here all you need to know about how this works.
“Reflecting on the triple-header, Qualifying went well at all three races and I managed to get into Q3 every time. So, Saturday’s performances were always excellent and I particularly enjoyed having a good race in France in front of a home crowd. The second race in Austria also ended well, even if it hadn’t been easy, so we were always in the game. On the downside, the first Austrian race ended immediately for me, but overall we’re doing a good job as a team, the car is working well and everything seems to be going in the right direction, so I hope that will continue at Silverstone.
The biggest change this weekend will be the race on Saturday, which means we only get one free practice session to set up the car before Qualifying. That’s a major change, so it will be even more important than usual to be very well prepared before going out on track for the first time. We will need to have a good baseline in terms of car set-up right from the start. The new format means how the car works in race trim takes on greater importance and we know this is where, maybe, we have a bit more work to do compared to how the car has been performing in Qualifying. I think generally that is because we over-perform in Qualifying, doing better than some other teams that struggle a bit with Quali and then, in the race, we are more or less where we ought to be. But overall, it should be fine, because we saw in Austria, running a different strategy, we finished four or five seconds off the top five. So, even if we have a bit more work to do for the race, we are nevertheless in the mix, which is definitely positive. We’ve worked a lot with the engineers, and I’ve been in the simulator, looking at all the possible scenarios for the new format with the Sprint Qualifying race. It should be good fun. We’ve also got new tyres from Pirelli. It’s been done mainly for safety and from what I experienced, trying them in Austria, I think they will feel pretty similar.
I love Silverstone, it’s one of my favourite tracks, especially the run through Maggots and Becketts, which is one of the most exciting sequences of the season. Although overtaking is meant to be difficult at Silverstone, it is possible and I managed some good passes last year, having some enjoyable fights including passing Seb (Vettel) round the outside at the right hander before the chicane.
I enjoyed racing in front of the fans in Austria and for Silverstone they’re announcing a full capacity crowd, the atmosphere should be great and I’m looking forward to it.”
“Looking back at the triple-header in France and Austria, there were some negatives but also some positives. The negatives were obviously a big mistake in Qualifying in France and then in Austria, crossing the pit lane entry white line. I’d say the biggest positive was that from the first week in Austria, I changed my approach to the whole race week. Up until then, I tended to always push as soon as I felt confident or just after making a change to the car set-up. That approach had worked for me in the other formulas up to Formula 2, but it doesn’t work, or at least it involves a lot of risk when you try it in Formula 1. I realised that and changed to moving forward step by step, building up my confidence during the race week through free practice, up until Qualifying and from then on I try to push. That worked well and I also changed the way I worked with the engineers in meetings and how I warmed up before getting in the car. It was a step forward and we found a lot of good ways to work from now on. In Qualifying for the second Austrian race, I got my best result of the year and the way I managed getting through the three sessions was really good, especially as I had lost a bit of confidence after I had a big snap in the car in FP3. So, I was pleased with that.
After the last race, I got some more track time, testing the Pirelli tyres at the Red Bull Ring and as a rookie, the more time you get in the car, the better it is. It was interesting work. Now we come to Silverstone and I have good memories from last year, when I came third in the Formula 2 Feature Race and, like the Red Bull Ring, it is a track that I have driven at quite a lot, going back to when I was in F3. That’s all positive, but the downside at Silverstone, given I have never driven a Formula 1 car there before, is that we only have one free practice session before Qualifying, as this weekend we try the Sprint Qualifying Race on Saturday. It means that the new approach I started to use in Austria will not work so well this time. I expect that having to perform well in Qualifying immediately after FP1 is going to be tough. It will be quite difficult, but I will still try and speed up step-by-step again, like in Austria. But the sprint race is something new for everyone. We must also think that we can make set-up changes between FP1 and Qualifying, but after that we can’t really change anything. I think it is going to be quite a challenging week for everyone, but I will just focus on myself and on being as well prepared as possible.
I am looking forward to experiencing Silverstone in a Formula 1 car, with all its high speed corners and although, as I said, the lack of free practice is going to be a challenge, I am feeling fairly confident about the weekend as I have some experience of the track from previous years, so let’s see what happens. I am particularly looking forward to seeing what the Maggots-Becketts- Chapel corners are like in an F1 car.”