“We missed a great opportunity in Russia, as we did not make the best of the chances we had. We have worked since then to understand what we could have done better in order to be as well prepared as possible and back near the front again, starting this weekend in Turkey. Since Sochi, I spent a bit of time with my family in France, not doing too much, mainly relaxing as we will soon be heading into a series of races further away from home which will involve jet-lag, something we have not had to deal with for a long time. I also had quite a few marketing and sponsor appearances taking up time and apart from that it was the usual routine of training and more training, as well as talking to my engineers to be as well prepared as possible.
Last year was my first ever time driving at Istanbul Park. It’s a layout I really liked. It’s quite unique with interesting corners, a very technical track, complicated when it comes to the driving and I very much enjoyed it last year. It’s physically demanding, with corners like the triple left hander at Turn 8 which is never ending. In Qualifying you take it flat and it is really very quick. I reckon you are close to 270 to 280 km/h for quite a while and you’re approaching 5G through it. Last year there was very little grip from the track surface, which made it extremely difficult to set up the car in the way I wanted, but in the dry we found a good set-up, although it was more complicated in the wet. It should be better this weekend, I believe they have treated the tarmac to try and improve the situation. We’ll have to see what it’s like. I’m looking forward to it, because it was a really cool track to drive with several different and interesting lines to take through the corners, so I hope we can be competitive and close the gap to Alpine, who are currently in front of us.”
“Russia was a disappointing race for me. Up until Qualifying, everything had gone well and I had made good progress as usual. I felt that, compared to the Spa weekend for example, I had made a step forward in terms of driving on the Intermediate tyres in Qualifying, so it was frustrating to miss the cut into Q3 on Saturday afternoon by just a couple of tenths. In the race, I lost too many places on the first lap, when I had no grip at all and after that I was stuck in dirty air for most of the time. Since then, I have spent time in the factory, reviewing the last race, preparing for Turkey and training as usual. I now have a home simulator that I can use, so I’ve been doing a lot of laps! Of course, it’s not quite the same as being in the full-scale sim at Red Bull, which is not like the real thing, but it is the most realistic one I have ever used. The main benefit of the sim is learning about the track and sharpening up my driving. I can also review something that happened in the previous race or I can practice some particular piece of driving. Having the simulator at home now is useful and I can also discuss what I am doing on it with my engineer and simulate a race weekend from FP1 to Qualifying, based on plans made by the engineer for me to use, so we can work on it together.
There was no F2 race in Turkey last year, so this will be my first time driving the Istanbul Park circuit. I have watched last year’s F1 race and the conditions were very slippery. Rain aside, it was also because of a new tarmac surface, so it could be better this weekend. I hope so. I will follow my usual programme for a new track, building up speed gradually. The last five races I was pretty consistent, but the performance and pace was not so good, so this weekend I think I will try and dial it up a little bit more to be more competitive. Assuming it is dry, this looks like being a physically demanding track with corners like Turn 8. So, it will be tough, but I am looking forward to it.”.