“I enjoyed the holiday, spending time with my family and close friends. The summer break was made even better when I found out I would be promoted to Red Bull Racing next year! I was on holidays with my friends when I first saw the news Daniel was leaving, then a few days later I got the call from Helmut saying he decided to take me. I was so happy and excited about it! I always dreamed of going there since I joined the Red Bull programme in 2013. I didn’t expect Daniel to leave so it made the news even better! Now, I want to stay focussed for the end of the year, because there’s still nine races to go and I want to give my best for Toro Rosso who gave me my first chance in Formula 1, and finish on a high with the team.
“After a trip to Greece, I was back in France enjoying the break and getting energised for the final part of the season doing all sorts of things, including surfing and wakeboarding and playing football with mates, enjoying the sun and the sea. There were a few days where I did nothing right after the Hungarian GP, but I quickly picked up my training again, not too hard at first, but I’ve been doing it intensively again this last week. There are still nine races to go, so I want to be in the best condition possible.
“Spa is my favourite circuit, it’s an amazing track and I really loved driving there in all the categories, so I can’t wait to tackle it in these current F1 cars that have so much downforce. It’s going to be very fast! Kicking off the rest of the season here is going to be great. The last time I raced here in GP2 in 2016, I won and before that, I also won in Renault 3.5. In general, I’ve always gone well here. I’ve spent some time driving Spa on the simulator and we know that, on paper, this might be a difficult weekend for us, but we will give it our best shot as always. I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel on Friday for the first time in over three weeks. I have to admit I’ve been thinking about racing a lot during the break. I missed the sense of competition and in fact, during the holidays, whatever the activity I was doing with my friends, I was always trying to put some sort of competitive element into everything we did! Competing is what drives me, so I’m keen for the weekend to start!”
“Sarah and I headed to Colorado straight after the Budapest test and stayed out there for two weeks with Mark (Webber.) We did a lot of hiking, relaxing and mountain biking and it was nice to switch off. One day turned out to be very tough as I took part in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, a hundred-mile mountain bike race, which I’d originally signed up to do last year, however, I didn’t manage to get an entry at the time. It was incredibly tough, the race started at over 10,000 feet and ended at over 12,000, but it was very satisfying to complete, especially as it pushed me outside my comfort zone. It was something I had wanted to do for a while, achieving a goal which also took me away from the F1 paddock. It went really well and since then I’ve felt refreshed after all that time in the mountains and I’m ready to take on the rest of the season, starting with this weekend in Belgium.
“I’ve won at Spa in Formula 3 and in WEC. The venue is another crowd pleaser, very popular with the drivers and the fans. It’s old-school and scenic as it undulates through the forest and it’s a track that we very much enjoy. On top of that, the weather often comes into play and we’ve seen some very exciting races over the years because of the changing conditions.
“In Budapest, we showed that we had the pace and could do the job in mixed conditions, so that could mean we can have a very positive weekend in Spa. During the break, I made a big effort not to think about racing as it’s important to switch off and recharge, but in the last week, I’ve started thinking about the rest of the season and specifically Spa. It’s been a tough first half of the year, but I’m sure after the break, everyone at Toro Rosso is raring to go for the remaining races. We are all feeling optimistic after showing good pace in Hungary. It’s going to be very nice getting back in the cockpit on Friday, especially as I will be taking on Spa in a Formula 1 car for the first time. It’s one of the most iconic tracks on the calendar and I can’t wait!”