In winter, away from the racetrack, the attention focuses more on physical training. How was your preparation for the new season?
PG: “It was really good. After spending some time with my family, especially for Christmas, I went with my coach to Dubai. I did the same last year and it worked really well, I felt really fit, so I adopted the same plan this time. In Dubai there are amazing training facilities and the weather is ideal for some outdoor exercise and I could push myself quite hard. Unfortunately, I tested positive for Covid at the end of January but luckily, I felt good, so I could continue training in my apartment. A slight cough for a couple of days did not stop me, I wasn’t tired at all, so I could go on with my training programme. I didn’t miss anything and I’m ready for the new season.”
You had a great 2020 season, can you do the same or even better this year?
PG: “I put my good results last year down to being more experienced, as it was my third season in F1 and also the first time I had stayed for a second full season with the same team. I’d say it was mainly the continuity from 2019 that paid off, working with the same engineers, having a better understanding of what we are doing and as a team we all succeeded in exploiting the experiences from the previous two years. I’m always hungry for more, so I’m sure we can achieve great things also in 2021.”
You have a new team-mate this year, Yuki Tsunoda. He is a rookie and therefore the team will be relying on you a lot more to lead the team, to lead the development. Is that how you see it?
PG: “Of course, Yuki’s arrival means I will have more responsibility within the team and I’m ready to take on the role of team leader. However, he is a very quick driver and he will help us move the team forward. I know Yuki, he is a competitive guy and showed what he can do in F2, that’s why he was promoted to F1 after just one year. We will work together to achieve that. He lacks experience, so it won’t always be easy for him, but I think he is talented and it will also be up to me and the team to lead the way. His arrival doesn’t really change my approach, which will be the same as last year, when we got the most out of what we had to work with at pretty much all the Grand Prix, apart from one or two. So, we must keep going with the same philosophy, as I really believe last year was the team’s best in terms of the way it worked, the development, the performance and in the way it managed the race weekends. I think that goes for me too and we just have to keep going like this to try and do a little bit better than we did last year.”
The 2020 car was a good one, so is that a further reason to be optimistic for this year, as the basic chassis remains the same?
PG: “The car did seem pretty good. Where we are in the mid-field, all the teams made a lot of progress and the gaps are very small. We finished seventh in the championship, but there were times when we were fighting to be the fourth or fifth best car in the field. We were fighting some very good teams that have big budgets and a lot of experience. Last year, we had a car that allowed us to fight with them and I got through to Q3 quite often. This year I hope we can make a step up, that will allow us to be nearer the front of the midfield.”
Do you feel you are at the top of your game as a driver, or is there room for improvement?
PG: “I think last year I did a very good job and I was able to drive the way I wanted and I managed to have an excellent relationship with my engineers, we understood what the team needed, what I needed and how to work together and that’s what brought the results. I was really satisfied, but there is still room for improvement, room for fine tuning. What you need over the whole year is to be consistent and to score at every opportunity. We need to see how the car goes in Bahrain and then we’ll know more. But the key will be consistency and not to make any mistakes.”
2021 will be the last year together with Honda. You’ve been working with them for quite a long time now. Tell us your thoughts.
PG: “It was kind of a shock when we heard that Honda will be leaving after 2021. We have a good relationship with them and it’s great working with them. I know they put in a lot of effort every single day they are in the sport. I’ve been working with them even before I came to Formula 1, so we know each other quite well. I think we can achieve great things together, which we have already showed in the past couple of years, with a second place in Brazil in 2019 and a win in Monza in 2020. It feels like it was just the beginning so it’s a shame to see them leaving so soon.”
After one year as a brand ambassador for AlphaTauri how do you think the brand has developed?
PG: “I think it’s great how AlphaTauri as a brand is growing and expanding in other countries even with the pandemic going ahead. I’m proud to be a brand ambassador and love their clothes. Unfortunately, we could only do a few events in 2020, which were amazing, and I hope we can do more of those this year.”
Unfortunately, the pandemic is still with us as we head into the new season. How do you approach another “different” season?
PG: “I followed a very strict and extreme regime, seeing no friends or family members and I plan to do the same for this year and we will see how the situation evolves. I will follow all the rules, whatever they are, being well aware that I have nothing to complain about: I am a Formula 1 driver doing the thing that gives me the most happiness in life and I realise how lucky I am. The sport’s organisers have done all they can to ensure we have the best season possible this year and to once again provide entertainment for the fans. Daily life is tough for a lot of people right now, so to be able to bring them something to smile about on a Sunday makes it worthwhile and is always a pleasure. What motivates me every morning is to do my best on track and to achieve my goals in Formula 1. That’s what I work on every day.”