How would you sum up pre-season testing?
This has definitely been the most challenging winter I’ve experienced and the car is still very much a work in progress, but we’ve learnt a lot over the course of these last few weeks and overall it’s been a good winter of testing for us. Like every team, we found ourselves encountering problems every day and we’ve still got some work to do in terms of both reliability and speed. There are no specific problem areas, just lots of different things we need to improve. Every time we run the car we find out something new and there’s a lot of data for the team to work through, but that’s all part of testing and it’s the same for everyone.
Your final day was not quite as straightforward as you would have liked perhaps?
It’s important to get as much mileage under our belts as we can and just as important to discover any problems before we get to Melbourne. It might be frustrating at times but finding them at this stage is actually a positive and the fact that we still managed 70 laps is pretty encouraging. I have to say a special thanks to the crew here today who had a tough task in front of them but never lost their cool. It was a tough start to the day but they managed to get the car turned around for me to complete some good laps in the afternoon, which was a fantastic effort.
What’s the biggest challenge from a pure driving perspective with these new cars?
The driving style has changed a bit. It’s really difficult to get the power down effectively with so much torque from the V6 turbo, plus there’s a lot less downforce at the rear compared with what we had last year which makes it even trickier. Whenever you lose downforce from a car it naturally feels worse to the driver and I haven’t quite found the balance that I like in the car, but we’ll get there before Melbourne I’m sure.
Where do you think the team stands in the pecking order from what we’ve seen so far?
We really don’t know where anyone stands right now and we have enough to concentrate on without looking at how other teams are getting on. The focus is on ourselves and will continue to be right up to the first race. I feel we’ve got a strong package, but we’re certainly not guaranteed to be ahead of the pack. You can be pretty sure Ferrari will be quick and the Red Bull chassis will undoubtedly be strong even if they’re struggling a little with the Power Unit right now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s just a few tenths between teams in Melbourne. It won’t be until we’ve all gone out at the same time, in the same conditions, with the same fuel at that first race weekend that we get a better idea.
Do you feel ready for the first race?
There’s so much to learn with these new cars; it’s just mind-blowing and I don’t think anybody can be fully ready for the challenge of this season. The further we get into the year the better our understanding of the car, the power unit, the tyres and everything else will be, but there will be undoubtedly be mistakes along the way for everyone and we just have to hope that we make the least. I feel as ready as I can be and I’m looking forward to seeing where we are in Melbourne.
What would you see as a just reward for all the hard work put in by the team already this season?
A lot of hours have been put into this package by the people at both Brackley and Brixworth, and I’m really proud to be part of that. I was happy with the progress we made just to get to Jerez and we’ve continued to move forwards from there; it’s been a fantastic effort from the team. The goal is always to win the championship, and this year I’m more pumped for it than ever. I feel confident that the team is pushing hard to get us to the top and we’ve got great people working on every area of what we do, so we have a fighting chance.