We had news this week that next season there will be a 17-year-old driver on the grid. What are your thoughts?
People are always asking “is it only with money that you can get to the sport?”, so it’s great to see that if you have the talent and you really deserve it, you can make it. There have been many examples recently that have made it into Formula One. That’s important, that’s good. Of course, it’s a very young age but I think he’ll be OK.
Do you think you would have been ready for Formula One at the age of 17?
I tested a Formula One car at 17 and driving-wise I would have been ready, I feel, but the limitation at the time was physically. That was a big limitation because at the time it was still a V10 engine with big downforce. I’m not sure if there was more downforce than now but the tyre grip was higher. That was the big limitation at the time for me as, a 17-year-old. But nowadays it is a little bit easier physically, definitely, so that will help.
It has been suggested that Formula One is too easy today. Would you like it to be more difficult, more challenging?
In the first instance we’re here for the fans, so we need to do great racing. At the moment we’re seeing great racing, so that’s a big positive. That’s the first and most important thing – and then we need to work on the sound, which seems to be quite important to the fans. I understand that we need to keep on working on that and hopefully we can find a solution. Maybe we just put some big loudspeakers on the car. That’s the direction of electric cars in the future anyway! So those are the sort of things that are important. From a driver’s point of view it’s great as it is, that’s a fact, but maybe it would be a little bit better if we could do qualifying laps every lap with the tyres lasting forever – proper qualifying times every single lap of the race would be harder physically. All of that could make it slightly better, yes, but I don’t really think about that because it is the way it is now, and that’s great.
With less downforce this year, will corners like Eau Rouge be much more of a challenge?
We have a little bit less grip in some places, but not really. It depends on which car you’re driving, of course. I think to watch from the outside it’s still awesome to watch these cars. They’re still the fastest cars that there are in terms of corner speed and things like that.
In such a hard and tense season, fighting every second weekend for victory, did you feel in need of the summer break?
Was it needed? Not really. After Hungary I wanted the next race to be the next day and just continue like that so it’s not like I needed a holiday. But of course it was there and it was good. I had a great time with friends and family and I think it’s quite good that there’s the two weeks where everything is shut down because otherwise, even on a day off, there’s still e-mails with the team and this and that coming through. In those two weeks there’s really nothing happening and it’s quite a good thing for everybody.
Many drivers have rituals for luck during a race weekend – what about you?
I keep my underwear from qualifying if I’m on pole for the race! And it’s not allowed to be washed either…