You’re a three-time winner here: what is it about you and this Montreal circuit that somehow clicks so well?
I’m not sure. I guess there are certain tracks you like more than others and this is one of those circuits I particularly like. It’s a street circuit where you bounce off the kerbs, a bit like a kart track, and it’s all about braking which is something I’ve been quite good with in the past but I don’t have a specific reason why: it just seems to click for me here. I really enjoy coming out to Canada: I always have a great response from the fans here and they create an incredible atmosphere. There’s a really good vibe about this place and it’s one of the best Grands Prix of the year in terms of the turnout, the city and so on. It’s just a really good, fun weekend and I guess all of that packed into one makes it great to drive too. I’m feeling good about this weekend. The weather isn’t as nice as we’re used to so far, but I’m refreshed, I’m at a track I love in a city I love and I feel much more comfortable in the car now than I did last year, so I’m hoping for a good result.
This circuit is different to most seen so far this season: do you think that the layout could close the field up somewhat?
I’d be guessing but I don’t feel that will be the case. Maybe we will be surprised this weekend but the Mercedes Power Unit is particularly strong on the straights. We have a very good power curve on our engine and Mercedes has done the best job overall with the engines so far. Our rivals would have to have done an exceptional job coming into this weekend to be able to keep up with us on the straights.
How disappointed where you to miss out on victory in Monaco?
Not as much as you might think. Monaco is a race every driver likes to win as it’s the one you perhaps have the most desire to do well at. From eight attempts I’ve probably only had a real opportunity to win there three times. I managed it once but missed out in the other two, being this year and last year. Of course, it was a disappointing weekend from that perspective but it was a great team result and you have to step back and look at the season as a whole. We have a long was to go in this Championship and what matters is being first at the end of the year, not in one race.
You’ve said this week that you and Nico are friends again after that weekend: can you tell us a little bit more about that?
There’s not really much to say than what I said in my message. We spoke after the race, I congratulated him and we had a chat. We’re all good now. Just like all friends we have our ups and downs but if anything that makes the relationship stronger. Monaco was one of the ‘down’ points but I don’t expect every weekend to be like that. Off track it may not have seemed like a positive weekend for us but we came away with another fantastic result for the team. Whenever there’s negative energy, you take that and turn it into greater positive energy for the next race. We’ll be battling right to the end of the year but at the end of the day, it’s just about being respectful to each other and the team. The team always comes first and it’s part of our job to show the team in a positive light for all the fantastic work they do.
Does the long-standing relationship between the pair of you help in these scenarios?
We’ve known each other a long, long time and we’ve been rivals on track since we were kids. This isn’t a new situation and if anything that does help. If you have problems in the early stages of a relationship it can set a negative tone moving forwards. In our case we just have to take a step back, talk it out and put it behind us. I remember racing with Adrian (Sutil) years ago and us talking about how tough it was to stay friends when we were competing so fiercely on track. I wanted to beat him just like he wanted to beat me but that’s motor racing. Anyway, it’s done and dusted now and we look forward to working together to try to help this team win the Constructors’ Championship.
Did you feel the need to clear the air with the team also?
Nico and I spoke with the team both collectively and individually. Nothing’s really changed. We know the team has done a great job in terms of supporting us. The way it’s run by Toto and Paddy in terms of their support for the both of us has been great. They’re doing an incredible job in the way they allow us to race while still being hard on us when they need to be. I feel privileged to have them heading up the team. We’re now full steam ahead. We had dinner with the race team here in Montreal yesterday and things have never been better. We’re just going from strength to strength. People have ups and downs, as I said, so it’s no different to any other experience me and Nico have had in God knows how many years we’ve been racing together. We move on and we’re pushing forward. There’s a long, long way to go in the season so we’re looking forward to that battle.
Do weekends like Monaco spur you on to raise your game even further at the next race?
When you’re on top of your game it’s difficult to keep raising the bar. It’s something you’re always working towards and it takes a lot of hard work and focus to find that extra little bit of time: especially across a whole weekend. You’ll go out and set a fast lap, then the team will use the data from both cars to improve the setup and you have to find another lap from somewhere to stay at the front. Sometimes you see drivers sandbagging: completing two thirds of the lap and then backing off. Me, I just go out there and drive as fast as I can, then keeping trying to go faster and faster. Maybe I don’t help myself in that respect but it’s worked out ok for me so far!