The DNF in Singapore leaves you level with your team-mate on mechanical retirements from Grands Prix this year – and almost level on points too. How are you feeling heading into this next chapter of the season?
The DNF is completely behind me – you just have to accept it for what it is and I don’t even think about it at all anymore. I’m in Suzuka now and it’s an awesome situation that we’re in with the season we’re having, so I’m feeling really positive and motivated. Yes, reliability has been a bit of a weakness all year – but we have to look at the big picture. The performance of the car has been just amazing and we are dominating the sport, so to have that is a great feeling. We have a few glitches here and there but we are going to improve on them. We want to become even more dominant and that’s the road we have to take. Coming to Suzuka, one of the best tracks in the whole world, with the best car is great.
So you don’t feel your best shot at the Championship disappeared at the last race?
Not at all, no. It’s three points behind if you want to see it that way – but it’s still all to play for and there are a lot of points to be had. As I’ve said before, I’m trying not to focus on the Championship as such. It’s a compromise, of course. The reality is that the Championship is a very good possibility this year, so that is always there. But the approach I prefer to have is to take individual races as they happen in the moment. I’m coming to Suzuka on full attack – just as I have been doing every week. I’m here to try and win – to go for it and to enjoy it.
Are you at all nervous that reliability could decide the outcome of the Championship?
If that were to happen it would of course be very unfortunate – but that’s racing. It wouldn’t be the first time or the last time. Technology is a central part of the sport – we all know that and accept that. Sometimes it’s tough but we just have to hope things don’t work out that way.
It must have been tough watching on from the pit wall but you did say you learned a few things – what were they?
The team were suffering just as much as me and in a way it was nice to see the passion they have. Everyone is working so hard and they want to win. When I was out of the race, I decided I might as well use the time and try to pick up a few things as I’ve never watched a race from the pit wall. It was an unusual situation but it gave me an insight into what goes on behind my earpiece when I’m in a race. What are they all doing on the pit wall, how are they communicating and so on. I definitely picked up a few things and also gave them a few pointers on what we could do better.
How did that go down?!
That’s a normal thing that we do as a team and we must do it to improve. To become even better and even more dominant, everyone must be able to put in – and listen to – constructive criticism. Of course, sometimes it’s difficult to hear criticism. But with the spirit we have in the team, if we all stick together and listen to each other we’ll win.
Looking to the weekend ahead, what can we expect from the F1 W05 Hybrid at this unique circuit?
The circuit, I think, is going to suit our car, so the chances are really good to be on pole and win the race. It should hopefully be an exciting weekend and I’m confident that, as a team, we’ll get the job done. That’s something I find really exciting – knowing that our car is going to be the fastest through these high-speed, special Suzuka corners. It’s just legendary – the first part especially where you’re going through these high-speed esses then blind up the hill. You really need to stick it out there to get the lap time.
For you, what is the key to achieving those goals this weekend – particularly given that conditions could be challenging?
Beating the guy that’s next to me in the garage – that’s the crucial point!