How does it feel to be back in the saddle after the break?
After such a positive year like the one we had in 2013, everyone went into the break determined to come back even stronger, so it was great to get back out there and I’m really proud of all the hard work that’s gone into building this car. Such a huge amount of effort has been put in to get it ready in time and be the first ones out on track; they wanted me in the car half an hour before we had to go out! People who aren’t involved can’t really understand just how challenging it has been – not just for us, but for every team – so to see it all come together is a great feeling.
Just how different are these new generation of cars?
It feels a lot different; the power, the braking, the grip, the sound... there’s a lot to get used to. In those 18 laps I didn’t really have a chance to push the limits in terms of braking, or go flat out through some corners where normally you would do, but it was good to get out there and feel what the V6 turbo was like and how it would be to have that much more power from the ERS; it’s pretty quick! Every little bit of experience helps and we’re taking it one step at a time.
What do you make of the noise?
I think the Mercedes engine sounds great! I first heard it on the dyno a while back and loved it straight away. It’s obviously quite different from the V8 and I haven’t heard it come past on the straight yet, but from inside the cockpit it sounds great and it has good power so I can’t complain.
How about the appearance; was it love at first sight with the F1 W05?
When new cars come out you don’t naturally fall in love with them at first sight; they grow on you over time. This year’s car looks a little odd compared to last year’s which I had grown to love, but I’m sure as we get into the season we’ll look back at last year’s car and think it looks strange. Times change: I remember when the sport first moved from wider to skinnier rear wings it looked odd, but now the old ones look a bit weird. Generally when you’re in the cockpit all you can see is what’s above your knees, so you don’t really notice it anyway…
What’s your perspective on the challenges of this new era for Formula One from a drivers’ perspective?
To be honest I haven’t really thinking about it that much; I’ve just been excited to get back out there! We’ve got a lot to learn this year and it’s too early to say how tough that will be initially, but I love a challenge. The drivers have to be more engineers than they have been in the past but we already know how to save fuel and look after the tyres; it’s just a little more exaggerated this year, so everything will come with time.
Of course, not everything went according to plan today…
We had a small hiccup but we’ll bounce back from it and hopefully it’s the first of very few for us. When the car doesn’t stop under braking it’s always a bit of a heart-in-the-mouth moment but I’ve had a few of those in my career so I’m used to it. Initially I didn’t really know what happened; I braked but the car didn’t slow down and it’s always a little nervy in those moments, but I’m still walking so that’s the main thing!
Any cause for concern from your point of view?
We had done the most laps of anyone up to that point – and seeing how few cars have been going out on track today shows just how big an achievement our morning’s work had been – so I’m not concerned. Of course, the more running you do, the better placed you’ll be by the time you get to the first race, but to have already done this many laps in just half a day is a really good start.