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Nico: “We’re really becoming one of the best teams in Formula One”

Nico: “We’re really becoming one of the best teams in Formula One”

Nico, what a fantastic fight, just like in Bahrain, right up there at the end. How many more laps do you think you needed to attempt a move?

I think one more to be honest and I could have given it a good go. I wasn’t close enough in the end but next lap I could maybe have tried. I’m a bit gutted but still, second place and to be still so close in the Championship is good and there are many more races to go.

The start didn’t give you the platform or opportunity that maybe you’d hoped for. From there, like in Bahrain, you tried something different on strategy but unlike that race you didn’t really have a chance to attack. Why did it work out the way it did?

The start, unfortunately, was poor. It’s a bit of a weakness that we have at the moment. It’s just a bit inconsistent and now I’ve had a couple of bad starts in a row: three actually. That’s costly and we need to work on that. Other than that, I felt comfortable and the race pace was good. The best thing to do was to switch strategies and it worked out well. But this is a really, really difficult track to get close to the guy in front. I got close at Turn 10 on the last lap and could have got gone for a kamikaze move but it wouldn’t have worked. Lewis did a great job the whole weekend and was just that little bit ahead. But there are a lot of positives for me to take out of it. I’m fully motivated to just try to get that little bit extra and to edge him out next time.

What was the main difficulty during the race: managing the hard tyre or doing quick laps at the end?

The big challenge was tyre degradation. That was really difficult to manage. But I found my way and was quite comfortable with it. There was graining on the hard tyre which is the opposite of what we expected. We expected to have graining on the soft tyre. So it was very strange.

Just before the first stops, on the radio we heard the team say “primes planned for the next stint” and you said “the options are fine.” Did that mean you wanted another set of options for the second stint or were you happy with the way it went?

There was a misunderstanding from my side because we were going to go prime in the second stint. There were two variables. There was one where we would go prime for the second stint if we had graining in the first or go prime in the second stint to try and beat Lewis if I felt that pace-wise I could be quicker and have a shot at it. I thought they were saying to go prime because they thought I had graining. But I didn’t have graining so that’s why I was confused. Then I understood: it was to offset my strategy so that I would have a chance to fight Lewis at the end so it was fine – and just what I wanted.

What’s the key to the performance of the F1 W05 Hybrid?

It’s been nearly five years of work: beginning in 2010 when this project started and so much has changed. It’s been a long process. There have been big changes and now we’ve come to a point where, thanks to all the work from the past, we’re really becoming one of the best teams in Formula One. Red Bull is the benchmark but we’re definitely shaking their chair. I think there’s the possibility that soon we will be the absolute best team: in terms of organisation, capabilities… we’re getting there.

With your team-mate now leading the Championship, will you change your approach to race weekends?

There’s not much to change. The race today was really lost in qualifying and at the start. Those were the two opportunities I had. Qualifying was very, very close: even closer than it looked. In the race, I nearly got another opportunity at the very end but again, just not quite enough. One more lap and I could have given it a go, I think, but I would have done everything the same again at the start of the weekend.

Monaco is a track that’s been strong in the past for you and the team: how are you feeling heading there?

Monaco is fantastic. It’s my favourite race of the year. I have great memories there from last year. I’m looking forward to it. With the car that we have this year, it’s going to be great. The opposition are going to be closer so it’s going to be tougher for us. But still, we have a strong package: engine and car. We should go well around Monaco and I’m going to try and make the most of it and repeat the win from last year. That’s the aim and we’ll see if it works out.

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