The mid-season break is a good time to take stock and look at how the season has gone; how do you approach the second half of the season after such a tough year so far?
We have to keep up what we've been doing recently and work from there. We will not win – unless something strange happens – the Belgian Grand Prix or the Italian Grand Prix and it's not going to be night and day from where we've come. We know it's a tough season, there are reasons that I've explained and some which are a little bit less known, but I think the best we can do now is just keep working, keep trying to understand and keep improving from where we were.
We started too far back to be able to come back that quick. Of course the power unit hasn't been our strongest point but the car hasn't been very, very good either. So it's a little bit of both things, so if we can make it that the car goes better in the corners then there are more tricky tracks where we can try to get something from it.
Where is it this year's car lacks compared to last year's car? Where has the team lost its way a little bit?
I think the general inconsistency of the car and the downforce. There is no secret in Formula One unfortunately and most of it comes from aero. Sometimes there are things that you can easily understand and some other times there are things that you really struggle to understand. Aerodynamics is a very good science – I would have loved to be an engineer and do that – but sometimes there are unknown parts that need to be tried to be validated.
Obviously you've put a brave face on but it must be really frustrating for you as a driver to have gone from where you were last year to then have such a year this time round?
Yeah I miss the champagne and the podiums, of course! I was feeling ready to have a great season and there was nothing saying on paper that it wouldn't be the case. From the wind tunnel numbers that we had it was looking very, very good, the engine we didn't know, so it was kind of a shock to get to it. Then of course you get frustrated and you would like to fight at the front, but what can you do?
You try to do your best, try to take every opportunity when it comes. We had two or three this year where we did pretty well and there were other places where it was possible. You have to learn; learn a new way of driving and making your weekend because from last year to this year is very, very different to be fair. Last year I could very easily build up a weekend and go for it, and right now there's a new part of my driving that I have to build. For instance trying to understand one thing against the next thing and feel them, which is not something I used to do but which I'm doing now. So every year you have a difficult car it makes your driving much better.
It must be tough on the team too and you'll have noticed a difference; how do you compare the team atmosphere to last year?
Yeah it's frustrating for everyone. Everyone is working probably harder than last year for not having the same amount of pleasure and results on track. A good example is a pre-race meeting. Last year I remember Austin it was about “If we do manage to get ahead of Webber in the first stint we have to open a gap because they're going to be much quicker on prime tyres” – “Yeah thank you guys, I think I'm going to follow them, it's easier!” And then we did manage to open that gap and we could get in front.
It was stressful before the race because I knew what I had to do and I knew that if I was overtaking him then we could keep him behind, but now it's a bit different. We say “Well, we're going to try two different strategies and who knows? Maybe it's a good surprise, maybe it's not so good a surprise but you guys just do your best. You never know”.
How about the way you're driving; do you feel you're driving as well as last year? Maybe better and perhaps not getting the recognition?
Probably as good as last year, in a different way because the car is different. But I don't think you lose what you've been learning and what you're capable of doing, so of course there are cars that suit you a little bit better and of course if I had more rear end on my car and I could push harder on the entry phase of the corner – which is my strength – I would be quicker.
It's not the case, so again I have to learn from that and maybe I can improve my minimum speed or my qualification and so on. So it does suit me a little bit less than last year but driving-wise I don't think I've lost anything.
Your future for next year is not confirmed, so how hard is it to push the team for next year's car to say what you want from it when you don't know if you'll be here? Is it difficult not having that stability?
No, not really. I don't really think about it because every time we race and every weekend I try to give them as much information as I can that is good for all of us. If I'm with the team and I push for next year then it's good because I'm going to be in the car next year, and if I don't then it's still a team that I have a lot of sympathy for and a lot of love. I'm suffering – not just because I'm in the car – but I'm suffering to see what Lotus is. It's a big name and it's a team that's been fighting; 2010 was good, 2012 was very good, 2013 was very good and it doesn't really deserve to be where it is.
In a couple of different spells this has been the only team you've driven for; do you feel you need a change to make another step as a driver? Would it add anything to your skills?
I think it would, yeah it would. It's always good to see change. At school you graduate from one school to another one and you see a change and you learn more because the people are different and so on. So is it going to be next year or not? Is it going to be the one after? I don't know for now but I think it would be nice at one stage to see something else.
Of course this is a very strong team but it's not one of the four big teams. We don't have the same budget, we don't have the same capacity and number of people. So what you want to do is get in to one of those teams and learn from there.
Is that your aim then if you were to leave next year it would be to go to one of those big four?
Yeah, I think that's what everyone would tell you, but yeah I would love to be in one of those big teams.
Have you spoken to any of them? We've had the mid-season break and after that silly season really kicks in…
I was teaching my son to walk! So that was a full-time job!
What would you see as the strengths of this team for next year that you believe can emerge from this season?
I believe that they can build a good car as they have been doing [in the past]. If the team starts out the year with a good car then they're going to have a good year. If they start a lot on the back foot like this year then we knew it was going to be tough. But they have been able to build some very good cars and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be the case again.