The 2012 season was a long one for everybody – did you have a chance to chill out over the winter?
It was a well-timed break, after the first year with 20 races in the calendar. Given the intensity of it at the end of the year, with three double-headers, everybody needed that break to recharge their batteries and get their focus on 2013. That one month off gives you a chance to understand things more and I'm quite happy to now look ahead to the new season. We're always keen and eager to get back into the cars. I think the winter is more important for the race team who travel – the pressure that revolves around them is much higher than it is for us. They go through the mental stress of getting the car prepared over the race weekends and they are away from their families.
How have you approached your preparations this year and are you raring to go?
Last year I had some good productive training with Gerry Convy and I think this year I can actually read my energy levels and really look at when is the right time to be training, when you feel ready, and when you feel strongest. I'll be able to manage that a bit more this year and I think my baseline is a lot higher. I'm keen and eager to get back in the car and get back to business. Looking ahead everyone is in good form in the factory. The relationships are very strong, the structures in some departments have changed, and I think all the boys are ready for it. Looking at the design aspects of the car, the rules haven't changed, so effectively it's an evolution of what we had before
How important is it for the team to have a stronger start to the season this year?
That has to happen and there's no reason why we shouldn't. I think the pressure is on all the departments to make sure we start better, last year we underperformed, certainly until the European season kicked in. We did get some good results before that – in the rain in Malaysia and in Bahrain, where we just got everything together and managed to achieve something remarkable that early in the season. We need to launch a car, understand it, and bring a race package to it – whether that's at the Barcelona test or in Melbourne – that needs to make the car quicker than when it rolled out on the first day.
This year DRS use in qualifying is restricted to the official zones. How will that change things?
In my mind I see it as a safer approach and it's what most of the drivers want. I think ultimately the bigger teams with more downforce had the advantage, because they were coming out with double DRS systems and so on. Also, it was touch and go where you could use DRS. Some teams could use it through the corners, whereas we were closing it. I think the new regulation maybe brings it back to the teams that haven't got quite as many resources as the top teams. Ultimately it's fine as long as the FIA make sure the DRS is quicker over the lap and it gives you the switch and the gear ratio choice for overtaking – that is why it was introduced. It's not there to be a performance-enhancing device in qualifying.
Everyone sampled prototype 2013 tyres in Brazil. Any thoughts on the changes?
We've tried the construction change, but it wasn't the 2013 compound, which I think is going to be different. It will be interesting to see how it will affect the car. The day we tried them in Brazil we experienced the hottest track temperature all year – it was baking hot! They performed well. Pirelli has done a very good job over the last couple of years and the tyres do what they should do – they wear out and when you put a fresh set on you go quicker! Last year we probably saw a few issues where there were not enough pit stops. We want to see races with more pit stops and more strategy coming into it.
How optimistic are you heading into this season?
I'm feeling very good, I must say. I'm working very closely with my team of people, and that's changed slightly in different departments. We're all trying to do the best job possible. Whether it's managing time and making sure you're in the best frame of mind or whether that's on-track performance and the finer details of the car set-up, ultimately it's all about performance and results. I know the way this team works and they know how I work. When it all gels well we can obviously see the results we get. We just need to make sure we can achieve that on a more consistent basis.