How have your preparations been going over the winter?
I've just had a singular focus: it's been about immersing myself within the organisation, with the people, and getting to grips with everything that I'll face when I finally sit in the cockpit later this month.
It's no secret that I live in Woking and I go to the MTC every day. So I've spent every available day working – either with my engineers, with the team management, or with the trainers at MTC; building those relationships, getting to grips with the car, the style of driving, the cockpit and control systems, and improving my fitness. It's a constant learning curve, but it's fun and satisfying to be able to do it with a group of people who work so closely with you.
It's been relentless, but I've enjoyed the discipline and focus of the winter. It will actually be nice to arrive in Jerez, to hopefully look out at a blue sky, and drive the car!
Despite all the preparation, is there a sense of nervousness going into the first test?
Naturally, sure. You never reach a point where you feel completely 'ready' – there's always more you can do. But I think every team and driver is going to be feeling uncertain going into the pre-season. Personally, I'm just working hard to make sure that I'm as ready as I realistically can be – so I've learned the cockpit systems inside-out, I've been in the gym at the MTC every day, and I've worked hard with my engineers to understand just what to expect from this new formula.
In a way, the regulation changes makes things a little easier: at that first test in Jerez, everybody will be easing themselves into something new, rather than just getting in the car and driving away, so I'll really be no different from any other driver. It'll be how we react during the season that will define how successful we are. I know the engineers are working on new things all the time, but I think there's still plenty of scope to move forward.
I don't think you'll get a definitive read on who's competitive and who's not until at least the Bahrain tests – maybe even later.
What's the biggest challenge to overcome ahead of the new season?
I guess it's just getting to know people, feeling comfortable within this new environment, and learning what you can and can't affect. One of the things that's really struck me at McLaren is just how much influence you have as a driver – I can test something in the simulator, or we can work on something in the cockpit, and they'll really listen to my input and, the next time you get in the sim, or the mock-up car, it's been changed at your recommendation. That's impressive, and it encourages me that this team has the speed and motivation to react quickly to any changes.
I'm learning how the team works, too. Obviously, a World Series team is a much smaller operation – you know everybody – and this is much, much bigger, so getting used to that has taken a bit of time. Obviously, I haven't really experienced much in terms of media and marketing yet – I've been in something of a cocoon – but I'm looking forward to getting out on the road with the team, going testing and seeing what happens.