Sauber's a new team for you, how have you settled in up to now?
Yes I've settled myself in, but we still need to do races. It's a new team, it's a new challenge with new cars but I really enjoy every minute here. It's based in Switzerland so it's very convenient for me and the factory is great so I see a lot of potential. There are a lot of very good people working here so it's all going in the right direction I think.
How long does it take for a driver to feel fully comfortable in a new team; can it be quick or do you need a number of races before you feel fully integrated?
Sometimes it gets quicker, sometimes it takes longer; it depends on the people. I think here a big advantage is speaking the same language, so we can get to know each other much better and much quicker. It's not such a new thing as I was in touch with Sauber for a few years. I also know Miss Kaltenborn a bit better, so it makes it easier to start working. Of course we're now starting our experience together and we will not have only good moments. Maybe sometimes it will be more difficult and let's see then how we work together. But most important is that the mindset is the same and our goal is to succeed and to reach our goals.
And what are the main differences – besides the language – that you have noticed between Force India and Sauber?
Well there are quite a few differences, yes, but not many that I want to comment about. But I can see for myself that the team is operating differently and the results are more or less the same, so that's already one very interesting thing. The good thing for a change is that you can always compare to what you were used to – whether it was good or bad – and it will give you a better perspective. For myself it was a good time to step in to a different team. I've had quite a successful time with Force India and I'm proud of that but for myself it was important to see some other teams as well, to grow and to make progress for myself.
Does it surprise you how differently two teams can work in the same sport? Coming up with completely different ideas, directions and ways of working…
Yes in a way, especially when I see how competitive this Force India car was. We knew that we had a small factory at that time and last year and in many years with the partnership with McLaren it was black and white; an amazing factory for McLaren and a very small one in Silverstone for Force India but sometimes we were running ahead of McLaren! So that already showed me that a lot of things are possible and it's not only the size and quantity, it's also quality and having the right people with the right thinking and the right knowledge at that time.
What kind of things can you bring from one team to another that you can perhaps get Sauber to do here?
Well there are certain things I hope as I have experience, but it's still early. I think it's not the right way to go in to a team and make drastic changes straight away because you've got to respect the way they work and first have a look if that's good or not. This is a team which was successful with BMW but also quite good at the end of the season last year so they know how to do it. I don't think I need to teach them a lot, we just have to work together and maximise it.
It must have been a pretty big contrast for yourself between this year and last year? Last year you were unsure if you were going to get that Force India seat again but this year the future was planned a lot earlier with a big move…
It was much better preparation in one way. At least from December onwards I could be in the factory already and speak to everybody; there were a lot of new faces of course. With new regulations there are new things for a driver to learn and the earlier you start the better you are. But at the same time the car was a bit late getting ready, and where we are right now I think is early for everyone. If you look at every team and every car I don't think we are any different to any of the others. It's a big challenge what we have in Formula One with the limited testing we have before a season, especially when you have such a drastic regulation change.
Obviously for the team that's tough but how challenging for you is it as a driver as well? Just driving and learning these cars; how different does it feel?
It's very, very different to drive. You have less downforce, you have harder tyres and the drivability from the engine is still very difficult. So with all the electrical parts of the engine and the turbocharger it's not as smooth as the V8 but it will improve. Every race, every test, every day you are out you will get some more experience and you can make it more drivable. So it's just a question of time. At the moment it's a big challenge to do a good lap, and of course there are certain days when you are not able to drive as much as you wish, so the time that we had in the car was not so much. I wouldn't say that I feel ready to go racing but that's how it is.
How has it been coming here with a new team-mate in Esteban? He's obviously got little experienced – just one year behind him but it was with this team – while you have a lot more experience; how does that work as a dynamic?
Well now I'm the older, experienced driver and he's the young one. I think that's a good combination to have in a team, always. He has done a whole season last year with good progress, I look forward to working with him. I've known him for a while, even before Formula One, and he's a good man and person so no problems here. We should work together as a team to succeed.
How do you stamp your authority on a team as someone new coming in but with a lot more experience? And obviously as both team-mates always want, trying to beat your team-mate at the same time…
Well that's normal, we always fight. You fight against 21 drivers in the field; normally you don't choose your team-mate but he's normally the first one you want to beat, of course. It's never been different in my whole career but I think it's important to respect each other and work together. If you work together you make the team stronger and both benefit from it. So it's not really any different; I try to work as best as possible and it's not that I'm here saying “I'm here, number one” or whatever. We work together, I do my best and we will see what comes out of it.
That's really important with the regulations that we've got this year, but do you feel that the way F1 has evolved and the changes we've seen this year that the sport is still about driving on the limit enough? Or has it gone too far away from that from a driver's point of view?
Well it's very technical. Of course it has changed over the years but it is still a very interesting category and Formula One is still the pinnacle of motorsport. The orientation is just a little bit different; it is more green, you have to think about nature and the planet as well and we are kind of the ambassadors for it. Car manufacturers went to hybrid quite a while ago and it's also time for Formula One to think that way.
It's clear that it requires a lot of patience at the moment and a lot of work, maybe the engines are not as loud as they were before, but it's different. I think change in every sport is good. It's not the right way if you talk about development, technique and technology in racing that it always is the same. We need progress; at the moment the cars are a bit slower but I expect in the future that the cars will be faster, better to drive and if we save 33% fuel then it's even better. So everyone can learn about it and I think it's a good change.
That's a good change but one that doesn't seem to have gone down so well is double points at the end of the year. What is your opinion on that?
We have this change now and we have to make our strategy for it. That means maybe to have a good car at the end of the season is worth more, which maybe benefits the smaller teams a little bit. But you have to adjust yourself and make the right strategy then…
Do you think it's too much of a lottery though that so much can change in one race; perhaps Sauber could go up or down a few positions in the championship?
Yes that's true. In a way you get a bonus for having a better car at the end of the season than having a good car at the beginning of the season. That's quite strange. Last year the best example is Force India and Sauber; we would have lost the position against Sauber with the points system of this year, definitely.
So you made the right switch at the right time!
Yeah, so if you now have to choose where you want to be fast and when, if you can't be fast for the whole season then you want to choose the end of the season, that's for sure.
If we look at the start of the season, everybody says they don't know who is doing what, so what can you realistic targets be?
That's a good question, I don't know. I don't know where we are. We've seen so many big differences in lap times between the tests and nobody knows if that is light fuel or the tyre – we have all the ranges of tyre – we have qualifying mode and race mode which is an unbelievable difference in terms of power… So it's too early to say where we are, but I hope we can be in the top 10. That is always the target for this kind of team here and I think every race the target is to score a point.
For the whole season as well is the target just consistent points or is there a constructors' position perhaps?
That's how I would like it, absolutely; consistency and also progress. Everyone will progress and we need to do the same. Let's see where we are. If you are always in the points then you want more, but the orientation has to be right. We are focused and committed, we want to go forward.
You said that it was important for you to move teams and try something new as a driver; how far do you think you can go as a driver here at Sauber? And when you have driven for a few midfield teams do you feel there are limitations to what can be achieved?
I think there are no limitations, that's just what people say. Maybe you can believe in the limitation or not; who knows how long the big teams will have the big budget, maybe it will stop and it will change. So my approach is different, I think everything is possible and maybe in the future Sauber will be a winning team. Nobody knows. What is most important is that you work and you try to improve. You try to improve in every area and if the budget is not enough you need to get more budget; if we are not fast enough on the circuit you have to hire better people and make it better. So you have to believe in it. I believe in this and want to make progress all the time, doing the best job I can, and that includes everything I just mentioned.
What about F1 this year do you like the most?
It's a bit early to say what I really like about it so let's see what the racing is like. Maybe after the first few races I can say “Good” or “Hmm, maybe not”! I like challenges and that's what we have at the moment, so I will give a good comment after the first few races.
Anything you don't like about this year?
I think the tyres are a bit hard! They could be a little bit softer, especially for the amount of grip we have. On the aerodynamic side we have less grip, so I think they went very conservative on the tyres.