You joined Lotus over the winter having only ever driven for Williams in F1. Eight races down, how do you feel you have settled in to the new team?
First of all it's a bit difficult to say because I'm having a bad experience with the results. For sure we are here in Formula One to get results. For plenty of reasons the results are not there; there are no points after eight races.
From a personal point of view I feel fantastic in the team. I have big confidence and what I feel is a big confidence even from their side in me. It's a great team, great people with very experienced guys and the factory is always working well. For sure we are not having the best year ever for the team, but this is part of life and part of the experience. We need to be strong in the tough moments. It's then that you see the real teams staying together and keeping fighting until the end.
We are doing that, we are fighting. There is big motivation behind us, a big push from every single point – driving, factory, aerodynamic, engine as well – so we are trying to put everything together because now you can see apart from Mercedes the teams behind until us are quite close. Sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less, but the delta is not that big. It's important to keep going like this, not lose distance against the others because the reliability issues we are having will finish at some point.
This is technology, we need to understand that especially when they are new you can have these kinds of problems. We just need to stay calm and the results will come because we have a good car and a good team. Maybe not the best car at the moment, we're having a lot of problems at the same time so we are not the fastest and we have a lot of problems. You can imagine how it feels.
We feel that we do not have all the tools to defend when we are fighting on the track. But behind this we are working very hard – believe me – in the factory, simulator, engineers, all the new projects for the short, medium and long-term, and hopefully from now until the end of the season we can be slightly more competitive. Slightly more competitive means being consistently in the top ten and scoring some points.
Now we need to recover the time that we lost. I think it's possible; there are many races to go so let's do our best, do what we know we can do. They are very professional at building the cars and designing the cars, so let's get 100% from Renault even if we know that it's not the most powerful engine but Red Bull can do very well with this engine as well. I was not part of the team last year but the team has been fighting closely with Red Bull in the past and maybe they were the only ones to get close to Red Bull in the past season. Hopefully we can get better, we'll see.
You mentioned the factory quite a lot there; what are the similarities and differences coming from Williams? Because both teams have been winning championships and races within the last 15 or 20 years and have had ups and downs…
Good teams, it's a good question because to be honest they are both very professional. They won championships and have the experience how to build good cars. They showed that always. Sometimes they can have a bad season but immediately afterwards they would react; they know what to do. These two teams don't have the top budget to develop or to have the best people in the factory, even if I think both of them with the money and the structure that they have they can fight for a season. They showed that in the past.
They are completely different. They are completely different in the philosophy, in the projects, how to build the car, how to work around the car – they are completely different situations. So it's different to compare just because they are two different worlds. But that means even with different philosophies they can reach more or less the same results. They can get good results, they can build a good car, they can explore the potential, they can be good not only at the track but also away from the track. They are both really good teams to be honest.
What's it like for a driver moving teams? What do you have to learn and what takes longest to feel comfortable with?
For sure one of the most important things is the personalities. You have to be welcome in the team and from the feeling point of view you need to feel good. This is the first step. Then there are projects. We need to see the project and we need to see the development projects for the short, medium and long-term. You try to understand them, discuss them with the engineers, what I think, what is wrong, what is not wrong etc.
Behind the team for sure there is always the package; the engine package is very important as well as you can see this year. It's very important…
You said you have to have a positive feeling; did you feel that was starting to go away at Williams during your time there?
No. I think to be honest I had a good time at Williams. You can ask them, I have a good relationship still. They are so friendly, all of them – Frank, Claire, all the Williams family – I have a lot of respect for them. First of all they gave me the opportunity to enter in to this world and become a Formula One driver. For sure I won in the past and I deserved to become a Formula One driver, but they gave me the opportunity and I felt very lucky because I was not starting in a small team. It was a very important thing for me.
They put me alongside Rubens Barrichello who was the most experienced driver at the time in Formula One. He was a super-quick driver, he always showed that he can be fast and it was maybe the best experience for me – the first year at Williams – because the car was not so good and at the same time I was learning a lot from Rubens and trying to be quicker than him. I think I did.
Then after the first year they made a good car for my second season in 2012. We won a race, a fantastic race and not because we were lucky. We fought in the race, we won the race, we had been very quick that weekend. For obvious reasons we were not able to keep winning through the season. When we won I think we were in the wrong place. Our package was not built to win a race. We had a good car to be in the top ten and we had been in the top ten for many races, sometimes even fighting for podiums or whatever, but for that weekend we just got 100% out of our car and package and the others didn't. That was the difference, and for sure we had a good car.
The last year was very difficult, very tough for the entire team because we were expecting the relaunch of the team and a new start. We had won the previous year, only one race but we were expecting to win more races. It was a bit frustrating from the team's point of view and for all the personnel but not from my side because when you are driving even if you are last you always want to get the maximum from the car. I was delivering and I think last year I did the best races of my career. I was always starting from really bad positions – 18th, 17th – and always getting up to 11th, 10th and most of the time I was fighting for good points in 7th or 8th but we had so many problems even on the pit stops. So I was losing like 20 seconds in each pit stop and I lost the races there.
To be honest, it's experience. I learned a lot there but I thought that it was the time to discover something new for my career. Some new experiences. When you change things you know that something can be wrong, something can be wrong or not; if you don't take the risk you never know. I've taken the risk. I don't think it's worse than last year, I think it's very similar to be honest, so it's not worse. It's very similar to last year up until now, even if we have a better car. It's really bad in terms of reliability but every time the car is running without problems we are decently in the top ten or close to the top ten and then in the races we are used to being more competitive because we have some problems with the qualifying pace.
The reliability problems seem to put pressure on us, but that will turn around and will improve. For sure we will get there. We need to recover now, we lost many races but that's it, there are some races to go at the moment.
Part two will be published on Friday