The biggest event in my life since the Chinese Grand Prix is that I turned 30 around a week ago! I celebrated with my family here in Monaco and I have to admit, it did feel significant hitting thirty. Although, on the other hand, I don’t feel any different, I don’t feel older but it’s strange not be twenty something anymore. When I first appeared in Formula 1, I was twenty: it was ten years ago and I cannot complain about my career and my life since then, which has always delivered more than I expected. But as a racing driver, as a competitor, you can never be happy and you always want more and that is what motivates me. Looking at the current driver line-up in F1, I can take encouragement from the fact that, even if there are plenty of very young drivers in the sport, there are also guys like Michael (Schumacher) who show that it is possible to have a very long career and seeing him still competing makes me feel even younger!
After a long break from racing, I will be heading for Turkey very early on Thursday morning and I have to say that Istanbul is a very special place for me, as it was here in 2006 that I took my first ever F1 victory, which is something no driver can ever forget. I remember it as an incredible win from pole position and also I recall the fact I finished ahead of Michael and Fernando who were fighting for the championship that year, which all added to making it a great achievement. And after that, I made it a hat-trick, winning for the next two years, when I was definitely the fastest man on track. In fact, apart from the three wins from three poles, since I am in Ferrari I have always finished in the points at Istanbul Park, but I hope the Turkish wins won’t stop at three! It sounds strange, but looking back at my results in Istanbul and combining it with my recent significant birthday, it might even be a further motivation to get a good result this weekend. However, we must be realistic and I know we need a good improvement on the car, as we were not as strong as we expected in the first three races. But everyone in Maranello has been working very hard to produce some aero updates for this race, so hopefully we can be a bit stronger, even though these new elements cannot be considered to be a major upgrade. That is the story for this weekend, but we can expect more improvements to follow at the races immediately after this one.
If you look at our positions in qualifying at the last race, we did not have the performance to deliver a podium result, but during the race itself our pace was such that we were actually fighting for a top three finish. We cannot say now what the situation will be in Turkey, because if we have been working hard, then so have the other teams, but it is not impossible that we will find ourselves with a car capable of fighting for a podium. It is true that the tyre situation is the same for everyone, but it is equally true that this could again be the key factor in deciding what happens in the race. The famous Turn 8 will be very important, because you really put a very heavy load on the tyres at this corner so we need to think carefully about the car set-up to deal with it and control the degradation. One element that could make this a completely different situation is that, currently, the weather forecast predicts some rain on nearly every day of the race weekend, which means we and especially our strategists, have to be very concentrated and ready for anything. I can’t remember rain in Istanbul, so it could make life interesting.
Since China, I’ve kept in touch with my engineers to know what they are working on and I also spent two days at the factory and in the simulator last week, which was important for our development work. I enjoyed having a break from this with the unique opportunity of driving three Ferraris on the same day around Fiorano for a filming event: I had a Formula 1 car, the 458 road car and the 458 in its Challenge version. It was good fun, but the problem was that when you step out of the F1 car and into the road car – even a Ferrari – you have to be very careful about your braking points for the corners, because they are very different. But it all ended safely!