I have just arrived in Barcelona and I can’t wait for the race weekend to start after what was quite a long break since the last Grand Prix. The most important part of this break of three weeks between Bahrain and the Spanish Grand Prix was obviously the test in Mugello. It was good to make use of this extra time, although I am not sure quite how useful it was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always useful to test, but in order to run at Mugello, we “lost” one test before the start of the season and I’m not sure if that is the way to go. However, I have to say it was absolutely fantastic to drive a Formula 1 car at Mugello again. It’s a great track, the one where I had my first ever drive in a Formula 1 car and I also have happy memories of racing in junior categories there. It was great to be there, especially when you race for Ferrari, because even at the test, there was a big turn out of spectators to support us. It is a bit too early to say how much progress we have made with this test and the real answer will not come until maybe the qualifying session in Barcelona on Saturday. But for sure we have made a step forward, with new parts, which Fernando tried on the last of the three days in Mugello, producing more performance and now we will have even more new parts to assess on Friday at the Catalunya track. There is no doubting how hard everyone has been working at Mugello during this break in the calendar and even before then, but all the other teams will have been developing their cars. We have said it many times before, but it is still true today; we must make a bigger step forward than the teams who were faster than us in the first part of the season. This season, the field is very close so the smallest change to a car can make a big difference. Already in Bahrain, I was feeling more comfortable and more confident in the car, as we had by then already improved our pace and the way the car worked with the tyres.
Apart from the test, I have spent some time in Maranello: I had a day in the simulator and later, we organised a very nice evening, as I went to dinner with all the mechanics and engineers who work on my car. It is always fantastic to be with the guys, not just at the track, but also away from it in a more relaxed environment. Then, this Tuesday I was at the Fiorano track for the event Ferrari organised to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Gilles Villeneuve. His son Jacques drove one of his old cars: he and I were team-mates at Sauber in 2005 and we occasionally meet up as we have a good relationship. It was nice to see him drive his father’s car on this important day. I was too young to have watched Gilles on television, but I have seen all the footage and even if the Dijon race is the one you see most, more than that, I liked the amazing videos that allowed you to see his incredible driving style. I didn’t drive his car, but a few years ago, when Ferrari had a party to celebrate its sixtieth anniversary, I drove one of Niki Lauda’s F1 cars. It was very nice to drive, with plenty of mechanical grip but virtually no aero downforce and plenty of power through an old-style gearbox. You drove them sideways in those days, so completely different to today. Actually, the day before that, I drove an even older car, one of the ones used by Farina – that was very different with the throttle pedal in the middle and the brake on the right, which was pretty confusing!
Back to the present and I am looking forward to racing in Barcelona. I have some good memories from there, I had a great race in 2007, when I had a big fight with Fernando actually, going into the first corner, before going on to win the Grand Prix. The following year was also good for me, as I finished second. Of course, it is the track that every F1 driver has spent more time driving than any other, if you take into account all the tests we do there, but you never really know it, because it is different every time and it can be cold or hot or wet and just the slightest change in temperature can have a big effect on how the car behaves. I hope that this year my result could come close to what I achieved in those two years: at least it is the right direction to follow.