I arrived tonight in Istanbul having spent a few days in Maranello. With the team, we have worked hard to be as well prepared as possible for the upcoming weekend of World Championship action, an event that has a special significance for all of Ferrari. It’s here in Istanbul that the Scuderia celebrates its eight hundredth Grand Prix in Formula 1, which is an amazing achievement. My role in this exceptional story only started a few months ago and it is only six chapters long, but I can already understand how special it is to be part of the legend that is Ferrari.
Apart from the work with the team, I have also been on the simulator and, yesterday I was able to indulge in my two favourite sports; football and cycling. Yesterday afternoon, I watched a stage of the Giro d’Italia, along with Stefano Domenicali and it was a great experience. It was a time trial, from San Vigilio di Marebbe to Plan de Corones and I followed my friend Carlos Sestre every inch of the way on a support motor bike. I like cycling as part of my training programme but I also like to watch the big races. I had already been to the Tour de France and the Vuelta, but never the Giro: it was a great atmosphere with lots of support, especially for the Italian riders. I tried to give my support to Carlos and the other Spanish riders: one of them still wears the pink jersey and I was pleased to join him on the podium when he put it on again at the end of the stage.
In the evening, in Modena, I played football in the charity match between the Telethon and Nazionale Italiana Cantanti teams. Once again here there was a great crowd with the stadium filled almost to capacity: the Italians really know how to show their support and on this occasion they had good cause, namely to gather donations for medical research.
The race in Istanbul kicks off the second third of the championship and there is still everything to play for. Even if, so far, the Red Bulls have been the most competitive, the field is evenly matched, with at least five or six drivers in the hunt for the title. I hope this will be a “normal” race in that I should not find myself once again at the back of the pack after a few laps, which is what has happened for one reason or another in four of the first six races this year. We have the potential to be competitive and it would be fantastic to be able to celebrate the Scuderia’s eight hundredth Grand Prix with a great result!
The Monaco Grand Prix was bittersweet for me. Clearly, in terms of the points I picked up, it was not good enough, especially as we were in the right shape to fight for the win. Following on from Barcelona, where we were not fast enough to win, on the Monaco track, where aerodynamics is less important, we were more competitive. When you have a car that is easy to drive, as is the case with the F10 - something which Felipe and I both realised immediately right from the first test in Valencia - it means you quickly feel confident with it. And that is vital on a track like this one.
Then, on Saturday morning, you all know what happened and sixth place on Sunday therefore had a very different flavour to it: this result should make the team proud of all they did in difficult circumstances. It’s never happened to me before, not to be able to take part in qualifying. It can happen that you go out in the early stages, because of a mistake or a technical problem, but to find yourself having to watch the screen right from the start, that was really cruel. But I think this incident brought us even closer together as a group: it’s at times like these that you get the measure of people and the entire team was amazing.
Sunday was very satisfying. We were aware that if we wanted to finish in the points, everything had to be perfect: the car, strategy, overtaking and tyres. And that was indeed the case. The first laps were very hectic, with six overtaking moves and then I had to try and make the most of the strategy, waiting for others to pit. From lap 28, I found myself sixth and, from that point onwards, my main aim was to manage the car and the tyres. We had only finished rebuilding the car a few hours earlier and to finish such a tough race without the slightest problem shows just how great the lads are. Then at the end came the incident with Michael: the pit wall had told me that, as the race was still under the Safety Car on the last lap, overtaking was not allowed and so I was calm and that was later confirmed by the Stewards, who put things right.
Now, we have to roll our sleeves up to push even more on the development of the car. We still have to make up some ground in terms of performance and as we are in the thick of the fight, we don’t want to leave anything to chance as we try and reach our goals.
It was very exciting for me to race in Spain at the wheel of a Ferrari for the first time. To see so many red jackets and caps in the grandstands was fantastic and I think that this time, I felt the passion of the fans like never before at the Catalunya circuit. So, I was really happy to get to the podium, even if it wasn’t the top step, so that I could acknowledge and thank them all for their enthusiasm.
From a technical point of view, the F10 performed the way we had thought it would. The updates we brought delivered the performance level we had expected, but it’s also true that other teams made an even bigger step forward, at least in terms of how they performed on this type of track. I am convinced that this year, the hierarchy among the teams will usually change according to the characteristics of the track and the Barcelona one definitely did not suit us so well.
The Monaco Grand Prix is a unique event on the calendar. All of us drivers want to win on this track at some point or other and the teams and sponsors are also particularly keen on doing well at the most famous race in the world, partly because it takes place in a venue that is already very special. It definitely attracts even more media attention than usual, which means the weekend will be even more demanding than usual. Usually on this track there have been surprises on the technical front. In the past, we have seen cars run competitively here that have not done so elsewhere and so it is even harder to make any predictions. Maybe we could be the ones to spring the surprise, given that others are already writing us off or are saying they have the edge.
I have heard a lot about the problems with traffic. It’s true this was already a problem when we had twenty cars on track and now there are four more, but we must try and look at this situation as an extra challenge, both for us drivers, who will have to be even more careful when overtaking, but without losing too much time, both in qualifying and the race and for the engineers, who will have to work out just the right moment to send us out on track in qualifying.
Here we are, with just a few hours to go before my first race for Ferrari in Spain. The Barcelona event has always been special for me. I am sure that this year, the dominant colour in the grandstands will be red, from the Ferrari and Spanish flags, along with the blue of my fans from Asturias. It will give me extra motivation to see so many flags, when I’m in the cockpit of the car and it would be great to give all the fans the result they are waiting for.
After coming home from China, we finally got a slightly longer break after the frenetic start to the season. I made the most of it to do some training and I was always in touch with the team to follow the development programme on the F10. In a championship like this one, you need to push very hard to try and improve the car at every race: it doesn’t take much to make a difference, either on the plus side or the minus.
I also spent a few days in Maranello to meet with the engineers and work on the simulator. One particular test we did involved evaluating the new management system for the blown rear wing, which I had partly tried on Friday in Shanghai. We did a lot of work on this system in the wind tunnel and Giancarlo was able to try it on the car last Saturday at Vairano. The first signs were good, but Felipe and I have to give it a good test in the two free practice sessions on Friday, before deciding whether or not to use it in qualifying and the race.
This morning I was in Madrid for an event organised by the RACC and eSafety, along with the FIA Foundation which promotes electronic driver aids on road cars. Also there with me were Carlos Sainz, FIA President Jean Todt, Sebastian Salvado and Carlos Gracia, respectively the presidents of the Automobile Club of Catalunya and the Spanish Motor Sport Federation. It’s always nice to be able to do something to improve road safety: the understanding and use of technologies such as ESC (Electronic Stability Control) and predictive braking can be very important, but most of all they can contribute to saving thousands of lives.