As most of you knows very well, not all of us Formula 1 drivers go to a Grand Prix with the same expectation levels. But when you have a competitive package and especially when you drive for Ferrari, naturally your expectations are higher than most. That’s why the weekend that has just ended was really one to forget.
Qualifying went wrong for me, as I ended in the barrier in the first fifteen minute session, so I had no lap time to my name. It was just one of those things, it was my mistake. It was a point where you change direction and although I corrected the car it was too late, because where it happened on the circuit there is really nothing you can do. A driving mistake always means a crash. We had the one hour of free practice in the morning, so I knew what the track conditions were like. We took a while to decide what sort of tyre I should use in the first part of qualifying and in the end we opted for a scrubbed set. When they are scrubbed, they need at least one or two laps to be at the right temperature and I did not have very good grip on my first qualifying lap. I was not pushing very hard but the tyre pressure was a little bit low and that caused me to lose the rear end of the car. Qualifying was over for me.
In the race, it was just traffic and more traffic, apart from three laps after the pit stop when I was able to push hard on new tyres. The car was very good for those three laps, but then I caught up to Ralf (Schumacher) and after that he was in front of me for the whole of the second stint and he was impossible to pass.
I live in Monaco most of the year, but I cannot really say it’s a home race, unlike the real home race in Brazil and now also the two grands prix in Italy. But racing here did come with the advantage of not needing to get on a plane or to stay in a hotel room. It was nice to be able to go straight to my apartment after the team’s post-race debrief, especially as my family had come over from Brazil to stay with me for the weekend. And I also got to see them a bit more than usual, because the Friday is a day off in the Monaco race timetable. That extra day does seem to make the race weekend much longer than usual and I certainly felt I was a bit busier, with more events to attend for sponsors, usually on boats in the harbour. On Thursday, we had a very enjoyable night, when all the team had dinner together on a very big boat right down the new end of the harbour. It’s an official event, but at the same time it is more of a family thing, as team members can bring wives and children and the atmosphere is really good. The fun part is a film specially made for us that takes a humorous look at members of the team and overall, it was a nice relaxing way to start the weekend.
Now, I’m doing one day testing in Barcelona, the main point of the test being to look at Bridgestone tyre choice for the next race at Silverstone. I am quite optimistic about that race and I think we can be quite strong there. In any case, as usual, “Forza Ferrari”!!!
Sorry I’m a day late with this, but “life” got in the way! I suppose this is a sort of home race for me, as I am resident here in the Principality. But it is not in the same league as Brazil in terms of pressure from the media and support from the fans, although this year, I will notice the noisy support from all the Italian fans who make the short trip from Italy to support the Scuderia.
Do I like this race? To be honest, this is not a track where I can claim to like everything about it. It is good from the spectacle point of view, but in terms of delivering driving pleasure, I would say I much prefer tracks like Spa, Turkey or Suzuka. Here your concentration must be absolute with 78 laps of the track where you spend your time within millimetres of the barrier and so concentration is very important. It is very tough to get to the finish, because there are always a lot of accidents in this race and so you have to keep out of trouble if you want to see the chequered flag.
Technically I think we are very well prepared after last week’s testing. We have different suspension geometry here especially suited for this track and I am confident and optimistic. Qualifying will be crazy with all these cars on track so it will be easy to get stuck in traffic and there will be an element of luck involved so I hope I get lucky, as starting near the front in Monte Carlo is always important. The rest of the weekend really does depend on qualifying. We are concentrating a lot on qualifying, but we also need to use tyres that can run a race stint at a good pace. Last year we saw several cars have problems at the end of the race with tyres, but that won’t be the case this time, as tyre changing is allowed. This means we can adopt a more aggressive tyre strategy right from qualifying.
The big news story today was Valentino Rossi’s announcement that he plans to stick with MotoGP, rather than switch from two wheels to four, plus a steering wheel too. Many of the press expected me to say how relieved I was at this news, as there were stories that he could drive for Ferrari. But to be honest, I had not given it much thought. The important thing for me is to continue getting good results in the hope of staying with Ferrari for several years. From what I saw of Valentino, is that when you consider he is a motorcycle racer I think he did a very good job in a Formula 1 car. But I think that being a driver for a Formula 1 team, but not just any team, for Ferrari, is a very big step and he preferred to stay in his world. Honestly for me, it would have seemed like a very big step for him. To be honest, the spectre of Valentino never haunted me, despite what lots of people were saying. Personally, I never believed he would come to Ferrari. It changes nothing for me. I will just get on with my work as usual.
At the last few races, we have seen that from now on it could be between Ferrari and Renault. It’s true that Renault has usually gone well here, but we have several changes on the car compared with the last race, including set up changes that improve our traction. We have tested tyres that we think will work very well here and so we are optimistic. But please come back and see what I have to say after the race to see if I was right or not! Then we will know! But today, here and now I think we have a car with which we can beat Renault.
So, now I can enjoy the benefits of being at home, which means I have not had to pack a suitcase for this race and I don’t have to check in to a hotel. That is worth a lot.
It’s proof of the progress we have made in recent weeks, that not finishing on the podium in Barcelona was disappointing. But, when you get to the end of a race and know in your mind that you could not have done any better, then you have to be satisfied with the result. There was no reason to be disappointed. But, of course, we had not expected the Renaults to make such a step forward on race day. They took a well deserved win when you think that even a strong team like McLaren ended up one lap down by the end of the event. All I can say to them is ‘well done!’
Generally, our package was just not quick enough. I was happy with our tyre choice and I think we took the one with the best performance for the race. The softer of the two Bridgestones was definitely too soft. Sure, we might have started on the front row if we had picked it, but after a couple of laps, we would have been in difficulty. I think maybe the heat tipped the balance slightly in favour of Renault last Sunday, as it was hotter than we had expected. But not just the heat, it was also down to the grip levels from the track. Now we know we still have to do some more work for the next few races. From what we have seen from the last three races, the close fight for the championship is going to go on.
Even if we thought we could dominate on Sunday, we should not be too surprised that it did not turn out that way. Very small changes can make a big difference in this sport. If a team that is doing badly suddenly does well, then it’s a surprise, but Renault has won the most races this year and both their cars started in front of us in Spain. So it’s not that surprising they won! We know they are the team to beat.
I tried to get past Fisichella at both pit stops, but both times, three laps before the end of the stint, he and I were both caught in traffic, but he managed to get by the slower cars easier than me and so I lost two or three very important seconds when it came to trying to get past him. I think that’s what cost me the position, because if you look at the data, you will see that once I did get past the backmarkers, I was able to go at a really strong pace and I even set the fastest lap of the race for the first time in my F1 career.
They say that in Formula 1, you are only as good as your last result, so I only have a couple more days to enjoy the thought of my podium at the Nurburgring, before it’s time to get back on track this Friday in Barcelona.
For now, I’m still feeling really happy about my first ever podium in Formula 1 and it was also a great result for us and the whole team. In the race, the whole car was quite strong, especially at the beginning when I and Michael were both pushing Fernando. My car was quite consistent all race and the tyres were working well. Only in the last stint – where I had scrubbed tyres – it was not working so well. It was a great result, it helps the team out for the championship and especially me and Michael for the fight. In the first three races we were not on the pace, so hopefully now, that we have got much closer to Renault, there is a chance for us to fight with them for all the remaining races. I am happy because everything is working in the right direction.
I had a very good start and I could manage to put my car side-by-side with Michael at the first corner but he was on the inside so he was able to go ahead. Really, it was a great start and I think the whole thing was perfect with the strategy too. The management of the race by the team on the pit wall was very good. Sometimes the wind was changing, the situation was a little bit tricky over a couple of corners, and then the wind changed a little bit and it was a little bit tricky in other corners, but anyway, I could handle it to do a good race without mistakes and that’s very important for me and the team.
But the last five laps were not so easy because I was getting closer and closer to Fernando and Kimi was getting closer and closer to me, because I was getting very close to Fernando and I lost performance, for sure. But anyway, I think it was a great result, I’m really happy with this first podium and the fact that everything worked fantastically for us all weekend. We brought the right tyres, for sure. The car was working perfectly and the race was very good.
Now it’s time to head to Spain and the Circuit de Catalunya, which we all know very well because of the winter testing we do there. That means it could be very close between the top runners, but after the Nurburgring, I am looking forward to this weekend full of confidence.
After all the talk about how cold it might be at the Nurburgring with this race being much earlier in the year than usual, I couldn’t believe it when I got of the plane and found how warm it was. You can understand that, coming from Brazil, cold and rain is not really my scene, so already the weekend is looking good. We had some fun on Wednesday night when the whole team went to Michael’s kart track in Kerpen. I’m told this is an annual tradition for the guys, as it’s the nearest race to his home town. For me it was my first visit and it really was fun to see everyone in the team so relaxed and enjoying themselves.
But it’s been back to work today at the track, with engineer meetings and tyre briefings and of course, the media. During the weekend, having to talk to the journalists and TV can be a bit distracting, as you only really want to concentrate on your driving. But the Thursday meetings, with no actual track time on this day, are more relaxed and, as I know most of the journalists pretty well, I actually enjoy doing it. We always start with the TV interviews, which I do standing up against the board with all the team sponsor names on. After all, that is why they sponsor the team. With TV you have to be fairly serious with your answers, but after that, I sit down for a chat mainly with the Italian journalists and we can actually have a bit of a laugh and a joke. They are quite a mixture, with some of them interested in all the tiny technical details, others still want to talk about the last race – when to be honest, I’
This weekend, those of you watching on TV with extra good eyesight might notice that I have a new race engineer working with me, Rob Smedley. Up until now, I had been working with Gabriele Delli Colli, but the team decided I needed a change. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed working with Gabriele and he certainly knows his job. But you know, the relationship between a race driver and his race engineer has to develop into something almost telepathic and this was not happening. Maybe it’s because we both have Latin temperaments that can sometimes, like identical magnets, clash when you put them together. Rob is no stranger to me, as I have worked with him at several test session, including the long one we had in Bahrain before the start of the season.