Maranello, 20th May 2008 - In a couple of days, I'll be on track for the first practice of the Monaco Grand Prix. I have to say I am looking forward to that, because my testing at the Paul Ricard circuit last week did not go particularly well as heavy rain affected my day of running. I was supposed to be working on the Montreal settings for the F2008, but I only managed three laps in the dry on old tyres before it began to rain. I did 15 laps in the wet, but it was very difficult to do anything meaningful. But at least the team got the two days before that running in Monaco configuration with Kimi and the results look reasonable.
It will not be an easy race this weekend and we can expect McLaren to be strong as usual, although I think we can be on the pace too. But we have to wait and see what happens on Thursday because it is difficult to say what we can expect from ourselves and the opposition. Even if we ran on the short track at Ricard, designed to simulate some aspects of Monaco, it still is not the real thing. Monaco is unique and impossible to recreate exactly the same track characteristics, so there are some unknown factors going into the weekend.
In general, I think the Scuderia is in better shape than it was before this race twelve months ago. I hope so as well! But you never know. Last year, even though I finished on the podium in third place, it was not what I would consider a good race because we were a long way off the pace of the McLaren, so I am looking forward to being stronger this year. One unknown as usual is the weather and the forecast is predicting rain at various times over the race weekend. Rain at Monaco makes it a big big lottery and it is impossible to predict anything and without any electronic driver aids such as traction control, it will be even harder.
I have to admit that this is not one of my favourite circuits. In terms of driving pleasure, I prefer the fast flowing places like Turkey, Bahrain and Barcelona for example. But that does not mean we cannot be strong here. We will prepare as well as possible and try and bring home as many points as possible. You always find tracks you like more than others, but this does not mean you cannot be competitive at those you are not so keen on.
One thing I really do like about Monaco is that I can stay at home every night. It is really good and as I live quite close to the track it does not take me long to get to the pits in the morning. I really enjoy returning home, which makes a pleasant change from all the hotels we stay in throughout the year.
Maranello, 14th May - A Turkish hat trick! That was a weekend to remember for a very long time. When you win three times in a row, it says something is special between you and a circuit. I always feel very comfortable and very strong at this circuit and it is a track where I can be one of the quickest all the time, but I have also won twice in Bahrain, I won in Barcelona and Brazil and I want to win at other tracks as well. For sure, I had a great car last weekend and I think the team did a great job and so did I. It's a very special place to be and to keep winning at.
Apart from my wife, I also had my father and mother with me in Istanbul, which is great, because I take a lot of strength from them and of course it was fantastic to have them with me to celebrate the victory. But one amusing story some friends told me is that the TV cameras would often focus on my parents in the Ferrari garage and this did not please them as they prefer to watch the race. Okay, but please understand that what the TV producer shows is not my decision!
There was one special event I was happy to attend at the Istanbul circuit and that was a reception for Rubens Barrichello to celebrate the fact that at the Turkish Grand Prix, he broke Ricardo Patrese's record for having competed in the most F1 Grands Prix, as this was Rubens' 257th start. Do I want to beat that record? It seems like a big challenge. It's true that I love racing and as long as that is the case I will continue to do it and it won't matter if I am 27 or 37. As long as I am competitive as a driver, I will race. If I am not then I will stop, because I am not in this sport just to be in Formula 1, I am here because I want to win. As long as I feel physically fit and competitive and as long as a team gives me the opportunity then I will race. But if I have any doubts, I will stop and I don't really think I will keep going long enough to beat that record. Also, these days there are so many very young drivers in F1 that I think it would be quite easy for some of those who have come into the sport in the last couple of years to reach this total without even being very old.
Anyway, after the win, I stayed in Istanbul, going to a nice nightclub in the city. It was a good fun night. I like Istanbul and it was especially nice to be out enjoying myself with Turkish people, having won the Turkish GP three times. Now I am back home in Monaco, but come the end of the week, I take the short drive down the French coast to Le Castellet as I am testing at the Paul Ricard circuit on Friday.
Maranello, 7th May 2008 - With no testing since the last race, I have enjoyed a quiet time at home in Monaco, although as usual, I have had plenty of contact with the factory in Maranello and I have also been going through my daily training programme. Now it's time to head for Istanbul and the fifth round of the championship, at a circuit which is obviously a bit special for me. Why? Because, it was here in 2006 that I scored my first ever Formula 1 victory and then I repeated myself last year, on both occasions starting from pole.
Apart from these two reasons to look forward to the weekend, I have to say that Istanbul Park is a fantastic track and I enjoy driving there a lot. I think we have a good car in the F2008 and I feel it can be quite strong this coming weekend. There is every reason to think we can fight for the win. Like my home circuit in Sao Paulo, the Istanbul track runs anti-clockwise and in many other ways it is a special circuit. It has some quick corners like Turn 8 and some medium speed corners, but you also have a very tricky final sector which is quite slow where you need plenty of downforce. So you need to find the right combination of speed and downforce. By far the best corner is Turn 8, which seems to go on forever. It is very challenging for the drivers and very nice to drive through when you get it right. It is really fun from a driving point of view.
I have mentioned aerodynamic downforce, but with the slow speed sections, it means that your car must also be efficient in terms of delivering mechanical grip. You also need good traction and a well balanced car, which is why finding the right compromise during free practice on Friday is so important for the rest of the weekend. Because of those long corners, tyres can have a hard time, especially on the right front, but since Bridgestone became the sole supplier, this situation has eased a bit as they bring a harder tyre than if they were competing against another manufacturer. We will have cooler temperatures this year, as the race is much earlier in the calendar, but I don't expect this to produce any unexpected situations.
Turn 12, the hairpin after the long straight is the best passing opportunity and the long back straight helps also, but it is still difficult to get past another car. There are a few more opportunities here than at some other circuits. This track is not very hard on engines and for the engine in my F2008, this will be its second race, while the gearbox will also be doing the last of its four races. This should not be a concern, as the rules in any case allow for several of the components, such as the ratios to be changed when necessary.
You do not need to be a mind-reader to work out what is my target for this weekend: I want to record a hat-trick of Turkish victories! It might be possible, but you can never be sure. At the last race, starting third on the grid, I was unable to win on a track where overtaking is very difficult. At the moment, I am enjoying a tough competition with Kimi and my second place in Spain was still a good result. But I will be trying everything to go one better this Sunday!
Maranello, 2nd May - Looking back at the Spanish Grand Prix, a few days after the event, I think that what I said in the conference after the race is still the best way to sum up what was a good and positive weekend - 'you can't win all the races.' What is equally true is that, at the moment, qualifying on Saturday afternoon is of absolute prime importance. If you look at Qualifying in Barcelona, I was pretty strong and I was able to fight for pole and I did. But unfortunately, on my last attempt on new tyres I was unable to put together the perfect lap. That meant I started third and for sure, that made things immediately get more difficult for Sunday. I was aware that Fernando could have been a bit of a pain to deal with in the race, but I managed to get a very good start, which meant I got past him with a really good move.
In the first part of the race, it was not so difficult to pull out a gap on those behind us, but after the Safety Car, of course the field was all bunched up together again, which made our life a little bit more difficult. It was at this stage of the race that our good strategies and our pace paid off and allowed me to rebuild the gap to Lewis and also to Robert. But by then, second place was looking the best I could expect and in some ways that was down to what happened on Saturday afternoon.
I was very pleased to hear that Heikki was okay after his accident. For sure, if you have a failure on the car, there is nothing you can do as a driver. Given how hard the impact was and the fact that he escaped injury means the track safety features were generally the way they should be. And the car stood up very well too. The only unusual feature was that the car went under and through the tyre barrier and so did his head. That is a bit scary and I think the FIA should look into the construction of the whole barrier system. One other element of the race weekend that the FIA could look at is the new rule about the pit lane remaining closed for some laps under Safety Car conditions. In Spain, this caught out Heidfeld, who had to pit as he would otherwise have run out of fuel and so, through no real fault of his own he got a stop-go penalty. As you can imagine, its frustrating for a driver to see his race ruined by circumstances totally beyond his control. I think it should be possible to improve the current rule while maintaining the same level of safety. We have spoken about it in the Drivers Briefing and we will continue to discuss it with those responsible.
Maranello, 23rd April 2008 - After winning in Bahrain and then spending a few days holiday with my wife and parents in Dubai, I returned home to Monaco and I have to say that after such a busy start to the season, it felt good to be back home and to be able to stay there for a while. Of course I headed for Spain in the middle of it all where I had two worthwhile days of testing in Barcelona, the first two days of the four day session. On the first day, the track was actually very dirty, so I didn't do so many laps in the morning, but by the afternoon we did quite a lot. We concentrated on running the slick tyres, similar to those we will have next year, just to get a feel for how they work. It was pretty interesting as it was the first time in my career that I had driven a Formula 1 car on slicks. Later in the week, the team adapted the car to have less downforce when running these tyres, but when I had a go it was basically this year's car with no changes and it was quite incredible as the car had a lot of downforce so the lap times were also very impressive. It felt like I was driving a completely new car as you need to be a lot more aggressive in your driving style, as the grip level was much higher than usual. From a driving point of view it was really amazing and it was a great pleasure to get the maximum out of the performance of the car, making the most of the aerodynamic and mechanical grip and setting some incredible lap times. I also did some laps with these tyres when they had not been warmed in the usual way. At the moment, there is a suggestion that next year, we would not be allowed to use our tyre warmers - those blankets you see wrapped around the tyres when we sit in the garage or on the grid. In terms of performance, but also more importantly, safety, the tyres were of course at their best if they had been in the blankets. When I tried them without it was very difficult to drive on the "out" lap, even though it was not a particularly cold day. So never mind the performance element, I think the blankets are mainly important from the safety point of view.
As for this weekend and the race in Barcelona, it will be as tough as any other, even if I think we can be very competitive if we do our best at all times. But everything can change quickly, not just from one race to the next, but even in terms of how the car feels at this circuit from last week's test to this week's race weekend. Last year I won here what was, to be honest, an amazing race and for me it is difficult to forget! I remember being very very close to Alonso in qualifying and he was in a very determined mood as he was at his home race and in a competitive car. It was a tough competition between us. I made a very good start and maintained the advantage through the first corner where Alonso tried everything he knew to pass me. That start was really his only chance to get by because we had a very good strategy. We had a bit of a moment next to one another in the first corner, but I had the inside line and managed to stay in front. I had a very good pace in the race and from then on it was not so difficult to control the pace.