Maranello - It’s nice to be able to have something really positive to say for the first time this season and finishing third and fourth in the Monaco Grand Prix and setting the race fastest lap are two excellent reasons to be positive. Sure, at Ferrari we are used to not settling for anything less than a win, but given where we were at the start of the season, there is now a good reason to be optimistic for the next few races.
The car had definitely made another step forward in between Spain and Monaco, which meant it was even more competitive on the streets of Monte Carlo. Really, I felt I put in a very strong performance right from the start of first practice on Thursday. Unfortunately, traffic slightly spoilt my qualifying, otherwise I could have started in the top three and that could have changed the final outcome for me, because starting in the top three with three laps more fuel than the others could have been much better for me. The other aspect that worked against me is that, at the end of every stint, I found myself with Jenson right in front of me. Without these elements I feel I could have finished second, but more importantly, it showed that we have got closer to the pace of the Brawns and can look forward to being even more competitive over the next few races.
I came close to getting into trouble for driving over the kerbs a few times, but I was pushing very hard to gain position and in the second stint especially I was pushing like crazy! In that situation, especially in Monaco, you can find yourself going over the chicane. It wasn’t giving me any lap time and possibly I was over-driving a little bit. Later, I set the race fastest lap without cutting the chicane at all. The slick tyres that we’ve been using since the start of the year showed their worth in Monaco, as they give you more mechanical grip, which on a tight street circuit makes you feel a bit more comfortable and that explains why there were fewer accidents than in the past.
For Istanbul, we will have another small step in terms of aerodynamic development, which should improve the car still further and that is down to a big push from the guys in the factory. We want to continue to improve as quickly as possible, to try and win some races. If will be fantastic if we find we are in a position to fight for the win in Turkey.
I have a very good record in Istanbul, having won for the last three years starting from pole position each time. I find it difficult to explain why I should be so strong here, other than the fact we had three fantastic weekends in Turkey, when everything worked perfectly, with the car performing very well right from the first session. It would be nice to carry on in the same direction. I just like the track and feel comfortable there, but it’s hard to pinpoint why it suits me better than some other circuits. I do prefer fast flowing tracks and have a feel for all the corners here, as it’s not good enough to only be fast over one particular section of the track. I think I’ve also found a good way to set up the car perfectly for this circuit. It’s not just Turkey though, as I’ve won in Brazil for the last two years and actually, it should have been the last three in my home race. In fact, it’s been suggested to me that maybe the reason is that they are the only two anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar. Who knows? Maybe I’m better than others at driving through left handed corners!
Turn 8 in Istanbul is an amazing corner, where you hit one of the highest lateral G force levels of the season, which puts a lot of stress on your neck and body. On top of that, in the middle of the corner, you have a big bump, which can give you a problem in terms of stability. It is a really a tricky corner, with different lines to choose from, depending on how your car is behaving: sometimes you have too much understeer, or oversteer in the middle and all these factors make it very challenging.
The last few years, I haven’t had to give much thought to the overtaking possibilities in Istanbul, starting from the number one slot on the grid. This year, given how competitive the front of the field is in qualifying, it is going to be a very interesting Saturday afternoon, but at least the track does provide some passing opportunities, especially with the long main straight. Last year, Lewis (Hamilton) changed his strategy to a three stop and was easily able to pass me.
With the last race being in Monaco, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time at home, and with the good weather I’ve enjoyed training outdoors in preparation for what I hope will be a fantastic weekend for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro. On Wednesday I jump on a flight to Istanbul and I can’t wait for Friday to see if the progress seen in Spain and Monaco will continue in Turkey.