The win in Bahrain was really great and at least I had plenty of time to think about it, as I flew back to Sao Paulo via Europe in what turned out to be a very long nineteen hour journey. But now, Bahrain is in the past and all I am really thinking about is the next round of the championship. I am happy to be back home, because this will be my last visit here in Brazil for a very long time, with the first part of the European season coming up, followed by the two races in North America, so finding time to come back here is going to be difficult.
I am not complaining about it, because it is a real sign that my racing is going well, but here in Brazil it is getting harder for me to live a completely normal life when I leave my house. Everybody knows me and they are real fans, but they are not crazy. Usually, they just want to ask me for an autograph and that is okay with me. Step by step I am becoming more famous, but that goes with the job. Sometimes it is nice when people come up to you, because it gives you a motivation, but occasionally it can be a bit too much, but I can manage to deal with that and I try and live a normal life. And most of the time that I’ve been here in Brazil, a normal life is exactly what I have had, just relaxing and training. But there have also been some work related things, like a press conference as soon as I got here from Bahrain and I have appeared on a couple of TV shows. The weather is great here at the moment which is nice. Even if I am on the other side of the world, I still keep in touch with the factory and speak every other day with my engineer to know what is going on and how preparations are going for next week’s test in Barcelona. I like to keep in touch and know how things are going.
So if we are going to talk about “work” for a moment, looking at the last two races, it was clear that Malaysia did not go well for us, but in Bahrain we had an excellent race pace and now we need to concentrate on finding some improvements in the car, looking specifically at different phases of the race weekend, like qualifying and the race itself. We have been analysing everything to try and improve for Spain, even if the last race was quite good for us. This is a Ferrari habit and it’s a good one. After three races, this is a key moment in the championship, with the top runners all so close in the points. It is very tight, which makes it even more important to work even harder to improve every single little detail on the car.
I am leaving Brazil on the weekend, because I am testing on Wednesday in Barcelona, where we will have the fourth round of the championship just over a week later. The emphasis in testing has changed a lot this year, as in the past so much of our time was taken up with tyre testing. Actually, at the moment, tyre testing is still one of our main areas of work, but there are other areas of the car where we can improve. But it does mean that we are not concentrating on tyres quite as much as usual.
For now, I can still enjoy a few more days with my family and the really nice thing is that I will be with them and at home for my birthday which is on 25 April. Thank you for asking, I’ll be twenty six! We will have a small party and some friends are coming round to the house.”
Dubai, 9 April – I am already in the Middle East in Dubai for a couple of days before moving on to Bahrain. Of course, what happened in Sepang yesterday was disappointing. We were quick on Friday, I took pole on Saturday but we did not have a good race pace on Sunday. Why? To be honest we are not exactly sure. Some of it came from elements of the car set-up and parts we used in the race, but what is clear is that McLaren had made a good step forward. But our race pace was not a fair reflection of what it could have been and what it is supposed to be, because both me and Kimi were stuck in traffic for a lot of the race. Of course, this was not supposed to have happened given that I started from pole and Kimi from third. It was not what we had expected, but after a start that was not very good for either us as we lost position, it cost us a lot. I cannot say if our real pace would have matched the McLarens, but I know we have a good car.
Lewis stopped on lap 20 and I refuelled on lap 17, so there was not a big difference in our fuel loads during the first stint of the race. But the only certainty I had was that, having lost position to Fernando and to Lewis, I knew that if I did not pass Lewis as soon as possible, my race was effectively over. The best I could have finished would have been third at that point. With me due to refuel on lap 17 and Lewis three laps later, I would never have overtaken him in the run of pit stops and so the only course open to me was to try and pass him on the track. That is why I said to myself that I did not want to sit behind him, looking at the back of a McLaren for the whole race! If people accuse me of making mistake, I say, yes I did make a mistake, because otherwise I would have been ahead of him. But, I am not disappointed that I tried to pass him. You have to try in life and if tomorrow I am in the same position, I would try again. Hopefully, I would get past this time! I know it can seem different from outside the car, but from inside the car, with the information we had, what I tried to do was the right thing.
We can always learn from our mistakes, but now I want to look ahead to the next race, after the disappointment of the past two grands prix. But I will only carry with me the positive things, like the fact I took pole position. As usual, I will be trying to win for myself and for Ferrari. I quite like the Bahrain circuit actually. Last year, I just missed out on pole to Michael (Schumacher) by a thousandth of a second. I had a very bad race, making a mistake and then I had a very long pit stop because I stayed in the pits for nearly 50 seconds with a stuck wheel. But I have always been competitive there and in the winter tests I was fast. Hopefully, we can get a better result in the race on Sunday.
The Maldives, 4 April – Today is my last day of a short break I have had following last week’s test in Malaysia. I chose to come to the Maldives. It’s the first time I have visited this part of the world and I am really happy with the choice I made to come here after testing. It’s a great place, really beautiful. The atmosphere is very calm and relaxing, the hotel is fine and the beach and the sea are beautiful.
I’ve doing plenty of sport and training in preparation for Malaysia and that has also been a good choice, because it feels even hotter here than in Sepang. I am not blasé about being here and realise this is one of the best aspects of being a Formula 1 driver, apart from the racing of course, that means I can come to a nice place like this when there is some time off between races.
But there is a work side to these past few days, in that I have been taking my training seriously as it is so important to be on top form going into this race. The hotel has a gym that I have been using, but of course the most important part of the programme is to train outside in the heat and humidity. Anyway, I prefer to get fit by playing sports rather than working in the gym, which can be boring, so I have been running, playing tennis, cycling and everything you can think of. The Malaysian Grand Prix is definitely the most difficult race on the calendar from the physical point of view. I feel in very good shape for the race. This time I don’t have my personal trainer with me, although I usually do, but I know what I have to do to get the work done. When it comes to Malaysia, actually there are times when it feels like driving the race car – not just sitting in it in the garage – is the coolest thing you can do!
I have seen all the recent media speculation following Melbourne, that this year’s championship is going to be easy for Ferrari. It’s not true of course, but I do have a good car. As usual, the important thing for this weekend, will be to put everything together, all the elements you need to win and we do have those elements. But the competition is very strong and so it will be very difficult, but looking at what we did in Australia and also last week in Sepang, we are looking very strong ourselves. In the first race we managed to win but we had a reliability problem with the other car, so the obvious next step is to be in a position to have both cars at the front. And that’s not easy, but we have a good team and a good package and everyone is working very hard. I am confident we will be very strong again this weekend.
The car we will race in Malaysia is the same as the one we raced in Australia, with nothing new. So from this aspect with the same package, our performance level cannot improve. But in another sense, we have done more running with the car now, and so we have a much better understanding of the car and how it works and that is very important. After having to fight from the back in Melbourne, I am looking forward to having a race from the front this weekend.