A couple of days after the race and I’m still home in Monaco where the Grand Prix can be summed up by saying that I am really happy with my personal performance over the weekend. However, we were not so happy with our car performance at this track. If you look at how McLaren started on the first day, we knew it would not be so easy to be in front of them. But we managed to limit the damage and third place is not a disaster, when you look at how close and competitive the championship battle is at the moment.
“But certainly, we cannot be a hundred percent happy with the result, given that our rivals filled the top two places. They have some elements of their package that worked better at this circuit than ours. But my personal opinion and I don’t know if it is right, is that it was not just McLaren being impressive in Monaco, it was also Ferrari being weak. If you look at the difference between McLaren and Renault in Monaco and compare it to the gap between them in Barcelona at the Spanish Grand Prix, there was not much difference. In Monte Carlo Renault’s pace was similar to ours which shows that something in our package, something related to our team, did not work at this track. What we can be sure of is that this situation will not continue, because our car is better than that, which in itself is further motivation to do well at the next race, where our car should have a good package.
“The championship is still looking good for me after these important points for third place. We have done five races, I am five points behind Fernando and Lewis and there are still twelve races to go. That’s not a big difference and I feel that everything is still a hundred percent open in the fight for the title. But we need to be ahead of them. I have won two races and Fernando has done the same and the difference as I said is five points. So consistency is what matters over the rest of the season and that is why it is always important to be on the podium. My worst result this year is a sixth place, which is actually not that bad, but you have to make sure you are always in the top three.
“Away from the racing, I did enjoy the Monaco Grand Prix with family and friends staying with me at home here, which made it a nice weekend. On top of that, we should not forget that this was my first podium finish here in Monte Carlo which is a good result in itself. For sure, when you have a very good car, a podium is not as much as people expect from you, but for me it was a good result and I was particularly happy with my performance. I just want to finish ahead of those two guys next time. Now, I’m staying here at home until next Tuesday, when I fly out to Montreal
This weekend is kind of like a second home race for me, as Monaco is my European base when I am not in Brazil and so that is an extra reason to look forward to what is such a special event. It will be a very busy week with the extra day in the middle and even today (Tuesday) I have to make a quick trip to Geneva to fulfil an appearance for my sponsor, Piaggio Aero. Last week, I had a couple of days testing not far from home in Paul Ricard. I think the test went quite well for us. We were concentrating on finding a good set-up for the car when it is running the high downforce configuration that we use at Monaco. Apart from that the main thing was getting an understanding of the two types of tyre we will be using. Honestly, the tyre situation was not so easy to deal with, because over the two days I was testing, I had just a couple of sets of what Bridgestone is calling the “super-soft” and I was unlucky to be caught out in traffic on my first lap on these tyres. This was a shame, as it meant I could not exploit them properly. But we know this tyre is quicker than the other one, so it is not a big problem. Apart from that, everything went well.
“I have seen the weather forecast for the weekend and unbelievably, they say there is a chance of rain. Believe it or not, if it does rain, it will be a completely new experience for me, as I have never driven this track in the wet. But when it rains, it rains on everyone! Of course, Monaco is the sort of track where it is just not permitted to make a mistake and rain always increases the possibility of a mistake. It could make things even more of a lottery than usual, as will the new rules regarding having to use both types of tyre. If there is a Safety Car period, depending on what tyre you are on, it will either help you or go against you. But in a lottery, it is also important to have a bit of luck, so hopefully everything will work out for us this weekend.
“Even though I live in Monaco, I have not seen exactly where they have resurfaced the track. But I have seen all the work going on and it is amazing how quickly they build the circuit. It is very difficult in terms of logistics because there is so little space to do anything. I use some of the roads that make up the circuit on a regular basis: either I am going shopping or to a restaurant or to the supermarket, sometimes every day, so I know those bits particularly well, but it is very different once you are in a Formula 1. Even going round this track with my race engineer is a difficult job, so really, Thursday morning practice is the first chance to get a good understanding of any changes.
“Of course, my personal target is to win here and that would definitely be better than anything I have managed in Monaco before. My best result here is only a fifth place, but the word “only” is wrong because I was in a Sauber, when that team was still very new to F1 and at the time, that was not so bad. I also had a sixth with them, but last year I did not have a good weekend. I know that Monaco is a very unique race where there can be a lot of retirements, so the first thing is to try and finish the race.
I have had little time to think about my win in the Spanish Grand Prix, because after a party with friends on Sunday night, I went home to Monaco but by Monday night I had already taken the hour and a half drive along the coast to start testing today, Tuesday, at the Paul Ricard circuit.
“I think Barcelona was another perfect weekend for me in every way; the way we approached the job, the way practice went and also qualifying. In fact qualifying on pole was a very important preparation for the race, because even with the new chicane, it was still not that easy to overtake. So it was very good for me to start from the front. Sure, it turned out to be a tight battle at the first corner, as everyone could see. What happened there showed that I am not scared of being aggressive and that I can be a fighter. I know I am up against some very tough opposition, so this proved that I can be tough too. And then, the way I drove after the start shows that after what happened in a similar situation in Malaysia, I am able to learn a little bit and move forward.
“I think it was meant to be my day, because even with the fire on my car as I drove out after the first pit stop, nothing was going to stop me! Actually, at the time, I never saw the fire, as I was looking straight ahead. That was a good thing for me and the first I knew about it was when the journalists asked me in the press conference after the race. It was one of those things where it is definitely better to know about it after it has happened!
“Therefore, in my mind, this was quite a straightforward race with no problems or mistakes from the start to the finish. I managed to get the car working well on both types of tyre, including the softer one, which was very important in terms of being able to build a gap over the guys behind. After that it was just a matter of managing the car and the situation. I would never say it was an easy race, but it was quite controlled, once the excitement of the start was over.
“What is unusual is that after three poles and two wins in a row, I am still only third in the championship. It shows we are moving in the right direction and that we have the momentum, but it also shows we need to keep working hard. I am the driver with the most wins and poles at the moment, but we need to have our feet on the ground and keep pushing, because the whole championship is going to be very tight. If you look at the second (Q2) part of qualifying in Barcelona, where it is easiest to see which car is really quickest, then it is clear how close it is between us. The advantage is not so big. But I have to say that, in the race, with our car and set-up and how we manage the tyres, as well as having a great strategy, we had a better package than McLaren. This doesn’t mean we have a real advantage, so we need to keep improving the car.
“It is Hamilton who leads right now and I have spoken quite a bit to him: he is definitely strong and is not bothered by pressure. At the moment, you cannot say that Fernando or him are the better driver, but if the situation continues like this, then maybe Lewis can even be more dangerous than Fernando, given his championship position and how he goes in the car. At the moment he seems more comfortable in the car than Fernando. We need to keep an eye on that, because he can be a dangerous threat.
I have had a busy time since returning to Europe from Brazil, where I went after the Bahrain Grand Prix. The first appointment was back in the cockpit of the F2007 for testing at the Catalunya circuit where we race this coming Sunday. For me, it was a successful test as we have definitely made some improvements to the car, which was always planned for this first session after the opening three races outside Europe. The team has worked very hard and the reward is a good step forward, especially on the aerodynamic side. The actual results and lap times were good, but you have to remember that in testing it is quite difficult to get a really one hundred percent understanding of what the other teams have achieved. The most important thing is that we have made a step forward and this weekend we will see how it compares to our rivals.
“Apart from the new aero package, which includes a new engine cover, front wing and modified side pods, we have also come up with some changes to the mechanical side of the car, and that led to us seeing improvements in the set-up of the car. The aero package was the more significant change, but these other elements are also very important. The result of these changes is that the car is not only quick, but also more consistent.
“Last Sunday I went to Brisighella in Italy, where I was presented with this year’s Trofeo Bandini, which honours the memory of Lorenzo Bandini, who was also a Ferrari driver for much of his career. The award is very important and prestigious and many drivers have been given this prize, including Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Jacques Villeneuve and it is usually given in the early stages of one’s career and reflects also on how well you have done in the previous year’s championship. I was extremely happy to accept it and I was given a very warm reception by the people in the town square for the ceremony.
“Life as a Formula 1 driver is certainly varied, because the day before going to Brisighella, I was in Milan doing a magazine photo shoot with Dolce & Gabbana. But I don’t think after that I will be planning a second career as a model! It was definitely different and it included a shot of me taken in a hotel room, wearing my race suit and playing on a Playstation.
“On to more important matters, I am looking forward to the Spanish Grand Prix. As you may know, they have modified the circuit and this will be the first time we actually race on the changed layout. I have to say from the point of view of just driving pleasure, the new version is worse than the old, because there are more slow corners and slow chicanes. That is not what we racing drivers like. But, I have to admit that from the point of view of making the racing exciting, for making a spectacle, it is a good idea, as there will be more overtaking opportunities at the end of the straight, as you no longer have a very quick corner. So for the show, I think it is better now. Of course, I can be optimistic about the Spanish Grand Prix: I won the last race, we had a good test at the same circuit that hosts the race and even though it is never easy to win races, I can be confident. Within the team, we just want to keep the momentum going forward and everyone is working very hard in every area to achieve that.