Picture Credit: Autosport.com
Q1. During the 2016 GP2 season you didn’t win a race until Round 5. In the Silverstone feature race everything changed, how crucial was that first win in your quest for the GP2 title?
A1. Yeah, of course the first win in GP2 is really important. It was pretty much a difficult challenge for the first few races in GP2. It was our first season together we had to get used to working together. At the beginning of the season we are really competitive with pole position in Barcelona for the first race and finished 3rd and 2nd in the first weekend. So we were already fighting for the victory. Yeah the performance was good but we needed some time to work together to really know what we needed first as a driver and also for Prema as a team and to work a lot with my engineer to know what I needed to be more competitive. And yeah of course we needed to get the victory. As I said in Barcelona that we were really close to getting it. Afterwards in Baku I finished 2nd again and in Red Bull Ring I was leading and I made a mistake and I was out so we didn’t win but we’re quite close already. So it was a matter of keep pushing and trying to do the right things and trying to improve and work really hard and we got it in Silverstone. It was really important for me and for the team and yeah, it helped us a lot everything was a bit better after that , I mean we always need a little things and right from the first few race weekends and from Silverstone onwards we kinda put everything together and it worked out pretty well. Silverstone wasn’t really a turning point but it was good for everyone mentally and also for me but you know I just kept pushing from the first day with Prema. We are all competitors and we do it to win, each race weekend we want to win the races sometimes you win and sometimes you just have to accept that others are faster than you and you just have to be happy with 2nd and 3rd place. It’s not what we want but sometimes you need to score points. Up to Silverstone we were fast but we needed something in the races and in Silverstone we found something, which suits me, a bit better. I worked a lot on the tire management, and Silverstone is in the middle of the season so in the first part of the season we learned how to work together as a team and after that we’re stronger as a team.
Q2. Stoffel Vandoorne won the 2015 GP2 title and then moved to Super Formula just like you, now he is driving for the McLaren Honda F1 team this season, so are you going to follow a similar path to Formula 1?
A2. Of course, the target is F1 in 2018 so I’ll do my best for Red Bull and try and get myself ready for F1 and that is my target and I will try my best to make it up
Q3. How close were you to getting the Toro Rosso seat for 2017? Did you feel that you were ready for the promotion?
A3. How close… I was very close but you know in F1 everything is really tough and things can change very quickly. Until you sign you never really know what’s going to happen. My goal was to win the GP2 and focus on the GP2 to win the championship and put all the chances on my side, to go in F1. But yeah unfortunately it was not the right time and we could not make it for 2017. It was quite disappointing because I did my best to win the championship so it’s frustrating because of course you want to step up into Formula One and yeah, unfortunately there was no space for the season. I’m in Super Formula, we will focus to do my best there and hopefully I can step up. We will see in a couple of months.
Q4. According to your social media posts you participated in the GP2 Pirelli test at Magny Cours, what was your first impression of the tires and the car? Did it feel good to step in a GP2 car again?
A4. I’m sorry I can’t tell because Pirelli want to keep it private. But yeah definitely, I didn’t know when I would drive this car after Abu Dhabi so yeah it’s very powerful. I’ve been driving it for the last 2 years and for me it was super to be back in it again and it was also good to be back in a car after he long winter break so it felt good to drive again. It was a really good 2 days.
Q5. I believe the French GP will return in 2018 at the Circuit Paul Ricard, what are your thoughts on that and what are your thoughts on the circuit?
A5. I think its super for F1 and for the French and all the motorsport fans in France. We didn’t have the French GP for many years. Everyone was quite sad about it, but now I think its great. Formula One is back in the calendar so as a driver its amazing to have a home race. As a French driver its amazing the kind of support you get from the French people so yeah hopefully I will be on the grid to see this special moment and yeah I think Paul Ricard is a great track and I’m really excited to see how it goes and I’m really happy for all the people in France who will be able to finally watch for Formula One back in our country. I’ve driven there with Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 3.5. I’ve won there in 2013 in 2.0 and finished 2nd in 3.5; it’s a track that I really like, quite technical and a great track. Its quite a good experience, great atmosphere and hopefully I will be driving there in 2018.
Q6. Red Bull and Toro Rosso will launch their F1 cars on the 26th of this month, as a Red Bull Academy driver will you be present for either of the launches?
A6. Unfortunately not because I need to be in Japan on Sunday for my Super Formula campaign so unfortunately I won’t be there. So it’s definitely a real pity, but don’t worry I will be at the races with Red Bull as a reserve driver so I will have a chance to see the cars.
Q7. Finally, what are your expectations for this year in the Super Formula series?
A7. At the moment it is difficult to say because I’ve never driven the car and I don’t know any tracks and I don’t know the teams. I know there is quite a tough battle between Toyota and Honda in Super Formula so yeah, first I think we need to wait at the first test and see where we are with the team. But my target will definitely be for the top, be as quick as possible and I will do my best to get there and for sure its going to be difficult to go there for the first time in Japan without knowing anything but I’m ready for a challenge and ready to give my best.