After a period of success, does a car launch come with more or less pressure on the team? Yes the success of the team in the last few years has been exceptional, so every time we launch a new car there is a lot of anticipation and excitement as you touch on some nerves and expectation. The bar has been set high. We have cleaned up in the last few years, our Constructors’ Championship last year was very dominant. Both drivers are performing near the front and the team is being very reliable, we know that we have to keep working hard. The continuity has been a key factor in that, all of our Partners have been great for us and there is no reason in 2012 we can’t be challenging for top results again.
Are you nervous about giving a car its debut on the test track or is there too much to think about? I’m very excited about driving the car for the first time, it’s a huge amount of work that has gone into it as always with a new car. The initial running is really about getting as much information as we can, learning what the car strengths are, where some of its weaknesses might be and then we need to work on those very, very quickly. We don’t have much testing before we get to Melbourne and before we know it the winter programme will be over. It is a big responsibility and one that I’m looking forward to.
Last season was tricky for you. What did you take away from 2011? As you say last year wasn’t an amazing season, but it wasn’t too bad for me. I still managed to finish third in the Drivers’ Championship, not far off second with Jenson there, so it was a great way for me to finish the year with the victory in Brazil and many strong results. We’re always learning as athletes and I’m looking forward to 2012, its got some great opportunities for me. You know the old cliché take each race as it comes but that’s how it will be initially and we’ll go from there.
How much of a boost was the win in Brazil? The win in Brazil was a great feeling, at this level when you win it’s always very rewarding with the amount of effort that goes in, but when you have the feeling again having the national anthem, all those things that remind you of how unique it is and how important it is to get the most out of yourself and win those grands prix, it’s very, very special.
What are you hoping for from RB8? The characteristics of the RB8 we’re looking for is a car that’s very driveable which means not only from an engine side, Renault are doing a good job there, but also aerodynamically we need a car that’s functional on all circuits in all temperatures and clearly we need to get the best out of the tyres which was a huge thing last year for everybody. That’s pretty much done now. Everyone knows how the tyres behave, that’s old news. We need to move on and develop the car as best we can without the exhaust affecting the blown diffuser, which was the very powerful thing that the teams used last year. This year that’s changed so that’s going to be a key area of trying to understand the losses we’ve had there.
Will Pirelli’s promise to reduce the performance gap between options help you? Yes they changed the tyre a little bit this year, but its pretty much old news, the tyres have been around for a while now the teams get on top of that stuff reasonably quickly, and the drivers, I’m talking in the space of a few months to half a year, which is pretty quick, so the teams know what we’re in for so we’ll just get stuck into the racing.
Is 2012 as a chance to lay down a few markers after a tough 2011? I think off the back of last year many sportsmen or women when you don’t get the most out of a situation you always want to come back and improve and do a better job. The bar has been lifted very, very high in the last few seasons and it’s the challenge I’m looking forward to. I’ve had a really good winter and prepared for the season as best I can so I’m looking forward to the new season, I just cannot wait to get racing. We can talk a lot about it but we need to get on the track.
And finally, what have you been up to over the winter away from Formula One? I’ve had a great break actually. After Brazil I came back here to Europe and did some stuff in Austria for Red Bull which was good, we did the show run in Milton Keynes, then I did the Tasmanian Challenge which was really enjoyable to see how that went and it was a great race down there and then I could really switch off actually, do a bit of surfing, also got the motorbikes out so had a bit of fun with those. It was really good to spend time with quality people I love being with away from the sport for a while, but I must say that come the middle of January I always get itchy feet to get back into the car again, so it was the perfect balance for me to unwind.