What’s your daily routine before the season begins?
“Since December I’ve been doing a lot of physical fitness training. It’s the only time of the year when I can focus on it completely. I train every day. I prefer outdoor activities to indoor ones. I do a lot of cross country skiing. This weekend I took part in a race called the “Transjurassienne.” I also do a lot of work in the gym to prepare for the season and build up muscle. I think I’ve burned up 60 000 calories since the start of December. As a result I can eat well and do a bit of cooking, which I love!”
Among the changes for the 2018 season is the return of the French Grand Prix, which will start at 16:10. How do you feel about this comeback and the new timetable?
“I’m delighted that the French Grand Prix is back on the calendar. I’ve never been lucky enough to compete in a grand prix in front of my home crowd. I can’t wait to race in front of all my supporters and hear the Marseillaise before the start and I hope – why not? – after the finish! I know the short circuit very well but I’m not very familiar with the long one. It’s going to be interesting to see what that gives with modern F1 cars, and it’s obviously going to be bloody quick! The Signes curve and the Beausset double right-hander are going to be really mind-boggling challenges. We’re going to arrive at between 300 and 330 km/h. I don’t see any problems with the start being put back to 16:10. It’s just going to make things slightly more complicated for the teams as it’ll be the first of three grands prix in succession and they’ll have less time to pack up everything after the race. On the other hand, it’ll give spectators a better opportunity to really enjoy their day out at the Paul Ricard circuit, and that’s all the better. It’s not really going to change anything for me. Maybe I’ll just be able to sleep a bit more in the morning, and that’s a good thing.”
Is Saturday an important day in a grand prix weekend?
“Yes, as it determines your position on the grid. It begins in the morning with a meeting with the engineers during which we go through the day’s plan in detail. Then we continue with the third free practice session that’s very important. In it we focus on out-and-out performance and the car’s setup for qualifying. Then there’s a short break between this session and qualifying. Just enough time for a debrief with the engineers, grab a bite and then warm up for qualifying. It passes in a flash! The elimination system in qualifying is pretty stressful as you have to progress from Q1 to Q2 and then from Q2 to Q3. When you make it into Q3 you feel a slight sense of relief as you know that you’ll start in the top 10. And you also know that you’re going to go out with very little fuel and a new set of tyres to get the absolute maximum out of the car. The adrenaline’s really flowing! Once qualifying is over we have a bit more time. After the debrief with the engineers we meet the media. The tension begins to fall and we can enjoy things more.”