The European Grand Prix marked the return to racing after a four-week summer break; were you relaxed heading to Valencia?
I had a great break, mainly just relaxing with friends and family near my home and I actually went to Valencia a little before I needed to so I could be completely rested and ready for action. As a Formula 1 driver you don't get much time to yourself so I was happy to have a quiet break and avoid travelling or anything like that. As well as relaxing I also did quite a bit of fitness work, especially cycling which I enjoy.
How tough was it to drive in such hot conditions?
It was really hot and you do notice that in the cockpit. I work a lot on my fitness so it doesn't cause any problems but it can be uncomfortable, especially at a track like Valencia where you have to concentrate hard with the concrete walls quite close by. At least this year was easier than last as I didn't have any illness, which made it less exhausting. Obviously before the race you need to drink a lot of water to compensate for the amount you lose through sweat and I did that so it was okay in the end.
How was the race weekend overall?
It was tricky to be honest because we did not perform at the level we expected. The car felt okay on Friday and, even though the standings were not in our favour, we still felt reasonably confident. Unfortunately on Saturday we were struggling a bit with pace already in final practice and that continued into qualifying, so we qualified much lower than expected. That made it really tough to score any points and that's how it turned out, so it was disappointing in the end.
What happened in the race?
My chances of fighting back into the points were basically destroyed on the first lap when I got a puncture after being struck from behind. It was quite tight at the first corner and I had to dive down the inside, then I felt a hit from behind and it was obvious I had a right rear puncture so I needed to make a pit stop. There was no realistic chance of points after that but I continued pushing as hard as I could because you never know, and it is also useful for the team to get as much data as possible.
What about your fastest lap?
As I said, I was pushing really hard all through the race and my pace was pretty good. Even on my first full lap after the unscheduled pit stop, when I had a completely full fuel load, my lap time was one minute 41.7 seconds which was extremely quick relative to the other guys when you consider they all had less fuel on board. So I was still trying to get the most out of the car and after my third pit stop I found a really good rhythm on the super soft tyres. I was just going quicker and quicker then after the race they told me I set the fastest lap. It's the first time I've done that in Formula 1 so it's quite a nice achievement but to be honest I would have much preferred to be in the points!
What are your thoughts about the team's recent qualifying performances?
We know this is an area to improve and everyone is working really hard to get more out of the car on one lap. Our race pace is much stronger relative to the other cars than our qualifying pace and this is a bit frustrating because it makes it harder to get the results we expect. In Valencia I was really giving it everything but the tyres were dropping off in the last few corners and, when the field is so close, that costs you quite a lot in terms of grid position.
What are your expectations for the Belgian Grand Prix?
I hope we can be strong. Last year I crossed the line in eighth place but was given a time penalty after the race because the stewards said I overtook under a yellow flag. I had to accept it, even though I didn't feel I did anything wrong, and this weekend I will be fighting to make up for that disappointment by scoring my first Formula 1 points at Spa.