Is it different for you to be racing in your home Grand Prix this weekend?
For me, the Italian Grand Prix is a very special occasion and I always look forward to this weekend. It's great to drive in front of your own fans and there are always a lot of people supporting me at Monza. In the past we had two Grands Prix in Italy, plus some testing, but this weekend is the only time I will be driving on my home ground this year and I only live a couple of hours or so away in St Moritz so it is really local for me.
Why is Monza such a special venue for Formula 1?
Because it is in Italy and the Italians make it special! Monza is just a very different circuit from any other in Formula 1 because you have the long straights, high speeds, low downforce, heavy braking and the chicanes. It is not the most technical circuit but it is unique in Formula 1. I think the Italian fans make Monza really special as they are passionate about motorsport in general, whether it is Formula 1 or whatever. The Italian Grand Prix is a major event for all Italians and Monza is the home of Italian motorsport.
Do your home fans motivate you more?
It's impossible to be more motivated or to push harder than I am doing! As a driver you do notice when you have more support than usual and you appreciate it, but there's no way you can try any harder. If I wasn't giving 100% at all Grands Prix, I would not be doing my job, so in that sense Monza is just like any other race. Perhaps it would just make it a bit sweeter if I could get a great result...
What was it like to race in the wet at Monza last year?
Monza is definitely a track where you want good weather. Wet conditions are not the best for this track, especially on the long straights where visibility is virtually zero. At the moment the forecast looks much better than last year which is good for everyone.
What are the key attributes you need in a car to be quick at Monza?
The main things are good top speed because of the very long straights then braking stability and the ability to ride the kerbs at the chicanes. You can gain a tenth of a second or so at each chicane if you can ride the kerbs well so you have to find a set-up which allows you to jump over the kerbs smoothly and get good traction at the exit. Exit speed is as important as top speed because if you are slow out of a corner you carry that disadvantage all the way down the long straight.
What are your memories of racing at Monza?
I think my first visit to Monza was in 1997 when I raced there in Formula 1 for the first time. From what I can remember it went quite well and I finished in the top 10. I have been strong several times at Monza; I finished fourth in 2002 to equal my team's best result of that season and in 2005 I was fifth. But I've had some really bad luck as well. Three times in four years I qualified in the top six and was in good shape but had to retire on the first lap, twice because I was hit from behind and once because of a technical problem. This year I want to create some more positive memories!
Is there one thing you particularly look forward to at Monza?
Apart from racing in front of my home fans it is definitely the food. I am Italian so there is only one type of food for me! There are so many great places to eat around Monza but the hotel where I stay has a very good restaurant so the Italian Grand Prix weekend is my favourite from that point of view.
Do you expect a competitive weekend?
I hope we can be competitive. It is quite hard to predict this season because our relative performance has changed from race to race sometimes. We were strong in Spa which has some similar characteristics to Monza, and it was encouraging to see our improvement in qualifying. I don't want to make any predictions but as always I will give my all and I hope we can be fighting at the front again.
Can you explain what is happening on Saturday night?
Since the terrible earthquake in Abruzzo, which is my home region, I have been raising money to help the victims through the Abruzzo nel Cuore appeal. We have already raised over Euro75,000 through www.abruzzonelcuore.net and we expect to raise a lot more on Saturday night in Monza. There will be an auction of overalls and helmets from different drivers, as well as watches from Audemars Piguet, to raise money for Abruzzo. We have had support from the other drivers and the other teams. We also received a lot of help, in terms of donations and organisation, from Audemars Piguet and I'm sure this will really help the people of Abruzzo. The money we are raising will be used to help them rebuild their lives and I hope we can build a new school or something useful for their community.