Belgium 2020 - GP preview - AlphaTauri
2020 Belgian, Italian & Tuscan Grands Prix preview
“It was nice to have a couple of days off after the last triple-header of races. However, I was really upset to discover that my home in Normandy had been burgled while I was away. It was not a pleasant experience to realise people had been in your home and stolen a lot of personal items, of my family and mine.
“Anyway, back to the racing, I had a solid Spanish Grand Prix weekend and was very pleased to qualify seventh. The race didn’t go quite as well as it could have, because I found myself in a long train of cars for a while. All the same, ninth means more points and even more important we were in the mix with some quick cars which should be a good sign for the coming races.
It still feels a bit strange in the paddock, but you begin to get used to it. It’s true that we miss the atmosphere quite a bit that comes with having a crowd, and when you get to the track in the morning you are used to seeing all the fans and the ones asking for autographs. You feel the warmth of the crowd and it gives you a lot of energy. Unfortunately, for the moment, I believe it is still impossible to have them back and we just have to get used to it and adapt. I miss the interaction with the fans and I hope that might change before the end of the year.
“Once you’re actually in the car, nothing has changed, because you don’t think about it as you are concentrating so much on your performance and the result, so that in the end you forget about it. But when it comes to the time in between the sessions and when you leave the paddock, then it really hits you. It also affects your life in between the races. At the track, you are with the same people, I have the same engineers and my same trainer, but once I leave, it can be a bit boring as you cannot see people because you can’t risk being exposed to Covid. Your social life is reduced and not so exciting, which is ok, because you have to be very careful. But I’ve got nothing to complain about, as I love my job.
“Now we come to Spa, Monza and Mugello together. It will be the third triple-header of the year. We were used to back-to-back pairs of races but this is quite different with nine races in eleven weeks. I think we will feel it a bit, although it is more intense for the engineers and mechanics. We’re coming to some incredible circuits, with Spa and Monza. Spa is my favourite track and racing through all those high-speed corners is a great thrill. I really enjoy driving it and have had great races there in the past. I had my first win in single-seaters there in Formula 4 and I also won the Feature Race in GP2 back in 2016. However, this year, returning to Belgium will also be a sad moment, because it is just one year ago that Anthoine (Hubert) lost his life after that terrible accident in the F2 race in Spa. I had known him since I was seven years old in karting, we were in the same school together organised by the French motorsport federation, from when I was 13 to 19 and we shared an apartment for six years. I think everyone in the paddock will take time to think of him.
“In the case of Monza, I really think we will miss the fans because the atmosphere there, for our team’s home race as well, was always really special. And then comes Mugello, so that’s two home races for the team and, to some extent for me too as I live near Monza. This will be a special trio of races. I can’t wait to go to Mugello. It’s always exciting to discover a new circuit in a Formula 1 car. The teams have no data from this track so everyone, drivers and teams, will be discovering what it’s like. It’s a thrilling layout and I think that will be especially true in a Formula 1 car. I raced there in 2013 but in an F1 car, it will be very different and impressive. The double right-hander especially should be super quick. It will be a track where you can really feel what a Formula 1 car can do and it will be fantastic from a driving point of view.”
“The Barcelona weekend was not the best from my point of view, so I am looking forward to getting back in the car as I think we can do well in the coming races. Spa is always a cool track to race on. I like the layout, it’s truly legendary and it has some of the most exciting corners of the year. Naturally, everyone talks about Eau Rouge, but the whole track is fantastic to drive and it’s also good for the actual racing with plenty of excitement for the fans, or this year, just the viewers. The key to a good weekend at Spa is finding the right set-up on Friday. Hopefully, we can read the track correctly and the car will work well. I’ve been relatively happy with the performance of the car so far this year, but we need to aim for a cleaner weekend than some of the ones we’ve had and then we can aim for stronger results.
“It’s going to be cool to do these three races, Spa, Monza, Mugello all one after the other, and I’m quite excited about this part of the season, to be honest. I love racing in Italy so I’m really happy about it! At Monza, it’s the usual story of finding the right balance between downforce for the corners and good straight-line speed. Again, it’s all about getting it right on Friday. With Mugello, I have good memories of the track, particularly winning in Formula Renault many years ago. I enjoyed driving there, it’s a very interesting track; I would even say one of the most impressive ones. I really like high-speed corners and Mugello has plenty of those. It should be something very special in a Formula 1 car. With the level of downforce we have now, it’s going to be amazing to drive.
“This will be another triple-header and we’re getting used to this new way of going racing. The main thing is that I enjoy driving the car, it’s the best part of the job and that has not changed. Of course, the spectators and fans usually make the atmosphere very special and that’s something we are missing. But for sure it will be back one day. In the meantime, with fewer activities to deal with outside the car at the track, I’m spending more time practising my guitar in the driver’s room!”
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