China 2019 - GP preview - Toro Rosso
“It’s good to be going to China having scored my first F1 points in Bahrain, although getting them wasn’t something that I had been worrying about. It was really good to get them as a reward for all the hard work from the team behind the scenes. You could say there was an element of luck, as other drivers ran into trouble, but we were in the right place to benefit from that and we ran reliably, so I feel it was a deserved result.
“All the same, Shanghai will be a new track for me so it won’t be that simple, as it’s a challenging circuit and from my time driving it in the simulator, it doesn’t look easy at all. But that’s all part of the game. The sim has given me the knowledge I need for it not to be totally alien and, of course, I’ve watched a lot of onboard footage and I will take it step by step. Having two days testing in Bahrain was very useful for me, as I have spent relatively little time in a Formula 1 car, and I will also be using what we learned at the test going into the race weekend.
“From the sim, I can see the Shanghai track has some interesting parts, like the first sector: one long corner and I think in “real life” the entry into Turn 1 in Quali, with all the g-forces, is going to be unbelievable. I’m looking forward to that and I’m excited about it, because it’s a cool race and it will be my first visit to China.
“And of course, it’s the thousandth Grand Prix. I’ve got a custom helmet in honour of that and it’s a tribute to Prince Bira, who was the first Thai driver in Formula 1 - the only one before me actually – and he raced in the very first of those thousand Grands Prix at Silverstone in 1950.”
“Not everything clicked together a hundred percent in Bahrain. I didn’t get to do all the laps I wanted, so that didn’t help with the way the track evolves in Bahrain. We didn’t get the best out of Qualifying and the race itself was a little bit scrappy. However, on a positive note, my actual pace looked competitive, which is encouraging looking ahead to China.
“It’s also been useful to have the two days testing in Bahrain, with Alex working for the team, while I drove the Pirelli test. In China, we must work hard to get a good setup so that everything works at its best. If we do that, I believe we can have a really good weekend.
“I have good memories of China, especially in 2016, when I went from sixth on the grid to stand on the podium in third place. It’s an interesting track with a good mix of some slow and medium speed corners and that very long straight: get it right and it’s a satisfying track to drive. There are some tricky sections, including the hairpin which, after the very long straight and hard braking, is challenging as are the first two turns - they are extremely long corners.
“This weekend will be the one thousandth Grand Prix and it’s cool to be part of that. It means the drivers in this race will be a part of F1 history and it’s nice to be on the list.
“Shanghai itself is an exciting place and, although we don’t stay in the centre, I usually manage to spend a day there - it’s a very interesting city.”