A great experience - Heidfeld & Petrov on Renaults 2011 to date 27 May 2011
With the season now in full flow, and the jewel in Formula Ones crown taking place in Monaco this weekend, Renaults Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov discuss how they have been enjoying the 2011 experience with the team...
Q: Nick, five races into the 2011 campaign, how has the Lotus Renault GP experience been for you?
Nick Heidfeld: Its been a great experience so far. Obviously it was a very late call for me to come into the team; from the first day on I felt extremely welcome and I have really enjoyed working with the guys. We started trying to improve things together during winter testing and Im still trying to work together with everyone to improve things further. As the season progresses, it becomes trickier to go into specific details (like you can when you are testing) because you are focusing just so much on the actual racing, but all in all it has been a positive experience so far.
Q: How easy was it to come in at such short notice?
NH: Lotus Renault GP made it very easy for me. It could have been very difficult, but actually in this instance it was not. Also for the team, I dont think it was an easy situation having to make a plan after what happened to Robert who is still very much a part of the team and did a great job last year, but we had to deal with the circumstances as they happened. But the team is a very open one and we all knew we had to deal with the situation and make the best we possibly could out of it. We are able to have lots of dialogue and suggest things, and LRGP has been the most open out of all the teams I have driven for in my career - that is something I like a lot and it is the reason I feel so at home here. From the very beginning there has been a lot of trust in each other, so it fits very well for me.
Q: How does the challenge of joining Lotus Renault rank alongside the other ones you have had in your career?
NH: Well, the challenges Ive faced in F1 have all been very different. The unique thing about this season is that I was pretty sure I would not start the season as a racing driver because I was expecting to start as a test or reserve driver. Obviously the news came very late in the day, the year had already started and one test had already taken place, so then to get the opportunity to have a drivers seat - and in a good team - was a very special situation.
Q: At the current stage of your career, do you approach things differently than you did say five or six years ago?
NH: Yes, you develop and mature as a person and driver over the years but just in a normal and natural way. Of course, to have experience as a driver helps a lot when you go out on track.
Q: There has been plenty of talk among fans and media that the R31 has not yet reached its potential - do you agree?
NH: Theres always room for improvement and, as a driver, Im never completely satisfied unless I achieve the absolute maximum - I am always striving for more. I think we did reach our best at the beginning of the season when we got onto the podium two races running, but then on the other hand in a couple of races I have not started at particularly strong places on the grid. Some of the poorer grid positions have been down to bad luck but I dont feel you can just call it bad luck and leave it there, you could say you make your own luck. There is always room to plan and prepare things differently to avoid getting into those unlucky situations. Overall, Im pretty pleased with my race performances this season and I think given the conditions and situations at various races we have put in our best efforts.
Q: Last weekend you came from the back of the grid to finish eighth - do you like driving in those sort of conditions where you can race unnoticed?
NH: The best thing as a driver is to fight at the front and win, but if you are starting last and finishing eighth it really is so much fun. Fighting your way through the field and having to be at your absolute limit right through the race is a unique situation and a lot more fun.
Q: Vitaly, how do you feel the season has gone so far?
Vitaly Petrov: At the beginning of the year we didnt know how quick we would be, because pre-season testing didnt give us a clear idea, and there was also Roberts accident. This of course was bad news for the team and affected our preparations too, so it was a difficult way to start to the season. Having said that, we achieved podiums in our first two races which was great for our morale. The team has worked hard but we would like to, and can achieve, more. We need to continue to work hard and if we do, we will get some good results.
Q: How have you improved since last year?
VP: I know a lot more compared to last year and I think I have made a big improvement at all the tracks. I know how Formula One works and I feel that I am a completely different person within myself compared to last year.
Q: Do you now live somewhere different?
VP: I moved to Oxfordshire in the off-season. I find that it is very good as it is very easy for me to visit the factory whenever there is anything new for the car. Whenever my engineers want to talk to me, I can be at the factory within half an hour. This has been very important for me and helps me in being a part of the team. In many ways, where you live is not too big a thing, because you are only ever home for three days before you go off travelling again.
Q: Do you get distracted by things going on away from the track?
VP: I prefer to stay focused and not become involved in too many activities. Sometimes I even have dinner alone because it is quiet and you dont get many opportunities for peace when you are at a race meeting.
Q: Monaco, Montreal and Valencia are all street courses - how do you find these?
VP: It is just a different type of track. They are completely different from a permanent race circuit so you need to prepare in a different way. You need to stay very focused and concentrate all the time as street courses do not allow for mistakes.
Q: A big change for this season has been the Pirelli tyres. How have you found these?
VP: For us drivers there is a big difference from before because we are now experiencing big degradation, and its not easy to drive when the tyres are almost finished. This is a new challenge and one where we have to work very hard with strategy. For spectators it has been good as they can see a lot of strategies and a lot of overtaking, so I think for them it is more interesting to watch Formula One.
Q: Did you expect to have such early success this year?
VP: We did not really expect that podium in the first race of the year, and for everyone it was a good experience. The performance from the car was strong and our preparation and tactics were better than our opposition, so we did a good job in Australia. Of course, we know its not easy to fight with strong teams like Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren, but we have shown that we can battle with them. For the rest of the season, I want more and the team wants more and as we all want more, eventually it will happen.
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