Q: We’re already halfway through the pre-season test schedule. How are things looking from Lotus’s perspective?
Romain Grosjean: Things are certainly looking much better than they were last year. I haven’t driven the car too much yet, but I enjoyed the first feelings I got driving it at Jerez. It seems to react pretty well to what we are doing and what we want, which is quite good. Hopefully it will perform well but that is something I think we will only be able to assess in Melbourne.
Q: As you say, you haven’t driven the car much yet, but what are your first impressions of the Mercedes power unit? Will it make all the difference?
RG: We do have the best power unit on the grid - that’s a fact and that’s quite good. Last year we knew that even with a Mercedes engine the car (would not have been) good enough. So there’s been a lot of work done in Enstone, a lot of progress, and I was very happily surprised to find that the car was reacting well and it provided a much better baseline to start work.
Q: But in terms of the power unit, does the Mercedes feel very different from the Renault? Do you feel more power under your right foot?
RG: It’s a bit unfair to compare the two of them, because we started with Renault when they had no experience and we swapped to Mercedes after a year of experience. So, you know, things are naturally looking and feeling a bit different. I wouldn’t really compare the two of them, but surely from what everyone can see, the Mercedes is still probably the best power unit.
Q: You’ve had your fair share of difficult times in F1, especially last year. Could 2015 finally be the year that can show your true potential?
RG: Well, I think in every season you tend to show your true potential, but of course when you’re at the back of the grid it’s harder for people to see it. In 2013 we had a good car and I scored six podiums, but I don’t think I lost my driving skill during the 2013/2014 winter. Last year I had some pretty strong drives, even though they were outside the points. But I’m hoping we have a car that suits me a little bit better this year, which seems to be the case, and from there I can really work hard.
Q: You’ve been quite open about having worked with sports psychologists in the past - did you use one last season during the harder times?
RG: I’ve been working with one since 2012, probably once a week or so. I think you can always progress, there’s no point in just thinking ‘I am where I am’. The whole idea of the work is that you can always improve yourself and you can always do better. So far I will keep working.
Q: In that sense, would you say you have yet to reach your peak as an F1 driver?
RG: No I don’t think, even as a person, you ever get to 100 percent of your capacity. There are always new things coming into your personal or professional life, and there are always things you can handle a little bit better. So far I don’t see the point in stopping (seeing the psychologist), even if I was to start winning races, because then there are different aspects that you have to manage.
Q: Since you started in F1 you’ve got married and become a father. Does that change the way you go about racing?
RG: It doesn’t change anything when I am driving the car. When you close the visor you are in ‘racing mode’ - there is only you, the car and the track. As a man, as a person, yes it changed me because my biggest centre of interest today is my son and my family. But when I am on the racetrack with my overalls and helmet on, that is all that matters.
Q: We’ve spoken about the difficulties Lotus had last season; in situations like that, do you still feel that being an F1 driver is the best job in the world?
RG: Well it makes it more frustrating - it was probably the hardest year I’ve had in F1 - but I still love it. It’s my passion, what I love doing. The only thing I wanted when it stopped (at the end of the year) is that we’d be starting the season with a new car. In sports there are ups and downs and you have to accept that. Hopefully there are more ups coming now…
Q: As a team, have you set any minimum targets for this coming season?
RG: Not really. First we have to see where we are, what we can do, and how the car is performing. You can think about it, but I don’t think we’ll get any real answers until we get to Melbourne.
Q: From a personal point of view you must be desperate to get back on the podium…
RG: Yeah, when you taste something like the F1 podium, you want to be there as much as you can. I’ll do everything I can to get back there again.
Q: You let Lotus wait a while before signing with them again for 2015. Are you pleased that you ended up staying with the team?
RG: Yes, I’ve always said I’ve got a special relationship with Enstone. We came together in 2009 and then had a tough 2012, a very good 2013 and a bit more difficult 2014. But the main thing is that when I go to the factory it feels like home. It’s a place I really enjoy being. It’s a place that I know has reacted well from last year, and that’s all I want to see. If you’re struggling, you must try to make it better, and that’s what it’s like at Enstone.