Q: Felipe, Sauber were the surprise of the Melbourne race, with both cars finishing in the points - and you in a sensational P5. Can you talk us through your first ever F1 race?
Felipe Nasr: The race was, of course, something special. This is something of a dream come true - from the start to the very last lap. I honestly didn’t expect things to go so well, but I think I had prepared myself enough to deal with any situation. It was a track that I didn’t know and had to miss the first free practice, but once in the car I was able to put myself together and concentrate on my job. Sitting on the grid I focused to get through that first corner as I anticipated that this could be a potential trouble spot - and luckily we made it through. After that I was able to hold out to the pressure of the Red Bull from Daniel Ricciardo, whom I was able to keep behind me the whole race. I have to say the team did an amazing job with the strategy in the race - and getting me prepared for this first race. Then crossing the line in P5 with all the points that come with it… oh boy, that was super special.
Q: It was a remarkable weekend, not only for the result, but also because you spent time in a Melbourne courtroom. How was that situation for you - not knowing if you have a drive for 2015?
FN: The whole weekend was the biggest exercise for myself. Mentally it was the biggest thing of my whole career. Of course I knew that all these things were there, but I tried to treat the whole situation like a normal weekend. I was able to keep calm and not bother too much about these goings-on. Driving the car was somewhat of a relief and eased my nerves in this situation.
Q: At least you have been in the car. It could also have gone a different way?
FN: Yes, it was good to be in the car and simply do what you can do best - this helps staying calm. It was a big relief. There was so much work I have done over the winter and to think that you might have to let all that go wasn’t a comfortable feeling, believe me. So it was actually only in the car that everything felt right.
Q: When you say you’d done so much work over the winter, was it much different to the pre-season preparations of previous years?
FN: It was more in every aspect. I have learned a lot in the past years about racing, but I know that there is always a bit more to do when you’re in F1: physically, mentally, technically. So I knew what to do in my first race - I didn’t have to ask anything from the pit wall.
Q: Sauber had zero points after a long 2014 season and now after the first race of 2015 they already have 14. Can you explain that? Has the team really made such a huge leap forward? Was it about the chassis or power train? Or even the drivers?
FN: It was a combination of many things. Definitely the chassis improved over the winter. The team knew where they struggled last year and sorted that out. But I think the biggest gain was on the power unit: Ferrari did an amazing job to develop the engine so quickly. And it is a reliable engine as we’ve been able to do so much mileage during the winter tests - and that gave us the opportunity to try so many things on the car set-up wise, and getting myself comfortable in the car. So yes, it was chassis, power unit and drivers!
Q: Many media wrote after the race that you are considered a pay-driver no more. How does that go down?
FN: That of course goes down well when people now think about you as a talented driver and not one who is bringing money. Fact is that I have never paid to race. My family wouldn’t have the money to ‘buy’ a cockpit - and I myself never had to put one penny on the table to find a race team. On the other hand there have always been companies that believed in my talent and they started to support me early on in my career. When I was 16 years old I was able to have my own salary and my own house, so I can only say that I have worked for all that on the track with my results. And they are as happy as I am as I showed in Melbourne that I deserved all their support. I was a bit surprised that a ‘pay driver’ story popped up, as going back to 2009 I had all the opportunity to pick a suitable project for me, including Red Bull or Gravity - you name it, they all wanted to invest in my career. So what is the difference between Red Bull paying for my career or Banco do Brasil supporting me?
Q: Results like Melbourne will make you hungry for more. How have your objectives changed after the Australian Grand Prix?
FN: Definitely such a result makes you hungry for more. No, my objectives have not changes: it is scoring points - as much as I can. And the early races are the best opportunity to do that as there are still some teams struggling with the reliability of their cars. So the time is now!
Q: What’s the plan for this weekend? Pull something similar out of the hat like Melbourne?
FN: You cannot plan something like that. You can only let it happen. All I can say is I feel prepared. It is a track that I know and that helps as I don’t have to take time to learn it and can concentrate more on the set-up. On top of that, the conditions are always unpredictable so I will take any chance that comes my way - I am ready.