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Exclusive Felipe Nasr Q&A: Sauber have made a breakthrough

20 Jun 2015

After a significant points haul in Australia, Sauber's form has tailed off slightly in recent Grands Prix - but in Austria Felipe Nasr fired them back into the top ten, in qualifying at least. Encouragingly for the team, the Brazilian believes modifications made for Austria are to credit for the upswing...

Q: Felipe, it was a very good afternoon for you, making it through to Q3. Can you talk us through your qualifying?

Felipe Nasr: Yeah, it was really good. Very satisfying! I think we‘ve all been surprised with the pace we have. Q3 definitely was a surprise for us (laughs). Although I think we've been on the right foot here since Friday. I could see that the car balance was quite nice and we've made it even better - but the main thing that has put me back on pace was the brakes over the weekend. We've made some modifications on the brakes since Canada. In Canada we had a disastrous feeling on the brakes. Now things are working a lot better so I was able to put in a good lap in Q3, even if I had a yellow flag on the last two corners of my fastest lap. I didn't even get the DRS coming to the finish line...

Q: What could it have been without the yellow flags?

FN: I guess another tenth would have been possible...

Q: ...translating to what position on the grid?

FN: Probably P7.

Q: You won the first race here in GP2 last year, but had a DNF in the second race, so a mixed experience. What is your take on Spielberg?

FN: Ha, I love this track. Yes, I won the first race of the GP2 weekend and set the fastest lap – so I would say this track has the kind of style that I like. You have to be very precise in these medium-high speed corners. You have to be confident to throw the speed into the corners, and in order to hit the brakes hard in turns one, two and three. I am very much in favour of these kinds of tracks.

Q: Lewis Hamilton said that the surface is somewhat strange...

FN: It is very smooth. There is not much abrasion. If you don't have the tyres up to temperature – and it is difficult to get them there – then it is very easy to go off track by trying a bit too much. Then you have a moment in the car, as we've seen many times over the weekend. The grip is simply pretty low. It is that kind of track that challenges the driver not to make any mistakes.

Q: But we haven't seen you going off track... what does that mean?

FN: That I haven't made any mistakes – in fact I haven't made many so far in the season! I have been capitalising on the opportunities that opened up. But the main thing is to always minimise mistakes – then the chances run north.

Q: From seven races you have finished in the points three times. Did you dream of more – or are you happy with that in a rookie season?

FN: It is very satisfying, for sure. With the package that we have it is a lot more than we expected. If we had only scored two or three points we would have been happy. We are on the profit side of things. (laughs)

Q: Sauber looked very strong in the first three races, but lately Force India seem to have moved ahead. Has development slowed down?

FN: I think this has more to do with the other teams developing stronger. You could see from race to race that other teams were bringing updates but in fact we did very small steps. It is difficult to keep up and be in the points regularly. There are updates planned further in the year, but of course I want them on the car as soon as we can. And hopefully they work. Considering the package we have at the moment - and the budget that we have - we are really punching above our weight.

Q: With your P10 position in the drivers' championship you are the most successful of the three 2015 rookies at the moment. Presumably though that is not all you are aiming for – so what are your goals?

FN: Of course that is not a goal. But my goal for 2015 was clearly to score points – and that has been achieved every time I had the opportunity. But for sure I have bigger dreams!

Q: Like what?

FN: In the long term I want to be able to fight for higher positions – for podiums and wins. And that means that you have to be in the right place at the right time with the right people. I am working on that. This year with Sauber is super important to start this process.

Q: Is it an unwritten law that every driver coming into F1 dreams about the title?

FN: I wouldn't say necessarily the title – but yes, the permanent search for more. You always want to be on top of the game. And of course the big goal is to win races – that is why I am here.

Q: You come from GP2 where the cars are still more traditional race cars. What is the biggest challenge an F1 car holds? How different is a race in comparison?

FN: F1 is still the highest level of motorsport - period. The history of F1 shows that only the best cars win the races, and that has not changed. GP2 is about having the same - F1 is much more complex. You have to manage the system, you have to look after the tyres, the strategy – so many things. So it is not the easy thing that some people want to tell you it is – it's miles away from it to be precise! Probably people would love F1 cars to be a bit more scary – back in the time of V8s you could stand on the grid and feel the engines inside you. The relation of speed and sound is not as heavy now, but it's not true that it has become easier. 

Q: There are rumours about Valtteri Bottas being on the move. You served as  Williams's reserve driver last season - could you imagine a return?

FN: Things like this are difficult to answer. I have a plan at Sauber – but as I said before it's all about right time right place – and a door opening up. Then it goes from there.

Q: Moving up the ladder means delivering good results. That is possible tomorrow – what are you hoping for?

FN: In the points is very realistic. Where? I have no idea. It will be a one or two stop race, but how that develops - I wish I knew! (laughs) From what I have seen last year it is a track where it is not easy to overtake – unless the guy in front of you has troubles with the tyres. So the plan is to have a good start, a good first lap, and then bring home the points!