Red Bull Race Preview: GP China & GP Bahrain 2015
Whatís the best thing about going to Shanghai?
The cityís pretty cool and the markets in particular are a bit of an eye-opener. They seem to have more technology than I ever thought existed. I stay close to the track, so Iíll only really dip into the city for one day, to do a bit of shopping or go out. Iíve found a few nice restaurants in the last few years, and I do like the local food.
What stands out at the Shanghai International Circuit?
The paddock Ė itís enormous! You need to be an athlete just to get around. As for the track itself, Iíd call it Ďtechnicalí. Turns One, Two and Three are all very long and technical. I donít think thereís any other corner like it on the calendar. And itís very, very aggressive on the front tyres.
ÖIt also has the longest straight in F1.
Yep, itís long alright. You could drink a can of Red Bull driving down it. Iíve heard quite a few drivers saying itís pretty boring. Ha! If they think itís boring in a Formula One car, they should have tried coming here in Formula BMW. I drove here as a kid, all massive afro and enthusiasm and, trust me, it was the sort of straight where Iíd definitely have been reaching for a book if Iíd had one.
Weíve seen excessive tyre wear in recent years with the life of the option tyre being measured in corners rather than laps. Whatís that like to drive?
Itís pretty extreme Ė but Iíd still prefer it to the scenario with a tyre that takes three laps to come in. The fact it comes in straight away is awesome. In qualifying, you drive the out-lap like your grandma, desperately trying to not kill it before the flying lap starts.
Whatís the most challenging part of the Shanghai International circuit to get consistently right?
The start of the lap is always really tough and itís very easy to get wrong. The lap starts with a big test but the big thing is to find a good rhythm through it. Thatís the case everywhere there really. The long straight is good and the heavy braking zone at the end of that is interesting. Itís a pretty good circuit, wide open, you can really push hard all the way through. I had a good race there last year and managed to get a points finish, so Iím happy to go back.
Whatís the most difficult thing about the race weekend off-track?
The paddock! Itís huge and really hard to find anything. It looks completely unreal. The best thing about it is that you can hide, walk around on your own in there and not be bothered by anyone!
What about away from the track completely, did you have a look around Shanghai last year?
We stayed close to the track last year, so itís not easy to get a good look around the centre of Shanghai. But we did get a chance to do a bit of sightseeing last year, itís an impressive city. Itís a really interesting place, but absolutely huge, you drive through all these towns on the way in to the centre that are part of the city and theyíre huge.
What are you looking ahead to in Bahrain, after Shanghai?
We stay in possibly the coolest hotel of the season. I havenít explored Manama but out near the circuit where weíre based, we stay in a hotel with itís own beach. Obviously the weatherís great and for training and relaxing for a few days before the event, yeah, itís pretty sweet.
Rumour has it the Bahrain International Circuit is your second favourite at SakhirÖ
Ha! Yeah, thereís a really good go-kart track next to the circuit. Last year after testing you could go down there and hang out with the guys working at the track and do a few laps Ė obviously in your race overalls and helmet trying to look as cool as possible. Pretty good.
Öand the grand prix circuit?
It was the location of possibly my best qualifying lap ever, so Iíve got a few nice memories of Sakhir. Over one lap thereís nothing that really has the wow! factor but for racing itís a little better. Last year the race was one of the best. You can pass, and moving to an evening race spices things up a little. It kept you guessing with the tyres. Yeah, itís a good track to race on. Thereís some tricky corners. Turn 10 is a funny turning-turning-braking-braking thatís very technical, and when you get it right it feels good Ė but thereís nothing that feels sickÖ
ĎSickí in the Urban Dictionary sense?
Yeah, thatís the one.
On to the Sakhir circuit, the first night race of the season, is that something you enjoy?
It makes a difference. The temperature is a lot easier on you as a driver, the tarmac is not so hot. The lighting is very good, thereís no real issue with driving under lights. The track itself is what I would call a kind of Ďclassicí configuration. Itís got some flowing sections, some interesting corners. I enjoy it. Itís a good racing track. The facilities are great and itís a good paddock.
Is the circuit layout one that you like?
I had quite an unlucky race there last year but that doesnít make it a bad track for me. I think if youíre fast and youíre winning then any track is a good one! If you hit the right lines, if you hit on the right set-up and the right approach to the weekend, youíre going to enjoy yourself.
We stay in a nice hotel in Bahrain, itís right by the beach and the atmosphere there is really nice. I havenít really been to Manama as itís pretty much just hotel and track!