Romain Grosjean reached the chequered flag for the first time in 2014 at Sepang, when the Frenchman overcame a loss of downforce to win an entertaining duel for eleventh place with former team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. Now the aim is to do better in Bahrain's inaugural F1 night race.
What are your thoughts looking ahead to Bahrain? It's a good track and I'm happy to go back there.
RG: I'm especially looking forward to the first night race at a circuit I like. Twice I've raced there in Formula 1 and twice I've been on the podium. So that's a good record! We were not very successful in the pre-season tests, but hopefully there will be some more updates and performance from our side. I'm sure everyone is going to work hard even though there are just a few days before Bahrain. The race finish at Sepang is a big encouragement. No matter what the challenge, we are aiming for podiums and strong performances wherever we go.
What do you like about the Bahrain track?
RG: On paper it is not the most amazing circuit, but when you drive it's pretty cool. I like the long straights followed by the hairpins and then the twisty middle section with a lot of G-force which makes it exciting. It gives the driver plenty to do behind the wheel and it gives you quite a lot to do in the debrief as well. It's always rewarding when you balance all the different demands on the car to get the lap as fast as possible.
How important for progress is the mileage attained in Malaysia?
RG: It is essential. To make major progress we need more days like Saturday and Sunday in Malaysia, where we learned a lot about the car. There are some encouraging signs. We know we have a lot of work ahead, but we also know which areas to work on. We will try new things in Bahrain and I'm confident the car will be better.
How did it feel to reach the chequered flag in Malaysia?
RG: Finishing the race was our first objective and then we wanted to see where we were with our car. It's not perfect yet but it's good to be where we are at this stage. I had a big loss of downforce around eight laps from the end which made things difficult, especially when I had to defend. Without that issue, I'm sure we could have finished higher. It was a good battle with Kimi. I kept remembering our past battles to make sure he couldn't go through!
What are the current generation cars like to race?
RG: I would say they are early in their development and we're still some way from where we want to be in terms of performance. At the moment there is a lot of management going on in the cockpit and we'll develop a better understanding and strategies of how to approach the race. Certainly, we've only completed one race so there's lots more to come.
Do you think the night race will make much difference in Bahrain?
RG: It means a later start, and if my calculations of how the day schedule runs are right, it could mean a larger window for sleep which is always welcome! In terms of at the track, every year we have had hot temperatures and a lot of sun which made tyre degradation quite high. Temperatures will clearly be lower at night and we'll have to see how that changes grip and degradation. I don't know if being at night will make much difference to the results, but it will certainly be an exciting event visually. It is also the tenth anniversary of the race so I'm sure they will put on a good show.
Why has Bahrain been so kind to you in the past?
RG: I wouldn't say it's been exactly kind, but certainly we've been able to perform well there in the past. It's a track I knew from before Formula 1 and it has characteristics that I like in a circuit; some big braking into certain corners, some good change of direction with the double-left in the middle of the racetrack and it all flows quite nicely. With the E20 and E21 we were able to take advantage of the car's good balance and kindness to tyres. It's early to say how the E22 will perform, but we head there with a positive frame of mind.