Romain Grosjean taslks Brands Hatch and Barcelona, driving with his eyes closed and the bloody French!
What does heading to Barcelona mean for you?
Romain Grosjean: Barcelona means the start of the European season. That means we can travel less, which is good as you soon get bored of those long haul flights, even if the destinations are great when you get there! It also means we see quite a lot more updates on the cars, which can make everything interesting. We've had a couple of weeks since Bahrain and it's only a short flight from Enstone to the circuit so there's been a decent amount of time for some more developments to the car. The fans have a great spirit in Barcelona, which is a beautiful city full of culture that I really enjoy.
How do you like being on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya itself?
RG: It's a circuit we've seen pretty often in your career so I know it well, and I have some good memories from the past. It was our best circuit last year, and I also finished fourth back in 2012 as well as setting the fastest lap. It is a circuit everyone knows backwards, so as a team we go to Barcelona intent on getting much more performance from the car.
Any idea how many laps you've done around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya? Do you think you could drive a lap with your eyes closed?
RG: It's almost impossible to know. I've driven many, many laps of the circuit in F1 and in different junior series I've competed in. I've drawn the track my eyes closed in the past... Trying to drive a lap eyes closed in the simulator at the end of a day's work could be fun. I'll do it next time I'm in Enstone; I'll let you know how I get on!
What are your favourite parts of the circuit?
RG: I quite like the first section of the circuit in particular; it's fast and you get a lot of grip from the car as you can really feel the downforce pushing you hard to the road. I'm a bit less of a fan of the final sector which is twisty but that's where you can make the most lap time improvement so it's important to get it right.
What do you feel about the level of competition in F1 in 2015?
RG: It's pretty exciting. We see some good races with us fighting hard in the pack. Up front we've seen some good dicing and Ferrari have shown that Mercedes is not invincible.
How is the relationship with your new race engineer?
RG: He's bloody French! On a serious note, it's going well. We started our working relationship on the right footing and we understand each other very well. All this is very important to make things work properly.
How do you review your first four races of the season?
RG: In terms of performance we have achieved a one hundred percent record in reaching Q3 which is a very good result. We could have done more in the first two races had we not had a few issues but I think that we got everything right from China onwards. It's very good to be in the top ten in qualifying and then play with the strategy in the race. I'm happy with the points we have scored these last couple of races, let's now get more at every race and continue to improve.
You were in Enstone this week, what keeps you busy when you visit?
RG: There is always a lot to fit in when I come to Enstone. On Tuesday, I did simulator work with my engineers. I was also checking a few more details regarding my seating position in the car to make it even more comfortable - it's quite key to be sat well during the race. We had a very busy day on Monday for our filming day at Brands Hatch Circuit. There were a lot of partner commitments to fulfil as well as some media commitments, but the best bit was seeing that so many fans had come down to watch us for the day!
Finally, how far off is baby number two and do you expect that could affect your home sleep strategy?
RG: It probably will impact my sleep strategy but my wife is very understanding and knows that I need to be well rested when I go to the race track. The baby's due in the next 15 days and I'm hoping that I'll be home when it comes! If that's not the case, I'll win the race and will dedicate it to our new baby!
Poised and hungry for his first points of the season, Pastor Maldonado is eager to ensure his championship charge is switched on at the location of his 2012 Grand Prix win.
The Spanish Grand Prix holds a special place for you...
Pastor Maldonado: It's very special - mostly because we see a lot of Venezuelan support there, also because it's the first race back in Europe, and of course, because it's nice to have won there. Hopefully we'll see a good result there for the team and some points for me!
Tell us about the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
PM: Overall Catalunya is tough for the cars, drivers and teams because everyone knows the track so well and you have to fight for every thousandth of a second. There are obviously races that are much closer to Venezuela in a geographic sense, but Barcelona is special for me because there is a huge community of Venezuelans close by and of course my mother tongue is Spanish. So I hope to see a lot of flags around the track and some great support as usual. It's always good to race in front of your fans and I am determined to continue my good record here. The circuit has certainly been very good for me in the past, with the win in 2012 being the highlight. A top ten in qualifying will be our first focus and then it'll be a very tough race in terms of tyre management, with a lot of pit stops and strategy.
What will be your target this year in Barcelona?
PM: To win...! The aim is always to get 100% from the package, to know we've achieved the best possible. So a win might not be on the cards just yet but we are definitely able to fight for good points.
How would you review your first four races of the season - what have been the positives and where can improvements be found?
PM: It was a complicated start to the season, the first four races were tough. It wasn't easy to be hit by other drivers for both Australia and Malaysia! I think we learnt a lot from the first two races however as we made a good jump in performance by the Chinese Grand Prix because we had learnt so much about our car. We are closer to our rivals, the teams we're targeting for the championship, and our race pace improved significantly. It's getting better and better.
How would you evaluate the E23 Hybrid this first quarter of the 2015 season?
PM: It's a good car. Immediately, the first day we tested the E23, the potential was clearly there. There are still areas to develop but it's looking very good. If we go back just a few months ago to where we were with the E22, it's a huge improvement in comparison. It's not just the change of engine, the chassis is working much better. The entire package has good potential for this season.
You've been here at Enstone this week to do some simulator work, how important is it for your and the team's preparation for the next race?
PM: It's very important. We start with a debrief in a way, where we compare the simulator runs with the race we have just completed, to make sure that the information we get from the sim is as accurate as possible. If not, we work to make it more realistic, and if it's okay, we move on to testing various things for the next races.
What do you remember about the win in 2012?
PM: It was a great day in my career, a strong race and victory over Fernando Alonso in his home event. We really deserved it because we did it on merit and under big pressure from the Ferrari all race. People forget that we were outside the top ten on Friday and then everything came together. We qualified second - pole after Lewis Hamilton was disqualified - and I knew there was a chance to win the race. I just felt so calm and ready to win. That weekend, after being 17th in first practice, shows why you must never give up in Formula 1. It also gave me more confidence because my first year in F1 had been difficult, but as soon as the car was competitive I was up there, fighting with the top drivers. My mentality changed and this now drives me forward when times are tough.