What is your reaction to seventh place and another two points in Shanghai?
It was a satisfying result because before the race it had been a difficult weekend and we had a lot of work to do in order to improve the set–up. I wasn’t happy after qualifying but I pushed really hard in the race and we had a perfect strategy. To finish in the points when you start 12th with Formula 1 as competitive as it is at the moment is not easy so I am happy.
What challenges did you face earlier in the weekend?
Starting from Friday we didn’t really have a good balance in the car and I just didn’t seem to get it quite right. At the previous races in Fuji and Singapore we were consistent in terms of a reasonable pace from Friday onwards, but not in China. It was a bit strange because the track should have suited us pretty well. In particular I found that I couldn’t get the best out of the soft tyres, which explains my qualifying position.
Did you get a strong start?
It was not bad but Rubens Barrichello, who started behind me, got ahead in the confusion at the first corner. Jarno was hit by Sébastien Bourdais which meant that I made up two places there, but you don’t want to be doing that at the expense of your team-mate.
Did you get into a good rhythm straight away?
It was quite difficult actually because we had gone for a heavy one-stop strategy and, in fact, I did the longest opening stint of all, 32 laps. It meant that the car was very heavy in the beginning and I struggled a bit to warm up the tyres. There was nothing I could do to stop Mark Webber coming past on the second lap because he had 20 laps less fuel than me! At the end of the first stint I had a light car but I couldn’t make the most of it because I was stuck behind Nick Heidfeld. I was only eight seconds behind Robert Kubica at the finish so I think it’s possible we might have beaten him to sixth.
Was a one–stop strategy the right decision?
The goal was always to score points but I knew that it would be difficult from 12th so a one-stop strategy was definitely the right thing to do. Obviously with a heavy car at the beginning of each stint it is quite tricky but I did some competitive lap times and then on a lighter fuel load towards the end of the race I could really show my true pace. On the fastest lap classification I was sixth so that shows we had the speed, and finishing seventh after starting 12th shows we made the right call on strategy.
Have you enjoyed your marathon trip to the Far East?
It’s been interesting. I think Shanghai was a great event, really good for Formula 1, and it’s always interesting seeing different cultures like those in Singapore, Japan and China. But I have been away for four and a half weeks and I’m looking forward to seeing my own front door again; not to mention eating some European food and driving my Lexus ISF!
How would you assess your season with just one race to go?
I have enjoyed it a lot. I’ve had some up and downs; sometimes I have had bad luck. On the plus side I have shown a good improvement during the season and overall I’m happy. I’m two points ahead of the 20 point target I set myself for this season which is very positive. My ambition means I want to be at the top, so the pressure is always there from within, but the entire team has been very supportive; the race team, the test team and everyone at the factory. The team is always professional and has done everything to help me. It’s good to know they are behind me and I look ahead to an even stronger season in 2009.