Back-to-back titles, the record for pole positions, most laps led, 11 wins last year – what’s your next target?
Oh, we do it again! Obviously, we had a great year, and I think you know we’ll always look back to 2011 and think how special it was, but to be honest, you don’t start the season having, you know, expectations to have the same or similar season again. So we know how special it was and we really enjoyed that but we know how hard it is to be that consistent – always there and nearly every race on the podium – so, you know, the target is to obviously try to do it again and try to get everything out of ourselves, so we’ll see how we get on with the new car, the RB8.
Did you get a chance to enjoy winning another world title?
Yeah, it was obviously, you know, quite busy after the first championship back in 2010, so yeah, in 2011, surely there’s a couple of things you have to do, want to do and you want to give back as well to, you know, people here in the factory, your fans. But after that, around Christmas, it was really time to slow down, back off a little bit and enjoy the peace, have a good rest in order to be prepared for this season. It will be a long and hard season again, but yeah it was really nice to let things sink in and, as I said before, you know, I think it makes you realise how special the season was when you look at the results again and the races itself, and you sum up things a little bit. So, it was a nice feeling and the good thing is, similar to back in 2010, no one can take it away from you, so it was always stays in your memory.
How did you spend your off-season?
Well, the thing is, many people always imagine the off-season to be as exciting or, you know, busy as the actual season – as in we do crazy things or we live a crazy life. But, to be honest, when you are travelling so much and you are so busy, you enjoy the time you have off really and that’s sitting at home enjoying normal things – watching TV, just not having to do anything. So I think that it was quite important to recharge the batteries, re-fuel the system a little bit, and, yeah, to come back fresh – hopefully fresh enough for this year. So, over Christmas I spent my time home with the family and with friends and then I went skiing a little bit; we had an awful lot of snow this winter so it was quite good. And then, very soon in January, you start to prepare yourself again. You start to work out regularly, so you get back into shape and burn the unnecessary calories and probably the unnecessary weight you might have put on over Christmas.
Are you expecting a bigger, tighter fight this year?
The thing is, at the beginning of last year we didn’t really expect whatever happened last year, so I think it’s the same thing again. It would be wrong to go into this season and expect 2011 to happen again, as in getting into the lead early and having a very big gap to other competitors in the Championship. So I think it will be very, very tight this year and everything else would be a surprise to be honest. Looking at the cars, you know there’s not much room we have left to play (with) for designers and to find something extra. You know, the last two years we have had two big things taken away, the double diffusers, plus, for this year, the system around the blown exhaust. So we are missing that and therefore I think it’s difficult to really create a difference. We’ll see, obviously we hope our car is better than all the others but it will be difficult, and I think the cars will be fairly similar, as in the gaps will be even closer than they have been.
Can you identify any weakness in your game? Are there things you want to work on?
Of course (in) 2011 we were extremely successful and it was a good season, so we did only very few mistakes. But still we sat down during the season and especially after the season and before this season again, trying to identify where we think we can improve, and yeah we got a couple of points. It’s not as if it was a blank sheet, so you would be surprised, and I think you know, we had a couple of pages with things that we can do better, we know we can do better. Of course, there were a lot of things that we did well and we try to keep it up and improve them as well but, as I said, there are a lot of things here and there you know – small things, details, attention to detail – that you can work on that might make a difference on a Sunday. You know we have 20 races, so maybe it helps you only in one out of 20 races, but that might help you to score that one point more that you might need to be on top at the end, so we’ll see.
What’s it like getting in the new car for the first time?
Obviously, you have a rough idea how the car should look like by what you see in the early stages from the design office, so yes it’s quite exciting to see the full car, everything coming together. So it’s quite a long progress, imagining when we start building the car and to today, where we present it. And again, the most exciting bit is putting it on track and seeing how it feels, so that’s yet to be seen. But (the) first time I jumped into the car for the seat fit – checking the position, checking your pedals, see if everything works – I think it was the same for Mark and myself, we felt extremely comfortable, everything went well and we got our position, comfortable position, fairly quickly. So it didn’t take too long. We had other cars where a little bit here a little bit there, you know, you always ask for something, but the RB8 was pretty straightforward, so we hope it continues that way.
What do you think about Mr Ecclestone’s hope that you don’t dominate again?
I hope he’s wrong obviously! Its difficult to say. You know, every season we start from zero again and unlike other sports… I don’t know if in tennis, for instance, you’re the number one in the world, there is a certain gap between you and the number two, so you have this cushion and it doesn’t matter if its one year or another year, you still have it, whereas for us it all starts from zero again, zero points, everyone has the same chance and we are all building our new cars. So, until we really put them on track to race each other we don’t really know. So, we’ll see, but I’m as confident as I can be at this point and hopefully we will have a good couple of days with the car; a good couple of days testing to prepare the season well.
Have you thought of a name for the car yet?
Not yet, no name yet! To be honest, last year we found a name I think Wednesday before the first race, in that race week, so we might be a bit earlier this year, but so far, no names. We have a couple of candidates, hot candidates, but nothing is decided yet!