Drivers often speak about race tracks being special (usually saying it about the one you're at because you don’t want to offend anyone!) but in the case of Silverstone it is true, at least it is for me.
It’s a track I’ve always liked. In fact, here and the next few circuits – Hockenheim and the Hungaroring – are ones I’ve always enjoyed. I’ve also won at all three before, though that’s no guarantee of a good time in F1!
But, for me, Silverstone is a special place. Yes, the high-speed nature of the circuit is part of it, but it’s also in the atmosphere, which is completely different to everywhere else, and it’s in the fact that I think I grew up a lot as a racing driver here and at other circuits in the UK.
I first came to race in England two years ago, for British F3, and it was an amazing experience. It was fantastic for me to travel all around the UK for testing and for racing and I think it was probably one the best years of my life. Not only because of the racing, but also because of the whole life around it.
'I’d advise any young driver to come to England. I really think England is the home of motorsport'
It’s partly the social life, which is great, but it’s also talking and working with the team, racing in a pretty intense series where the level is really high and even learning how to behave as part of a team. All those things are hugely important for a driver and I got that racing here. I had always been in a French team before and even if I thought I was good there I saw that racing here was something else. I saw that some things were done very differently and often in a better way.
I definitely learned a new way of thinking here – about myself and about racing. I think I learned the British mentality a little bit too, which was also important. It was a big part of my development and I think it definitely helped me move forward in my career.
I’d advise any young driver to come to England, to live next to a team and to race here. I really think England is the home of motorsport and I lived that during my time in F3.
So, if England is the home of motorsport, then this weekend we are in the living room! Even though I do genuinely like the track and the atmosphere here I think it will be a tough weekend for us.
Of course, firstly, there is the penalty I picked up at the last race. I think it’s important to say that I did make a mistake and that I accept the penalty. I never wanted to crash with Heikki. But in my mind I was already past him and my aim was to move across in front of him just before the braking area, but the fact is we were still pretty much in the same space, and I touched his front wing. It was unfortunate, a small misjudgment on my part. But these things happen.
So, you live and learn. It’s the sort of mistake I won’t make again.
The 10-place grid penalty means that on our car’s current form I’ll start quite far back, but at least we know that and can plan for it. I think I just have to do as well as possible in qualifying and then we’ll see where we are. Maybe we can save some tyres for the race; maybe we’ll focus more on the car set-up for the race rather than qualifying.
There are a lot of things to think about. We’ll try to be clever; we’ll try to anticipate the weather and who knows what can happen. It obviously isn't the ideal start to the weekend but it is what it is and this is a race where there are a lot of variables, so let’s hope those things go our way this weekend and we can get a good result.