Fred Vasseur debriefs on a solid Japanese Grand Prix and looks forward to the ever-popular USA Grand Prix.
The Japanese Grand Prix didn’t yield any points but it was a strong performance from the team. How would you review the weekend as a whole?
It was our best weekend in terms of performance even though we didn’t score points unfortunately. We had a very strong FP3 on Saturday morning and even though we missed out a little in qualifying, in the race we were able to overtake Toro Rosso and McLaren and not be too far away from the Williams. In terms of pure performance it was certainly our best weekend so far this season. It confirms the progression we have made since June and how we have been able to maintain it.
Would you say that those teams are our closest competition at this point in the year?
In Japan we overtook Toro Rosso and McLaren and were much closer to Williams than we have been in the past, so we have raised our level in the race. What is clear is that we need to improve in qualifying to have a stronger baseline with which to start the race, and then hopefully the results will follow.
Are the drivers responding well to the improved performance?
Jo did a very good race. We had quite an aggressive strategy in that he only made one stop and had to look after his tyres. Kevin was also able to make up positions and fight, so they both have confidence in the car and are able to use it effectively now.
How is the team morale now with four races remaining of a very long season?
The last results, independent of the points scored by Jo or Kevin, have energised the team. It confirms we are moving forward, which is always very positive. Even if tenth place is not where we want to end up long-term, it is progress and that is always encouraging for everyone. The last four races are physically tough, but we’re up for the fight.
Last week the team announced the first of the 2017 drivers. What made you go for Nico?
Nico is one of the drivers that has really made his mark, with in particular a GP2 title in his first year in the series. Only three drivers have done this so far: Nico, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. He has succeeded in everything in his career to date, including Le Mans. He is also a real leader and able to motivate a team and take the troops with him. He has a lot of experience and is very fast; that is very important for us in this stage of our development. From a technical perspective, an experienced and conscientious driver can give precious feedback as well as knowing exactly what they want from the car. This allows the team to work fast and efficiently. We are really happy to have him with us.