Fernando, you pulled off an incredible drive at the end of the São Paulo Grand Prix – what was going through your mind in those final laps?
“I felt like I had third position well under control until about the final five laps when Checo [Sergio Pérez] really started pushing. I didn’t think his tyres would last until the end and offer him the grip he had but, clearly, he managed them well too. “When he eventually got past into Turn One, I did think my opportunity for a podium might have gone. But then I stuck within DRS range and managed to get him back into Turn Four on the next lap. “I didn’t know if I finished ahead at the chequered flag because it took a while for my engineer to confirm the position. It felt like a minute before he confirmed it – but it only took a few seconds! Then I heard the screaming in the garage from the radio as my engineer confirmed. “It was a special end to the race.”
You and Lance picked up P3 and P5, respectively, last time out – how do you feel about our improved pace and the effort of Lance and the team in Brazil?
“We had some difficult weekends in Austin and Mexico, but we did earn a lot about our car. “It’s a credit to our team that we managed to bounce back with this performance in Brazil. Let’s see if we can carry this momentum over into the final two race weekends at very different circuits. After Brazil, I’m very excited heading into these last two rounds of the Championship.”
Have you ever been to Las Vegas before? Are you excited for this year’s race?
“I have been many years ago. “I’m interested to see how the city embraces Formula One and I’ve always enjoyed racing in America and trying new circuits.”
What will the biggest challenge be for you in Las Vegas given the low temperatures and long straights?
“With any new track it takes a little time to feel familiar with it. “It will also be interesting to see what the grip levels will be like as this is always a factor at new circuits.
This will also be impacted by the low temperatures, which we aren’t used to racing in this year. It’s the opposite of Qatar, for example. There are also no support categories racing here either, so it will likely make the track more slippery when we do get out there. “We have spent time in the simulator and we’re looking at all the data we have, but in reality, we will truly get a feel for the track on Thursday during practice.”
What is your target for the final two races?
A strong finish to the season with as many points as possible. “It’s true we are all thinking about 2024 but we want to make sure we go into next season in the best position possible and with momentum on our side.” “And finally, it’s important that we enjoy these final two races of 2023!”
Insight and Speed with Cognizant
Race interruptions: This season has seen the third-lowest rate of retirements – 14 per cent – in F1 history. Out of 20 races this season, only seven have taken place without a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car deployment. There have also been six red flags flown in races this season.
Overtaking: This circuit features two DRS zones – one on the Strip and another between Turns Four and Five – to aid overtaking. Furthermore, the long stretch from Turn 16 to Turn One, which encompasses the start-finish straight, also present an overtaking opportunity. Strategy: The softest compounds – C3, C4 and C5 – are in use this weekend. Low temperatures could mean more oversteer and/or understeer, plus graining, on the tyres. As a result, tyre preservation might prove difficult, and drivers might have to stop more than once.