Sergio Perez: It’s been such a long winter and I’m excited to be back in the car in Melbourne. I enjoyed some rest time at home with my family and my friends, but just a few weeks after Christmas I started missing being in the car. Australia is one of my favourite places to visit and definitely a cool place to start the season. Melbourne is a city I love: the fans are great and they make you feel really welcome. I am so happy to go there again.
I am ready to start a new chapter in the history of this team. I feel very strong both physically and mentally, and seeing the great spirit of our group of people gives me that extra bit of motivation. Last year was an exhausting one, on and especially off the track, but now I feel very relaxed. I worked a lot on my fitness throughout the winter because this season is going to be very long, all the way into December. I have to be ready for what is going to be a marathon.
The track in Melbourne is bumpy and very technical, as well as being quite narrow. It’s certainly a big challenge as the first race back after the break. Races in Melbourne tend to be unpredictable and that could give the opportunity for a special result. It’s a cool track to drive, especially when you’ve missed the thrill of racing for so long. It’s still too early to say where we will be in the pecking order, but the first weekend should give us some indications for the season ahead.
I am also looking forward to the on-track battles – winter testing showed me that the cars are losing less downforce when following closely, so that should help the show. So far, I think F1 has done a great job with the new rules, but we need to wait for the first race and for our first experience of racing with more cars around you and on similar pace. Hopefully the racing will live up to the promise. Away from the track, I hope to find some time to see the country. I love Australian wildlife – it’s not just kangaroos and koalas, you know! It’s one of the most incredible places on Earth and every year I wish I had the time to explore a bit more.
Lance Stroll: I feel really excited heading into the first race weekend. I love being ‘down under’ and, because it’s the first race of the year, it feels even more special. My batteries are fully charged and I’m feeling in great shape. After those long cardio sessions and winter training camps, it’s refreshing to just get back to the racing.
It is an extra special weekend for me because it’s also my first race in a new team. A lot of my friends have said they really like the colours of our car and everybody says it looks great watching trackside.
Testing went pretty smoothly from my perspective. The second week was when we really found our stride and we did some good race preparation work. The car is giving me confidence and we’ve already found a good direction with the overall balance. I know we have more updates coming to the car this weekend, but I think we’ve done a good amount of our homework already.
As a venue, Albert Park is pretty
cool. The Aussie fans have great energy: they love F1 and we get a great
welcome when we arrive at the circuit each morning. It’s a technical track –
quite narrow in places, and there are a few bumps here and there too. We’ve
done some sim work on the set-up already so I’m feeling pretty well prepared.
I’m not heading into
the race with any defined expectations. There are too many unknowns at the
moment for me to make predictions. We will take it as it comes and focus on our
programme, building speed with each session. I’m just really looking forward to
being back in the car and working with the team again.