The next Grand Prix takes place on your home soil in Germany. What does it mean to race in front of your home crowd?
The German Grand Prix is always a special event for me and to race at the Nurburgring has a great feeling. The atmosphere is really special there as the big Nurburgring, the Nordschleife, has so much racing history, it's perhaps one of the most famous circuits in the world. Everywhere around the circuit is just about racing – go into a restaurant and you see a lot of pictures of cars or drivers. It's a great place to be, and to race there as a German gives a special feeling, like you're stepping into the history.
The old Nordschleife was a fearsome track, have you driven it?
I've driven round the Nordschleife a few times: normally you go on the Wednesday before the race in a normal road car. It really opens your eyes as it's just an incredible circuit. It gives you ultimate respect for the people who did drive it. You can really compare it to a rollercoaster going up and down – it's just unbelievable. It doesn't matter which car you use, the track is just really impressive. Unfortunately we only drive on the small circuit now but still there is a special something you can feel even on this version.
How is the new Nurburgring for you personally?
I like it a lot. It's a good circuit that can be quite tricky to get right. There's a lot of banking and the corners make it difficult to find a good set up as the car behaves differently in different corners, it surprises you. This circuit flows up and down and when you go to the Dunlop corner it's steep downhill with camber, so it's interesting in this way. Of course the track is much more modern than the Nordschleife but there are still famous and tricky corners so it remains a challenge.
Have you raced at the Nurburgring many times in your career? What's been the best memory so far?
I have a lot of memories from the track. It's where I did my racing license, and one of the first circuits I drove on with a racing car. I've raced there in nearly all the categories I've done in my career, so Formula BMW, F3 and now F1 of course, so nearly every step up the ladder has been at the Nurburgring.
There's five German drivers in F1 at the moment – do you think there's a big culture of motorsport in the country?
There are quite a lot of different championships you can start in and you can do several young driver programs so there are opportunities if you want to start out. But if you are brought up in Germany you're very aware of motorsport and motoring. There's very historic car manufacturers, Germany has always produced a lot of race drivers in the past and you can go on the Nordschleife – everyone can drive it, so many people go there and just do a couple of laps. In this respect it's easy in Germany to get close to motorsport and have a taste of it. Of course the long era of Michael Schumacher also made Formula 1 headline news, which has encouraged a lot of drivers.
Was Michael an influence for you?
Yes for sure. When I started racing he was at the highpoint of his career so I always saw him winning. He was a really impressive driver, a complete package, and is still a hero for a lot of drivers in Germany. He was really pushing the sport up there. I've been lucky enough to meet him a few times now but it's always a special thing to meet him.
Looking at your season so far, it's just over the midpoint of the season. Has it been as expected for you?
I think it's been a good season so far. We have been able to finish a lot of races and in the last two or three events it was possible to go into Q2, which was a big success for us. For sure the last race in Silverstone was a bit disappointing as it was an important race with our new updates and we had an incident in qualifying. Without this I think we could have been really close to the points, or even in the points. But overall we are making progress and that's the most important.
You and Giancarlo have been very evenly matched this year. How is he as a teammate?
It's really good to have him as a team-mate. Last year I learnt quite a lot and this year we are still very close to each other, which is what you want in a team-mate. Looking at the other teams I think we are the closest to each other in times and qualifying position: we are generally always one position in front of each other. In some other teams you don't have that – sometimes one guy is in the top 10, the other is last and then it changes the next race, so there is much more offset. With us we're pushing each other all the way. It's a strong team, both of us are doing well and the competition is good.
What can we expect in Germany from you?
Q2 would be very nice and hopefully it would be enough for some points. It's definitely time to get a few. Let's see what the other teams have update-wise as I expect maybe one or two to move a bit to the front and we don't have a major update this time round. But we were pretty strong in Silverstone and I expect to be similar in Germany.
And a busy program for you in Germany?
I expect it will be fairly busy. I have some personal sponsor appearances I will make and then there's always a lot of German media to speak to. But it's all part of the job!