The Frenchman sets his sights on 2018 - a year that will bring him the emotion of a race in front of his home crowd.
Esteban, it’s the start of your second year with Force India. You must feel very comfortable in the team now…
EO: “I’m feeling happy, relaxed and confident ahead of the new season. I know the team very well by now and those strong, established relationships really make a difference. It’s the first time in my career that I’ve stayed in the same team two years in a row so it’s a new experience for me. At the start of last year I had to learn everything almost from zero, but I’m already up to speed now, which will help.”
You’ve been busy training in the Pyrenees recently. Are you in the best shape of your life?
EO: “Definitely. I’ve been training non-stop since January and I feel ready to go racing. I set myself some ambitious fitness targets and I’ve managed to achieve them all. It’s been a very intense few months, but all the hard work will pay off. I come into the new season feeling more ready than ever.”
Where do you set your sights for 2018?
EO: “I always want to improve so it’s important to aim even higher in 2018. I’ve done 29 races in Formula One and I learned a huge amount last year. I know all the circuits, I know my team very well, and I have a better understanding of the details involved in Formula One. I want to take another step forward this year; keep improving and to be even stronger than last year. I was disappointed to miss out on a podium last year, so that’s definitely one of my goals for 2018.”
The French Grand Prix returns this June. How excited are you about racing at home?
EO: “It’s going to be the highlight of the year. There is a long history of Formula One in France and I can really sense the excitement and enthusiasm as the race gets closer. The track is going to be super quick and it will look amazing in the sunshine. It’s always been a dream for me to race at home so I’m feeling very lucky.”
The halo is introduced this year. How long will it take to adjust to this device?
EO: “I am not used to it yet. I have only tried it once with Manor back in 2016 and it will take some time to get used to it. However, it’s the same for everybody; we just need to learn to drive with it. It certainly impacts on your visibility because it’s a big change, but the safety benefits are important. I know some of the fans don’t like it, but I think they will get used to it quite quickly.”
Looking back on 2017, did the season exceed your expectations?
EO: “I ended last year satisfied on the whole. I took some big steps forward in my development as a driver and I learned a huge amount too. I was much stronger at the end of the year because I was up to speed so I want to make sure I start the new season in the same way. I think the results we achieved were strong, but we also missed some chances. So I feel satisfied, but the past is the past and I know I need to do an even better job this year.”