Now the regulations for 2017 are more or less decided, you’re a director of the GPDA, how happy are you with the regulations?
“It’s a bit of a tough subject because I’m not sure that it has been explained correctly what the regulations will be for next year. It’s quite late in the day which supposedly was the idea of the FIA to leave it as late as possible so the bigger teams don’t get an advantage over the smaller teams. Apart from that I can’t really comment on the regulations.”
You said you would really be looking at the regulations because your contract ends this year…
“Yeah. I’m not sure that we’re going to have such an advantage as we expected at that point. I think we were looking at something like six or five seconds per lap which I don’t think is the case. I think interestingly and importantly Pirelli will have a lot more testing before next year, which is great because we definitely need that with a new type of tyre that we haven’t seen in Formula 1 for many years. So that is very important and we need that mechanical grip. I think Formula 1 is dying for more mechanical grip really, we need it. Aerodynamically, as long as the aerodynamics are done in the right way that’s what matters and we have to believe it will be done in the right way and the racing will still be good. That’s all we can hope for now.”
You've had over 16 years now in Formula 1, what has it lost over that time that it can regain? That can be changed?
“I think the cars need more mechanical grip, definitely. The problem is by doing it through making the tyres bigger they become heavier and the cars are 120kgs heavier than when I started racing. So you’re immediately at full tanks when you’re qualifying, so it’s going to feel lazier. So that’s an issue but it’s something you can’t change now because of the way the engines are and that’s why our lap times are so much slower on a long run, because they car’s so heavy. Percentage-wise it’s massive how much heavier they are.
“The sound. That’s a massive part of the sport that’s missing and every fan you speak to says so. But that’s again something that we can’t change right now. We’ve gone this direction and we can’t go back on it. I miss that massively, I used to get so excited coming in to a test day even nine or ten years in to my career, and I used to be so impressed with the sound of the engines with a big grin on my face. Yeah after five laps you’re deaf and you wish they weren’t so noisy, but I used to get so excited about friends coming to the circuit new to the sport. I’d be so excited about bringing them in the garage or going to stand on the pit wall with them and let them hear a Formula 1 car because there’s nothing like it. That’s all gone. When I invite people to a Formula 1 race now, they’re going to find it amazing of course because it’s out of this world, it is, but that sound’s not there and that buzz isn’t there from that sound.
“So it’s a shame but it’s the way of the world and new technologies and it’s the direction we have to go so there’s no real point in looking back but sometimes you have to reminisce on certain things. But the new technologies are what are keeping manufacturers in the sport. Honda are here because of the new technology and if it was V10s they probably wouldn’t be, so we wouldn’t have this partnership.”
Are you worried about F1 in the short and medium-term?
“No I’m not worried because I think Formula 1 as a whole understands now that things need to change. There’s always some criticism about any sport, it’s never perfect and even 10 years ago we were complaining about certain things. So it’s always there but it seems to be more these days. The important thing is I think people understand things need to change and it is going to change. So that’s great to see and great to hear, it’s just a matter of time. Hopefully we don’t lose the fanbase that we have because that would be an issue.”
Coming back to your situation, how much is the way Formula 1 is going influencing your decision on what happens in 2017?
“I think more what happens this year influences what I want to do next year. How I feel with how the cars are. I have a good understanding of how the cars will feel next year but I want to be in a position where I can be competitive and fight for good results - at least be in the mix - and that’s what will keep me in the sport.”
Is it only two options for you - staying with McLaren or retiring - or is a third option going to another team?
“I don’t know. I don't know what my options are yet.”
The pull of F1 is still there that if an attractive offer came to remain in F1 your mind isn’t made up on only McLaren or retire?
“My mind is to be competitive next year and to race and enjoy racing. And to be able to see the front at least! I’d love to do that here and I hope this team is in that situation.”
If there was a seat at Mercedes…
“Any human being that likes racing cars would say yes they would do that because it’s the quickest car by a second. So any driver whether he’s in love with Ferrari or hates Mercedes cars, he will still drive that car because he has the best chance of being world champion. There’s only one guy that can beat him, so…”
Are you tired of waiting?
“No, I just want to be near the front fighting.”