The Russian youngster won the GP3 title last season and was announced as a race driver at the Italian outfit in October. He obtained his F1 superlicense after completing a test at the Misano circuit, before taking part in two first practice outings at the end of the year.
He was at the Jerez circuit to help uncover the team’s 2014 car, the STR9, in the pit lane today. “I am very excited that I am about to start my first season in Formula 1,” he said. “It will be a year of discovering many new things, which I expect will be very interesting. I can’t wait to actually start the driving part, the best part of my job. Six days of winter testing is not a lot and I will have to see how quickly I get used to the new car, which wasn’t a big issue when I drove the 2013 car.”
He added: “Being a rookie means there’s a steep learning curve, but the bright side of this year’s regulation change is that all the drivers will be getting used to a new way of driving, starting from zero. Anyway, I have always liked a big challenge. Physically, I feel ready after a good winter training programme, concentrating a bit on my neck muscles. The team hasn’t set me any specific targets, so its just a case of getting on top of my game as quickly as possible.”
His team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne is looking ahead to his third year racing in the sport. He is confident that the team can make steps forward this season after a disappointing 2013 campaign.
“This will be my third season in Formula 1 and I definitely feel better prepared than ever before,” said the Frenchman. “From what I have seen in the factory, the same applies to the team. Now we must make the most of winter testing and work hard to ensure that all our efforts pay off. I am confident we have what we need to do well.
“From a driver’s point of view, we will have a lot of new elements to understand and changes that will require us to adapt as quickly as possible. That will be one of the tasks for winter tests, so that we can make the most of the package available right from the first race.
“We will have to adopt a different style of driving, especially in the races, with this new power unit combined with the need to manage fuel, while the changes to the rule regarding levels of downforce will make the cars feel different, offering less grip, which will also take some getting used to. It’s going to be a fascinating start to the year.”
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic