Vitaly, how does it feel to be confirmed at Lotus Renault GP?
It feels great. I learned so much this year and I know that I can come back stronger in 2011. I’m extremely proud to be part of this team and I’m determined to repay the faith they have shown in me.
Looking back on your rookie season, what did you enjoy the most?
There were a lot of special moments. The race in Shanghai is something that I will always remember when I overtook Schumacher and Webber to score my first points. Then, the first time I made Q3 in Turkey was an important step for me. And, of course, the race in Hungary was probably my best weekend when everything came together for me.
How has your life change since you became an F1 driver?
There’s a lot more travelling and not a lot of time for myself, but I will never complain because I love what I’m doing. I still feel like a boy at Christmas every time I get in the car. Life is not as easy as people think, of course, and there’s a lot more to F1 than driving the car, but it’s an amazing experience and I know I’m lucky to be one of just 24 drivers on the grid.
Do you feel at home at Lotus Renault GP?
Yes, definitely. Previous drivers have always said that there is a special atmosphere here and I have to say I agree with them. The team is very warm, friendly and open, and I get on really well with the guys.
Can you feel the growing support for F1 from Russia?
Definitely. I get more support from my country every week. In fact, recently one of the major lifestyle magazines included me in their top ten most attractive single men of Russia! You can feel that the sport is becoming more popular and soon we will have our own Grand Prix, which will create more interest. Even our prime minister, Mr Putin, got a taste of F1 when he tried a Renault F1 car earlier this year.
What will be the main challenges of 2011?
There are quite a few changes that we have to adapt to as a team: new tyres, moveable rear wings and KERS, which I’ve never used before. There’s even a new race in India. So there are some things to adapt to, but they should improve the show and make for better racing. I’ve already seen the new car in the wind tunnel and it looks very promising. I also love our new colours and can’t wait to get back in the car and go racing.
What do you hope to achieve in your second season?
My objective is to continue improving as a driver and to become more consistent. There were times this year when I made mistakes and lost points, and I know this is where I can improve. I think I showed that I have the speed, but I need to be consistent over the whole weekend and get the maximum from every session.
What is your plan over the next couple of months before testing begins in February?
I was thinking about spending a few days in Maranello this winter, but I have been told it probably wasn’t the best idea… Seriously, after a busy year I’m taking the time to go back home and see my family and friends. It’s also the time to recharge my batteries so that I can come back fresh next year. I’m already working hard on my fitness and doing lots of training to be ready for the start of the season. Then, in January, I will be at the factory to see my engineers and for my seat-fit in the new car.