1. Paul, you are now a full-time, fully-fledged Formula 1 driver. What are your thoughts on making your F1 debut this year?
Naturally I am thrilled to be making my race debut this season. Becoming an F1 driver has been a long-held ambition of mine, something I’ve wanted to do since I first stepped into a kart, and to finally realise it feels amazing. I’ve worked really hard for this opportunity throughout my career and to get it with Force India, a young team that’s got ambitions as big as mine, is genuinely exciting. I can’t wait to be on the grid in Bahrain, it can’t come soon enough!
2. How have you been preparing for your first season?
I’ve been working on fitness to be completely ‘race fit’ and I’ll have some simulator sessions before the start of the testing programme. We will decide the days I will do very shortly, but I should be in the car at each of the tests to make sure the team and I have as much information as possible about the new car and its behaviour. I’ve been spending as much time as I can in the factory as well – even though I know the team very well from last season, I am strengthening those relationships so we function at our best level as a team.
3. You have stepped up from the test driver role, what do you think you’ll gain from that experience?
Obviously I know the team very well, and understanding how people work and the systems and procedures in place gives a real advantage as everything you do is improving, rather than learning from scratch. I will also know some of the circuits from my Friday experience so getting up to speed on those weekends will be quicker and easier. It’s an ideal position to be in when you make your race debut.
4. Which circuits are you looking forward to this year? How much experience do you have on some of them?
Silverstone will obviously be very special as it’s my home Grand Prix. Last year I was lucky enough to drive in the Friday practice session and was the first out on track so I could hear the crowd. The atmosphere was amazing so I’ll be geared up for that race. Equally all the circuits are special in some respects – Monza has the history, Belgium that incredible track and Singapore the lights. Really it will be about optimising every opportunity I have on and off track.
5. You’ll be the third British driver on the grid this year, but also joining some of the greatest names in British and Scottish motorsport. How does it feel to be stepping up to this level?
Britain has produced some great drivers over the years and Lewis and Jenson have really stood out in recent seasons as two back to back world champions. To be on the grid with them is pretty special. To then follow in the footsteps of some other great names – Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark for example – is a real honour and I hope that I will do justice to their achievements.
6. What will your aims be for the coming season?
Initially it will be to learn from the bottom up and create a solid foundation. Learn the tracks, understand the car and get the information everyone needs to achieve the ambitious goals we have set ourselves. To do this, we need to finish as many races as possible and to make sure that when we finish we’re in the points.
7. Have your family or anyone given you any advice?
They are all so pleased that I’ve been given this opportunity, but no one has told me what to do or what not to do, but I know that if I need some help or advice, all I need to do is ask. My father in particular has worked just as hard as I have to make this happen and to see his smile when we get to the grid in Bahrain will make me really proud.
8. Will you be competing in any other series this year, as you did last year, or will your attention be focussed on F1?
No, F1 will be my only series this year. With 20 races on the calendar, that doesn’t leave a lot of time to compete in anything else! I’ve waited a long time to get this chance and now all my efforts are going into this to be as successful as I can.
9. You’ve got two very quick team-mates, both of whom have F1 race experience. How do you think your respective talents will benefit each other?
Having two team-mates that have competed in F1 is an advantage as you have people who know the tracks, the business and how to deal with certain situations you only get when you are racing. Equally I hope that I can bring some experience from my outings last year, what I know about the team and a different perspective on things. I think we’ll complement each other.