Last year the Portuguese – a former podium finisher in F1 and a race winner in WTCC – teamed-up with Gabriele Tarquini in the Castrol Honda factory team. He struggled in the first part of the season, often sidelined by incidents and technical issues, but improved consistently race after race and was able to claim his first victory in the Civic at Shanghai.
Last year was the first full season for Honda after the three appearances in 2012. Were you happy of how the car progressed from Monza to Macau? “Yes very much so! We started fighting for making the top-ten and struggling to finish some races due to reliability issues. But we ended fighting for podiums and victories at almost every race in the second part of the season, and got rid of reliability problems ! The evolution was clear and very good !”
You, personally had a tough season with a lot of bad luck in the first half. How did you rate 2013 for yourself? “Yes some bad luck, but I tried not to pay too much attention to it and focused on the job. Whatever happens, you must learn from it, stand up and go fighting again. I had some tough moments, but never doubted myself, the car or the team. I knew things would turn around. I am very happy and proud of the second part of the season, with many podiums and a victory.”
The new season brings new regulations and new cars. What is your feeling after testing the car? “It’s a beast of a machine! I am so excited about this new regulations that make a brand new championship! It’s a fresh start, with completely new cars and rules. It’s so much fun to drive and more difficult to go to the limits. It’s going to be very exciting. It’s also a technical challenge as we have to go through a whole new range of setups and ideas. Very motivating at all levels.”
How do you see the competitors you will face? Who do you fear the most? “We fear nobody! But we have a huge respect for our competitors, of course, and we don't underestimate anyone! We all start from a new, blank sheet of paper. So anything can happen. Of course we expect Citroën to be a strong competitor. They have the budget and have been on track since many months now with the new car, so there is no doubt they have an advantage. But that's the game, and we will have to deal with it and give them and the others a good fight!”
What are your personal goals for 2014? “For me it’s clear. I want to have a good start of the championship, for a change... Score some good points and be in a position to fight for the Drivers’ Championship!”