- Jerome d'Ambrosio Q&A
'I can't wait to be in the car'
Lotus interviews Jerome d'Ambrosio and team boss Eric Boullier ahead of the Belgian's return to a Formula One cockpit at the Italian Grand Prix
As third driver, Jérôme D'Ambrosio has been attending all Grands Prix this season in case his services behind the wheel were required. Now they are, he's as focused as ever. How does it feel to be called on to drive in the Italian Grand Prix?
I understand the circumstances in which the drive has come about, but for me it's a great opportunity and great challenge. I first want to thank the team for having faith in me and allowing me to step in the car for this race at Monza. I will do everything I can to do the best possible job. I've worked hard outside the car this year and tried to prepare as best I can just in case something like this happened. I want to make the most of this weekend.
How is your past form at Monza?
I had my last podium in GP2 there, so I have good memories of Monza. It is a very challenging track because of the low downforce. It's also going to be a special event in general, because it is the last race in Europe and Monza always has a very special atmosphere. I'm really looking forward to it.
What are the challenges of being thrown in at the deep end for a race like this?
It's a massive challenge, especially because I've not driven much this year and Monza is a unique low downforce track. But I don't want to focus on what will be hard or difficult. I just want to focus on what I can achieve. It will be challenging but I am already part of the team, I know everyone and I will have great support from them to do the best I can. I will be focussed 100% to make full use of free practice because that could be the key for me this weekend.
What have you been doing in preparation for your race?
As soon as I got the call on Sunday night I drove back to Spa to speak with Ayao Komatsu who will be my race engineer. We checked my seat and talked through everything I need to know. I will be spending time in the simulator, fine tuning myself with all the procedures. And I'll be speaking a lot with the engineers so I'm as prepared as I can be heading into first practice on Friday.
Monza's quite a unique track, where will your focus be?
I can't wait to be in the car! Monza is high speed and low downforce. Parabolica is a very important and a great corner. Ascari is also not an easy corner. There are some good challenges. It's a different track from most these days and there will be plenty to do. I'm looking forward to being there and looking over all the data, but most of all I'm looking forward to being there and driving.
Are you ready for extra attention you're going to receive this weekend?
My focus is on the race. I had a complete season in F1 last year. This is a good thing because I know how an F1 weekend runs and also I've been with the team this year. I know it's really busy at a Grand Prix, but in a good way because it's a lot of work with engineers which I like.
You did drive at last year's Italian Grand Prix - is that good preparation?
It wasn't too good as preparation as my car broke down on the warm-up lap! I'm definitely hoping for something better this year. My last real memory of Monza is from GP2 when I was on the podium. I'm going to be 100% focused to get a good result.
Eric Boullier, team principalEric, how do you feel after a tough weekend in Belgium?
It almost feels like a hangover! You just wake up with a headache, you try to remember what happened the day before and then slowly realise that is wasn't a nightmare. Romain was really banned for a race, which it hard to believe. But there's nothing we can do about this. We've accepted the decision of the Stewards, we did not appeal, and Romain apologised to the drivers involved in the incident. We now need to move on. Also, this penalty has somehow hidden Kimi's sixth podium this season. He's now one point away from third in the championship on his comeback year, and this is really impressive.
Will Romain attend the Italian Grand Prix, even if he doesn't race?
Of course. He's a member of the team. Jérôme D'Ambrosio will race alongside Kimi this weekend; was it an obvious choice? Yes. He's our third driver and he's able to step in straight away. This is why we've chosen him last winter. To be honest with you, Jérôme should have normally done a few FP1s for us this season. However, considering our level of performance since Melbourne, and with the rate of our technical development, it made more sense to keep our race drivers in the cars during the whole race weekends. I can't say that I'm happy about the penalty handed to Romain, but Jérôme deserves this opportunity. That's his big chance to impress.
Why didn't you announce the news on Sunday?
I wanted to tell the Enstone staff first, on Monday morning.
What has been Jérôme's reaction when he heard the news?
He's a driver. Racing is his passion so on one hand, I think he was very happy to be given this opportunity. On the other hand, he knows that there's a lot of expectation: the car he'll be driving should be able to fight for the podium, and he won't have much track time to get ready. That's a challenge and I'm sure that Mr D'Ambrosio can surprise a few people. One thing is for sure, he's half Italian and I think I know which driver the spectators will support apart from Fernando!
What advice will you give him?
I'll tell him to take things one step at a time over the race weekend. The worst thing to do would be to try and match Kimi's pace straight from FP1. Jérôme will do his homework from Friday to Saturday, with the engineers he knows, according to a tailor-made programme. I'm not worried. He knows our processes, our set-up philosophy, and he also knows Monza like the back of his hand. It won't be an easy weekend for us, but I'm not too worried.