Renault head to Melbourne conceding that they may be outside the top ten but that doesn't mean points won't be possible…
Q: Do you have a point to prove on your Formula 1 race return?
KM: Hopefully I’ll prove many points. I’m extremely motivated after a whole year away. I’ve been sitting on the sidelines during the races for so many weekends and I’m hungry to come back and prove my worth. I’ve raced my whole life and I’m extremely hungry and keen to get in a race car again and even more so with Renault Sport!
Q: How well prepared do you feel ahead of the Australian GP?
KM: I feel ready for Melbourne. We’ve had some good days of testing, with lots of laps: more than 100 every day and more than 500 in four days. Putting in the mileage was the main thing as I needed to get back up to speed after some time out of a car. I really couldn’t have asked for more. I’ve been through systems checks and feel comfortable going to Melbourne and doing a race. At the moment I think we are just outside the top ten but if all goes well then who knows. You can never definitely hope for points, but if we leave Australia with points we can be happy.
Q: How do you feel within the team?
KM: It’s a good place to be. Renault’s ambitions are big and that’s the most important thing for a driver; to be in a team that aims to win world championships. Renault, Viry and Enstone – it’s a good combination and they have won championships not that long ago. I have a lot of confidence that they have not forgotten how they did it. The guys at Enstone had tough years but stuck together and came out of it. Now they have a long term plan and backing, it creates a buzz. It’s the perfect place for me as a young driver.
Q: How have you found the car so far?
KM: We have a good platform to start with and are comfortable with what we have. We are not entirely happy with the performance but we are comfortable with where we are and what we have achieved in the short space of time we have had. It’s good and we know that it can be better. It’s not yet the best power unit or the best car, but we know how to improve and need to get our heads down, work hard and get to the top. We need to keep working, keep together and it will come good.
Q: You had a great start to your F1 career in Melbourne, so you must have some good memories. What are your thoughts ahead of your 2016 debut?
KM: I enjoy going to Melbourne. In 2014 I had a brilliant start with the podium, but I went again last year and it wasn’t as good as the first time! Hopefully we will complete the race this year and get some points. That’s my aim. If both myself and Jolyon can come away with points, it would be a massive achievement!
Q: What is your approach to the season?
JP: To be as prepared as I can be and deal with the challenges as they arise. It's been good to have the winter break to get myself in a very good place mentally and physically. My winter training's been really intense and positive. When you're unable to drive the car it's good to be able to work on your fitness. Unfortunately I've had to contend with the British weather so I've done quite a bit inside in the gym! I'm a bit of a fair weather player, but I have been outside running when it stops raining!
Q: How would you sum up your winter testing?
JP: We had some frustrations but in the end we managed to get some good performance running in. I was unlucky in that every day I picked up a problem, which has cost us a few hours. It's not what you want when you're a rookie, but all the same I have done a reasonable amount of laps and Kevin has had four very good days so we have been able to gather a lot of information on the car. We know it is a strong basis to start from and we'll keep working to deliver more performance.
Q: How important do you think last year's free practice outings are for you?
JP: It's important as there are a lot of procedures and the cars are very technical to drive so it has been a big help to have the experience of last year to fall back on. Even though I did not get the greatest amount of laps in testing, I don't feel too behind and know that when we turn up in Melbourne it will be OK.
Q: What are your expectations for Melbourne?
JP: I am really looking forward to Friday when the 22 cars are out on track pounding round. I think everything will be ready. We always keep working on performance but when it comes to a race weekend you give it your all to achieve a good result. It will be busy for us in the race but I feel I'm in an OK position right now.