Were you paying attention to today’s first practice session? If you were then you’ll have noticed that it wasn’t Jarno Trulli putting the Lotus through its paces alongside Heikki Kovalainen, but Fairuz Fauzy, the team’s test driver. Having done FP1 back at his home race in Malaysia Fairuz got back in the car this morning, and will be doing the same in Hungary, Singapore and Abu Dhabi.
Before putting the T127 through its paces Fairuz took some time out to speak to Badger yesterday. Read on to hear about his F1 debut on home soil, why he’s no fan of the test ban, and dabbling with Heikki Kovalainen in some classic Lotus F1 cars…
First up, you’re in the car for first practice at Silverstone this weekend- how are you feeling about it?
It’s a great opportunity to be back in the car. The last time I drove it was in Sepang, and since then both the car and the team have progressed a lot- so it’ll be better this time! Also, Silverstone is special for me. I’m looking forward to driving the new track layout and I only live 50 metres from the circuit, so it’s like my second home. I’m really looking forward to it.
But the session is about the team and development work. Of course, it’d be great to do some quick lap times, but at the end of the day I have to work for the team. We’ve got a few things to test.
What upgrades do you have for this weekend?
We’ve got changes to the bodywork and also some new aero parts. We’re looking to gain up to half a second, and if we can achieve that it’d be great. I think Silverstone is going to be our final upgrade- we’re going to concentrate on the 2011 car after that. So I’ll be doing a programme to evaluate the aero, and hopefully we’ll have enough time to maximise everything, as time’s very tight to try everything. But it’ll be great to see how the comparisson goes.
You mentioned the new section of track at Silverstone- what do you make of it from what you’ve seen?
I think it looks fantastic. There’s a combination of slow-speed, medium-speed and really high-speed corners, and I think it’s going to create more opportunities for overtaking- there’s definitely a lot of corners where you can overtake, so I think it’s going to be interesting to watch. For us, the most difficult part is that we don’t know what the tyre wear is going to be like, and we’ll only find that out tomorrow. It’s probably going to be a bit like Valencia, but we don’t know yet.
You did first practice in Malaysia earlier in the season- tell us a bit about that experience
Yeah, it was great to be there in an F1 car. I enjoyed racing in front of my home crowd in A1GP in the past, but to do it in an F1 car is something that I’ve always wanted to do and something I’ve always aimed for in my career. The session in Malaysia was the first time I officially drove in F1, so I was very happy, and it was an honour to drive in front of the home crowd. I hope I can do it as a race driver some day.
What’s it been like, as a racing driver, having to watch from the pit wall?
It’s been frustrating, but at the end of the day I’ve got to be professional about it- you need to start somewhere in F1. Heikki started as a test driver, but of course in those days there was no test ban, so it helped drivers like him get a seat. Now it’s a bit more difficult. They’re talking about maybe lifting the ban for next year, so we have to wait and see.
But from me, I just need to be prepared and work hard to stay in shape, physically and mentally. I just need to be positive and professional, because you never know. I need to be ready for my chance when it comes.
In Heikki and Jarno you’ve got two very experienced teammates with a lot of F1 milage- has it helped you to work with these guys, in terms of learning the ropes?
To be honest, experience is one thing, but I’ve got my own style of approaching things and I bring new things as well. To me, how I approach it is ‘don’t make mistakes’. You need to have a proper programme, don’t try to push too hard, because you’ve got to complete the mission that the team has set you.
Of course, tomorrow is my opportunity and everyone is saying ‘you need a lap time’, but to me it’s a job. It’s about allowing the team to evaluate things and gather data so I just need to do what I’ve been told. Of course, I’d love to nail a time, and if I’m given an opportunity on new tyres then I’ll do it.
What’s it like working for a team with as much Formula One history as Lotus?
Lotus are like Ferrari- they’re one of the teams to beat- so for me to open my career with them is fantastic. It feels like being with a top team. Of course, this is a modern Lotus, but the spirit is the same as the old one. We’ve got the blessing of Clive Chapman, and it’s very important to have the family’s support.
I think the team has done a fantastic job this year. For a new team to come in and get stronger and stronger and get closer to the midfield is fantastic, and so far we’ve finished a lot of races, which is very important for us.
What’s the reaction to Lotus been like back home in Malaysia, because it’s essentially a Malaysian team?
It’s been good. I think they’ll properly understand it after a few years. They want a Malaysian to drive, so hopefully I can get my shot. Of course, Lotus is a Malaysian team, but every country wants to see their hero in the car. That’s the most important thing.
So you were at the Classic Team Lotus Festival at Snetterton a few weeks back- how did that go?
It was a fantastic weekend! To be able to drive the modern F1 car and classic F1 car on the same weekend was great, and I didn’t think the crowd was going to be that big. It definitely helped that the current Lotus team, with Heikki and Jarno, were there. So yeah, it was a really good experience for me and I’m looking forward to being back their again next year.
I had an opportunity to try the Lotus Type 72, the one that Emerson Fitipaldi won the championship in, and Heikki drove the Type 78. The car was unbelievable, and we had some fun! We did a bit of racing in the classic cars, which was really good fun for us and the crowd. Most of the day the classic cars were just doing demo laps, going round slowly, but me and Heikki were really nailing it, so that was good fun for the crowd!
Finally, a question it’s always good to ask test drivers: do you feel more testing time is needed to allow guys like yourself, di Resta and other testers to get F1 experience and ultimately get a race drive?
Well, I don’t think the test ban makes a difference to the cars, because the teams will just spend a lot of money doing in-house research, so it’ll end up almost the same. But if they lifted the ban and restricted the development you’d create more competitive racing and it’ll provide better testing chances for the drivers.
So I think it’s very important for them to lift the ban, especially to help young drivers like myself. If they could create a session just for rookie drivers, like they used to do in A1GP, that’d be great. Maybe practice 1 could just be for rookie drivers. It would help them for sure, and if anything happens to the main driver the rookie is prepared- he knows what he’s going to face during the weekend. If you don’t do any testing or any Friday sessions and suddenly you’re in a race seat and you have to just jump in and qualify, I think that’s a bit unprofessional, and it can be dangerous as well.