The Japanese racer picked out his most recent F2 effort, not because of a memorable overtake or funny anecdote, but because of the hard work that he and his team put in to producing visible and tangible gains.
“Ahead of the Monza weekend just gone, my engineer and I worked quite a lot over the season to find out what will suit me well balance-wise and on the set-up side of things. I think we have been lost for the last couple of events, but we’ve been much better than where we were.
“In Qualifying in Italy, I think we were going to get a great result up until the last corner and we saw a Red Flag. I had to give up a lap that was looking good enough for the front row if I’d got a good last sector and then run to the line. We might even have had enough for pole. Despite that, I think at Monza we showed clearly that we are getting the real potential that we’ve had over the season.
“With the set-up, we found a way that I like to drive and a route that the car is suited to the way I like to go. Another thing is I’ve been lacking in confidence, not to drive the car but mentally. We knew from the very first test we did at the end of the season in Abu Dhabi, we had good potential but because of so many different reasons, we didn’t perform like we should have been. That’s quite hard mentally. One thing that helped was I know Monza really well so that probably gave me a boost on my side.
“It's annoying because we didn’t finish the lap. We had it up until Ascari and then I had one corner left. We were really gutted but we were much happier with that rather than not knowing what went wrong. We’ve been working and now know it was in the right way. The meeting after that session was quite a positive one even though we were P15 after Qualifying.
“In terms of race pace, we still need to work on it a bit. Typically at Monza we’re not too bad. As well as the tough Qualifying result, there was a DRS train in the race. Nobody was really standing out by doing something different. Everyone was settled on the pace of the car in front and then following to that. For the Feature Race, I think the tyre we chose to start with was quite decent.
“The first lap was good, and it looked like we could have a really decent race from there. We were the second or third car on prime from the top, we were confident in the free air and once the options were gone, we were expecting to go quite well. We were performing quite well but because of the Red Flag, we got completely screwed up by that. I don’t want to say we were unlucky the whole season. There have been some weekends that we just didn’t perform, sometimes on my side and sometimes on the balance of things together.
“It definitely means we have a better baseline to go from for Abu Dhabi. I think our offset from the baseline that we have to get the car where I like it. We had the post-season test session there last year and we were quite happy with ourselves. We’re ready to go.”