A Quick Chat With…Charles Pic. Dubai, UAE

crankandpiston grabs a few words with current Caterham F1 Team driver Charles Pic at Renault’s Al Qiyada showroom in Dubai, and discuss the goals he’s laid out for his new team, the efforts involved in his debut season with Marussia, how much influence former Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis has had on his career, and why winning his first GP2 race was ‘quite good’.


You’d forgive Charles Pic for feeling pretty knackered about now. Just two days after competing in the Chinese Grand Prix, he’s in Dubai filming a GCC exclusive promotional video for Renault – the star of which is a Renault Koleos – before jumping straight back on a plane bound for Sakhir and the first free practice session of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix in just two days time. Throw in a fairly sizeable dollop of jet lag, and a schedule like that would have even the best of us flat on our back.

And yet, sitting opposite me in Renault’s Al Qiyada Showroom just outside Sharjah, the young Frenchman doesn’t even have bags under his eyes. Sitting there in a meticulously ironed Caterham team shirt, it’s just another day in the global office for the current Formula 1 driver.

Then again, as we’ve previously experienced with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, spare time for a current F1 pilot is scarce to say the least. And though it’s tempting to ask exactly how long his hair care regime takes every morning, it’s time we cracked on.


Charles, you’re now three races into your second season of Formula 1, and your first with the Caterham F1 Team. First things first, following the opening races in Australia (in which he finished 16th), Malaysia (14th) and China (16th again), how would you say your 2013 season is going?

“I think, to be honest, we are not happy with where we are at the moment. We are all working very hard within the team to progress, and I think for us from the first three races, it was more a case of trying to understand what was not working well on the car in order to bring the updates we need, and try to improve our season. We will have the first updates in Bahrain at the next race, and I think it will be interesting to see how the car reacts and how the race will go.”

You mentioned updates there. I don’t suppose you could confirm to crankandpiston’s readers what these might be…

[Smiles] I’m afraid I cannot give you the individual pieces, as I’m sure you know! But there will be some more new pieces – not just one – and you’ll just have to see the big picture on Friday.”


Tease! I’ll come back to Caterham in a second, but first I’d like to talk about your debut season with the Marussia F1 Team. Your consistency was praised last year, and at the Brazilian Grand Prix that year you took your best finish with 12th, very nearly securing Marussia 10th place in the standings (which, ironically would have relegated Caterham to 11th). What inspired the decision to move from one minnow team to another?

[Pause] I had a very good time last year with Marussia, but I’m very happy to be with Caterham for this season. For me it was a big opportunity to join Caterham and be closer to Renault. I’m very happy to be with the team, we have a good relationship, and we’re looking forward to good things ahead.


You mentioned that you enjoyed your time with Marussia. How difficult was it going into your first season of F1 knowing that scoring points was almost completely out of the question?

“I think the first year is always very difficult. From GP2, you have many things you need to learn, like the chassis, the braking system, and the engine power. You need some time to understand how this all works. For me the biggest difference is the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System). Last year I wasn’t using this with Marussia. Again, it’s another tool you have to setup and understand how it works.

“Yeah, the first year is always tough, but last year went very well for me. I had the chance to have a teammate who was very good – Timo Glock – and very experienced. He’s made the podium in Formula 1. So for me, to be racing alongside him, I was able to learn faster. My performance against him through the season I think was quite good. Yeah, I think it all went very well.”


Coming into 2012, you were the third rookie driver that Marussia – formerly Virgin Racing – had signed to partner Timo Glock (with Lucas Di Grassi signing for 2010 and Jerome D’Ambrosio coming in for 2011). Did this quick turnaround of drivers by the team make your first season more stressful?

“Not really. I think drivers change regularly in F1, and you need to do a good job to stay in F1. I think it’s quite simple really.”

But now you’ve been thrust into the team leader role at Caterham with only one F1 season under your belt. Again, do you feel any sense of added pressure?

“Not really…[pause]…as I say, we are not happy with our performance in Australia, and the position we find ourselves in now. First we have to understand why we are here and what we have to improve on the car, and then we have to work really hard to improve ourselves and move forward. I think…[pause]…we start to have a good view on this. I’m sure that if we work really hard, we can make a good step forward.”


Part of that step forward comes from your manager Olivier Panis…

“And Eric Bernard”

And Eric Bernard, both French former F1 drivers in their own right (Panis even won the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix for Ligier). How significant has their input been for your own development?

“I know them very well. They are both very good friends, so of course, it’s been very good for me and is still very good for me now to get their help and to be able to learn from their experience. Yeah, I think it will help me understand things faster and grow up faster.”

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