After a long wait you were finally able to see the new car, the RB9. How did it feel?
SV: It was a great feeling to see the car fully assembled because we’d only seen bits and pieces of it during the winter. So, yes, it was a very special moment.
How much do you get involved in the process of creating the car?
SV: I try to stay out of it, to be honest. When you design a new car, a lot of that process involves taking raw data from last season and looking at the areas where we want to improve. So I didn't get a phone call at Christmas asking for my opinion (laughs).
What goals have you set for yourself with the RB9?
SV: Right now it's hard to say what we can expect. I’m certain that we can expect another long and tough year so everything depends on the reliability of the car. That's why we hope that the car will be quick from the start so all that we can concentrate on making it as reliable as possible. The rules haven’t changed that much from 2012, which means many teams will be competitive. Every race can make a big difference so we will have to fight for every point.
Have you come up with a nickname for it yet?
SV: Actually we don't have a name yet. But looking back at the last year’s, we're totally in time. We normally name the car very close tot he start oft he season, usually the week before Melbourne. For now we have to focus on testing it and then, after we got to know one another, we'll find a suitable name I'm sure.
Pirelli have said that the tyres will be a bit softer than last year. Do you think that will be an advantage for some teams?
SV: That's another thing we need to figure out. We had a set of those tyres in Brazil, but the day we tested them was so hot that we couldn't really use any of the data. I think we need to be patient and make sure we adapt quickly to everything during the season. But I'm sure that the tyres are one of the biggest changes this season.
Judging from what you have seen from the other teams – are you worried that some have taken a more dramatic approach to developing their cars? Who do you see as your main competition?
SV: I think the best drivers are in the best teams and we’ll be up against the "usual suspects". It's no big secret that Fernando will be one of the most dangerous competitors and I think highly of him and his abilities. But you can’t rule anybody out – Mark, Lewis, Jenson are all excellent drivers and equally dangerous.
You are only 25 and already a three-time Formula One world champion? How do you motivate yourself for the new season? Is there anything left to prove?
SV: I think it’s important not set any limits on yourself and to let things happen. Three years ago we didn't come up with a plan to win the championship three times in a row. The goal was to do our job as well as we can and make the best of our situation. It's the same this year. 2012 brought us all closer together, we are an even better team than we were before, but we all know that 2012 is over and that 2013 is all that counts. We will all start with zero points and know that just one point can be decisive in the end. So we will be coming in the new season with the aim of fighting as hard as we can, being steady and focussing on our own performance.
Having won so much, would you be more motivated if you were to try something new?
SV: Well, not yet! (laughs) I think things like that are First World Problems. We should never forget how lucky we are to be in our situation We’ve been very successful over the last few years, but we’ve also worked very hard to get there. Success doesn't fall into your lap and I guess that the 2012 season is the perfect illustration of that. Sure, there are other seasons, like 2011, in which everything goes perfectly and you dominate from start to finish, but those times are few and far between. We are proud of what we achieved, but we are aware that it’s no guarantee of future success. In Melbourne everyone starts from sqaure one and everyone has a chance to get to the top. Just because we have the No1 and No2 on our cars, it doesn't mean we'll have them at the end of the season. But to make it happen, to make it possible again – that's all the motivation we need.
Are you annoyed when people write that Fernando Alonso was the best driver in 2012?
SV: Everyone is entitled to their opinion and that's a good thing. If we all thought the same there would never be any progress. The only thing I care about is what we think about ourselves and that we are aware of the fact that there is always a way to evolve. Last year wasn't perfect, but I think no team would say that. I’m sure we deserved the titles, but it's all in the past now. It’s what lies ahead of us that counts.
Fernando decided to not test his car in Jerez. Why do you think that was?
SV: Well, personally, I can’t wait to get into the new car and put it to the test. Mark did the first two days in Jerez, I have the last ones. I wouldn't mind going first but I’m well known for my patience so I guess I can wait (laughs). As for Fernando – I don't think that it will be a disadvantage if he doesn't test here. He may have decided not to test here because the track isn't part of the F1 calendar. To me, Jerez is extremely important, mainly because I want to spend as much time in the car as possible.
You are one of the few top athletes who manages to totally disappear during off season. How was your winter and what did you do?
SV: It's normal to need a break after such an exciting season. I just enjoyed relaxing at home. I don't have a secret or anything, I just try to use what the time I have as well as I can catch up on all the things that didn't get much attention during the season. But for me, the nicest thing is to sleep in my own bed and make my own breakfast. Don't get me wrong – I really enjoy the buffet breakfast at the hotels, but sometimes it's great to stand in the kitchen for yourself.
These days you are an international superstar and everyone knows your face. Are there moments in which you would love to have a "normal" life?
SV: My life really hasn't changed that much. I don’t think of myself as a superstar, I’m a driver. People recognise me on the street, but I’m fine with that. I’ve I only had positive encounters. It's really nice to have some relaxed conversation with fans, after all, they had a huge impact on us and have rooted for us for all these years. It's only fair to take your time and say thanks. For me, it's the right thing to do.