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Spanish Grand Prix - driver preview quotes 09 May 2007

Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 5 April 2007 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Thursday, 12 April 2007 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Sunday, 15 April 2007 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 8 April 2007

After four weeks of development and testing, the drivers are itching to go racing again in this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. But which team will reap the biggest benefits from their behind-the-scenes efforts? Who will master the newly-revised Circuit de Catalunya? Who will come away from Barcelona leading the championship? The drivers reveal their thoughts on the battle ahead…

Fernando Alonso, McLaren
2006 Qualifying - 1st, 2006 Race - 1st

"As my home race, the Spanish Grand Prix is massively important to me. The support I receive from the crowd all weekend is immense and it really does give me extra motivation to have a great race for them. However, there is no more pressure on me or more focus from me, when I am in the car it is the same as any track, but it is my home and it is only natural to want to win. The race in Bahrain was not great for me, but I have arrived in Spain leading the world championship and that is a good position to be in going into the European season. We had a strong test at this track earlier this week and we got to understand more about how the car performs at the Circuit de Catalunya and the changes to the layout. Although I have always really enjoyed the final two corners and their speed, the new chicane at the end of the track will hopefully lead to more overtaking during the race, which is great for the spectators."

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

"It seems to have been a very long time since we last raced, and I cannot wait to get back in my car and back to the action. There has not been any relaxing on our part though, when I returned to the UK I had a couple of days before returning to the McLaren Technology Centre to work with the team on the development programme. This break has also given us the opportunity to get some serious physical training in. During the races, it is more about maintaining fitness levels, when we have a couple of weeks we can really focus on improvements in performance. The Barcelona track is great to race on, it will be interesting to see how the new chicane affects this. I enjoyed the GP2 weekend last year, where I achieved a second and fourth place, and am looking forward to fighting for more points for myself and the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team."

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2006 Qualifying - 2nd, 2006 Race - 3rd

“It is a very complete circuit, and tough for the cars. From a driving point of view it's a good challenge too, and I always enjoy racing in Barcelona. I finished on the podium in 2006, and set fastest lap in 2005, so it suits me well. The races are always close, and you have to keep the car and tyres in good condition all the way through to get a good result. I'm certainly looking forward to the race.”

Heikki Kovalainen, Renault
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“Barcelona is a very demanding circuit for the car. You need a good chassis balance in the long corners, good aerodynamic grip, and also good mechanical performance - particularly on the exit of the slow corners. The track is very hard on the tyres, and you have to pay attention to the wear levels, particularly on the long runs. With that in mind, you also need to tune control systems such as the traction control properly, in order to be quick over a full race distance.

“When we tested at the track last week, the car seemed to be working quite well. The new parts have helped us make a small step, so hopefully it will be enough compared to our immediate competitors. Clearly, it is going to be another hard-fought weekend at such a demanding track, but we will be pushing to the maximum - and trying to get everything out of the car during qualifying and the race.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2006 Qualifying - 9th, 2006 Race - 5th

“More than ever I can't wait to get back on the track, also because the test session at the Catalunya was really positive. We were able to improve the F2007 considerably, because the new components work really well and the car is now much closer to my style of driving. I'm much more optimistic now: we can attack the best way possible

“To be in the front row and to win on the Catalunya circuit you need the best aerodynamics possible and a really good set-up: the whole package has to work the best way possible; after the tests I can see that the team has done some excellent work. The new chicane has made the track a little bit slower, but that applies to all of us: it's still a very demanding track, for cars and drivers.

“We come to Spain to win; and we'll do the best to accomplish this goal. It is a hard-fought championship and it is always important to gain as many points as possible.”

Felipe Massa, Ferrari
2006 Qualifying - 4th, 2006 Race - 4th

“I am looking forward to the Spanish Grand Prix. As you may know, they have modified the circuit and this will be the first time we actually race on the changed layout. I have to say from the point of view of just driving pleasure, the new version is worse than the old, because there are more slow corners and slow chicanes. That is not what we racing drivers like.

“But, I have to admit that from the point of view of making the racing exciting, for making a spectacle, it is a good idea, as there will be more overtaking opportunities at the end of the straight, as you no longer have a very quick corner. So for the show, I think it is better now. Of course, I can be optimistic about the Spanish Grand Prix: I won the last race, we had a good test at the same circuit that hosts the race and even though it is never easy to win races, I can be confident. Within the team, we just want to keep the momentum going forward and everyone is working very hard in every area to achieve that.”

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2006 Qualifying - 6th, 2006 Race - DNF

“Bahrain was disappointing for me but we had a productive test in Barcelona last week so I am expecting a better result at this race. We all know the Circuit de Catalunya very well from testing but this will be the first time we have raced on the new lay-out after the chicane was added to replace the penultimate corner. It is certainly better from a safety point of view but it has made it quite tricky to drive. We have made some aerodynamic changes to our car since the last race and, after a positive test at Barcelona, I am confident we will see an improvement in our performance this weekend. We will have to wait and see how much we have moved forward but my goal is to get back among the points after two disappointing races.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2006 Qualifying - 7th, 2006 Race - 9th

“I had a great race in Bahrain to finish seventh so I am going to the Spanish Grand Prix in a good mood. It was a difficult race for me but I was very pleased with my performance. However, we saw in Bahrain that we need to work on a few things if we are to compete with the fastest cars. We will have an updated car for this race and in testing that seemed to be a good step forward. Obviously, everyone else is likely to have improvements on the car but I hope we can make a performance gain. We tested at Barcelona last week and that should help us when it comes to finding a set-up, especially now the lay-out has changed. My most recent podium finish was in Spain two years ago - I don’t know if we can repeat that result but I am certainly hoping for more points.”

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2006 Qualifying - 13th, 2006 Race - 11th

“It’s good to be back in Europe, especially Barcelona. It is always a great place to race because of the amazing atmosphere there. It will be interesting to see how the new track layout works as this year will be the first time that we have raced on it. I’m looking forward to fighting hard again to get us to the top of the middle pack and get some points for the team.”

Alexander Wurz, Williams
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“Barcelona will be a very interesting race for everyone in the paddock because it will show which of the teams’ aero upgrades are the most efficient. Even though I have done so many tests at Barcelona over the years, it is always challenging to get it right over the race weekend, and this year particularly so because of the new chicane in the last sector. Qualifying will be very important because overtaking is almost impossible on the track.”

Jenson Button, Honda
2006 Qualifying - 8th, 2006 Race - 6th

"The fact that we test here so much makes the Grand Prix weekend feel very familiar and of course we know the track inside out. The key to a really quick lap at the Circuit de Catalunya is having a car with good downforce, you need to feel confident when you commit to the very high speed corners. Overtaking can be a real challenge here and one of the best opportunities is going into the first corner after the start. You can squeeze by there once the race has settled down but it is very difficult. The new chicane can also be tricky as it is extremely slippery and so very slow. One little mistake could cost you a lot of time there. It's also slowed the approach to the old final corner which was a great challenge."

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2006 Qualifying - 10th, 2006 Race - 8th

"Of course, all the teams have used the time leading up to the first race of the European season for development work. The test in Barcelona was also important, although the weather was pretty poor. The extensive testing carried out here means that all the drivers know the track like the back of their hand. It's a fast circuit and has some nice corners. The fact that this is now the home Grand Prix for the world champion has made it much more attractive. Additional grandstands were built for the 2006 race, and they filled up as well. Racing in this kind of atmosphere is great for all the drivers, not only Fernando (Alonso). The track layout has been modified - the new section is less exciting, but safer. Now I'm hoping for another good result for my 30th birthday!"

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

"I'm looking forward to getting started in Europe again and am aiming to earn myself a few more points in the coming weeks. Like all the Formula One teams we know the Barcelona track very well thanks to all the testing we do here. However, the circuit has been changed since last year. The last two corners are not as fast as they used to be, and that will affect car set-up. We have done some more testing in Barcelona in the lead-up to this year's race. Here, it was important to go the right way and find the ideal balance for the car. We have a lot of data at our disposal and I think we can be quick from the start.

"I like the track, but I'm afraid that the new corners have taken away some of its charm. Fast corners with high downforce are a real treat in a Formula One car. But now the two high-speed corners have been replaced by a tight chicane, where you are only doing 60 or 70 km/h. We used to hit 260 km/h through that part of the track. This change to the track means less fun, but greater safety."

Adrian Sutil, Spyker
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“So far not knowing the tracks hasn't been a problem - if you prepare well, then you will know the layout and then it's just a case of fine-tuning. But it will be good to get to a track and know its characteristics straight away. I put in a lot of kilometres at the two tests in February, so hopefully I can work on the set-ups from the first practice without having that installation period.

“It's got to be to have a clean first lap and get to the end of the race without any major problems. At this stage, we've just got to concentrate on getting as much experience as possible and not make any mistakes.”

Christijan Albers, Spyker
2006 Qualifying - 18th, 2006 Race - DNF

“I drove here last year and the year before, but in F1 everyday is different. Don't expect it to ever be the same, although of course the experience helps when you get to the track at first. You've just got to find a good base set-up and then go from there to qualifying. But we did some good work this week at the test that I hope we can apply next week.

“It's been a tough start, but it has been quite hard for everybody in the pit lane, but we're just doing as best as we can. Adrian (Sutil), myself and the team are all pushing really hard, but as you've seen, it's not easy. We've had some bad luck, but now it's time to draw a line under that and really look forward to the rest of the year.”

More to follow.