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US Grand Prix - selected preview quotes 23 Sep 2003

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring, Hungary, 23 August 2003

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
"Monza is not the track where we are the strongest and so I did the best I could do and our performance was not too bad considering. I am now looking forward to the US Grand Prix, where the characteristics of the MP4-17D will be more suited to the track than Monza, and we should perform better there. I need to get a good result as we are now at such a crucial stage of the Championship, and I will be driving flat out to try and achieve this. The
Indianapolis Motor Speedway has two very different sections and therefore a good mix of challenges. You go from the super fast banked corner and long straight into the twisty infield section, which leads to a compromise with set-up for the car to maximise performance over the entire lap. Although we drive in the usual clock-wise direction for Formula One, we race in the opposite direction to normal when the entire oval is used."

David Coulthard, McLaren:
"After our fuel pump drive failure with eight laps to go at Monza, we spent two days testing at Barcelona and it proved to be a positive session for the team. Although Indy has some unique characteristics, primarily the banking, it also has similarities with the Circuit de Catalunya, for example the long main straight and range of corners. Therefore we have been able to conduct some race set-up work alongside our development programme. I always enjoy the United States Grand Prix, we are racing at such an historic venue, and have the animated atmosphere of the Indianapolis crowd, who are real racing enthusiasts. It is therefore fantastic that Formula One arrives at the Motor Speedway with both Championships so delicately poised. It is probably going to be a very gripping race weekend, which should befit this enthusiasm and demonstrate to America how exciting a sport Formula One is. The last couple of years I have finished on the podium, which I am aiming to repeat this year."

Jacques Villeneuve, BAR:
"I was very pleased to come away from Monza with some points for the team. All year we have concentrated on race set-up, but were not able to show our hard work because the car often had mechanical failures and did not finish races. In Monza all the hard work finally paid off. It will be more difficult to achieve points at the remaining two tracks than it was in Monza. A lot will depend on the tyre war. Indy is very twisty on the infield and there is a lot of braking during directional change. On these parts of the circuit, heavier engines will be penalised more than in Monza. This is also the case for Suzuka, so they will be two difficult races for us. Having said that, we will continue to work hard and hope to be in a position to fight for some points. The F1 circuit in Indianapolis isn't a bad track, although I feel it's not as good as it could be. There is heavy braking at the end of the main straight, which offers a good overtaking opportunity. It's nice to go to Indy after Europe and this season it will be even more exciting because of the close race for the Championship."

Jenson Button, BAR:
"I like the track, although it's quite tight and twisty on the infield section and I prefer high-speed circuits. Having said that, the banking section is fun to drive and the straight is very quick. We spend a long time, more than 20 seconds, absolutely flat-out. I have enjoyed driving at Indianapolis in the past and am looking forward to returning this year, especially as we are more competitive, and I hope to add further Championship points to our total. I like visiting America and we always get a great reception at Indy - the atmosphere in the town is great and the city seems to be really hooked on racing. It's a great place for Formula One to visit and certainly one of the most famous venues. In terms of my hopes for this year's US Grand Prix, I am completely focused on repeating the strong qualifying performance which saw me line up seventh in Italy, and I hope to translate it into a really positive race result. The team has worked so hard this year and I am determined to push as hard as possible for good results in America and Japan to round off the season."

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams:
"I have some great memories from The Brickyard. First and foremost, my Indy 500 victory back in 2000 was very important to my career, and then of course my years in the CART series thereafter, particularly as my team at the time was based at Indianapolis. The atmosphere is simply fantastic, especially in the grandstands around the oval section, which are usually packed with people waving flags and playing music. I consider Indy to be a home race for me so I feel I must give my supporters a good race and hopefully there will be many Colombians in the stands giving me support.

"Our car can definitely do well at the Speedway as the power of the BMW engine suits the long straight, so I am anticipating a close fight with our immediate rivals. We have two main targets to focus on now: the team needs to secure the Constructors' Championship and I have to close the gap to Michael in the Drivers' standings and, if possible, get ahead of him. We need to keep the ball rolling and make the most out of this race because Suzuka is a circuit that really suits Michael's driving style. I'll be heading out to Indy a few days early in order to acclimatise myself and to fulfil some marketing commitments."

Ralf Schumacher, Williams:
"After missing the last race at Monza due to the accident I had at the test, I am sure that I will be 100% fit for the US Grand Prix - I am doing everything I can to achieve that. Indy is the home of US motor racing, so it is really something special to race there. I like the track because it has a lot of rhythm, is very quick and there are overtaking opportunities on the long straight as well as at the entrance of the parabolica.

"Indy is, however, a very demanding track from a technical point of view. For the long straight, when you drive at full throttle for more than 20 seconds, you need nothing else but sheer power and thanks to BMWs engine we fortunately have that. On the other hand, for the infield section, you really need maximum downforce through the several corners. As a result, achieving a good set-up of the car can be difficult. Last year was not so kind to us, and in particular me, and with the Championships so closely balanced, I think everybody will be careful this year."

Nick Heidfeld, Sauber:
"Indy has good memories for me. One of the best Formula One races I ever drove was there in 2001 when I lost first, second and seventh gears but still finished in the points in the C20.

"From a set-up point of view Indianapolis is a tricky circuit. If you lean off the wing it then makes the infield challenging because that's so tight and demands plenty of downforce. You can lose 20 kph on the straight depending on what wing settings you use, so you can see why the way you set the car up is so important.

"A thrilling thing is that you see all the spectators in those huge grandstands down the main straight. You just don't see things on that scale in Europe.

"The C22 has been getting better with all the modifications the team has been introducing, so I am hoping for a good race."

Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Sauber:
"Indianapolis is a special circuit, with a great atmosphere. The circuit has the longest straight that we have in Formula One, and it's great that part of it, albeit in the opposite direction, comprises the famous oval circuit. It's that, and the combination of the tight infield section, that gives it its unique character. A combination of high speed and history, mixed with all the pizzazz of Formula One.

"I have some good memories of the place. In 2000 I had a wonderful dice with Jacques Villeneuve to keep him behind to the flag and finish on the podium, but off the track the city has some great attractions too. I particularly remember a fun trip we had to the zoo last year."

Mark Webber, Jaguar:
"I first raced here last year but unfortunately did not see the finish line! However, despite that, I enjoyed the track and particularly the long straights. The engines are under more pressure here due to the long straight but of course that's all part of the challenge. I know that Cosworth Racing has been working hard since our points finish in Monza and we will all be looking to add to our score. Again the tyre war will step-up a gear and with only two races to go and three teams fighting it out for fifth, no stone will be left unturned by Michelin. The weather in Indy will also come into play in our strategy, as this can often be changeable over the course of the race. The circuit has so much history that it usually guarantees an amazing atmosphere on race day and looks particularly impressive as you blast down the main straight towards the first corner. Before the race weekend I will be spending some time in New York with team and sponsor activities and then heading south for what is Ford Motor Company's home race."

Justin Wilson, Jaguar:
"I have never raced at Indianapolis so this is certainly going to be a tough weekend for me. The history that the track has is fantastic and I will be taking great pleasure in adding it to my list of race circuits. I understand that this is a track that divides opinion, with some drivers enjoying it and others not. It will be relatively challenging for the cars but again with only two races to go the team both in Milton Keynes and at Pi Research and Cosworth Racing have been incredible in their focus to deliver the results on-track. I know that I have yet to finish a race so there will be some pressure to see it to the finish line here in front of our parent company's back yard but nothing that I can't handle! The team has been nothing but supportive since I joined and I simply want to see the finish line to prove my worth. If I can finish in Indy it will be a great boost for the team and myself."

Jarno Trulli, Renault:
(Q: This is the sole trip of the year Formula 1 makes to the States: do you enjoy it?) "Definitely, yes: there is a different way of living in the States, a different culture, and I enjoy that a lot. At Indy, the evenings are always very lively and the people very friendly and laid-back."

(Q: Indianapolis is one of the biggest names in world motorsport. It must be special to drive there?) "To be honest, the circuit itself is not particularly technical, and the key is to find a good balance between aerodynamic and mechanical grip, to get enough top speed but also good handling through the tight infield. As a venue, though, Indy is fantastic: we go to a lot of circuits during the season, but some of them still stand out. We have just visited Monza, which is one of the temples of motor racing, and Indianapolis is another circuit which holds that special status."

(Q: Obviously, the Indy road course is used just once a year: we are coming back to a situation in which Friday testing may prove a distinct advantage...)
"I think so. None of the teams ever test there, so for the teams and the drivers it is a little bit like a new circuit each time you go back. It just means we have time to get used to driving there, the nature of the circuit, and also the tyres we will be running. The sessions have been useful everywhere, but will particularly help here, just as they have done at the other flyaway races."

Fernando Alonso, Renault:
(Q: Fernando, it will be two years since you last drove at Indianapolis: are you looking forward to the race in the US?) "I look forward to every race, and enjoy every track: driving a Formula One car is always a special feeling. My feeling is that the circuit itself is not fantastic: the corners are quite flat, and not very interesting. However, I think there is probably more than one perfect line through the infield, so it will interesting to experiment and try to find the best solution."

(Q: Do you have a sense of the history of Indianapolis?) "Sure, this a very special race. During the year, there are some big races that everybody wants to do well at: places like Monaco or Spa. There are three or four Grands Prix that stand out and really have a prestigious name. Indianapolis is definitely among them."

Giancarlo Fisichella, Jordan:
"Monza did not start too well but it finished well and I seem to have interrupted the long spell of DNFs I have suffered, so I am looking forward to the United States Grand Prix. For me the next two races mean the last two opportunities to score points for Jordan before my departure from this wonderful team and I will make every possible effort for this to happen."

Ralph Firman, Jordan:
"The most important thing about going to Indianapolis is for me to race after the frustrations of the past few weeks. After my accident in Hungary I really would not have believed that I'd subsequently miss the Italian Grand Prix, but the effects of a 46G impact are obviously quite severe and I've been careful to rest, fully recover and get back into training. If there is an upside to what has happened it's that I have had a lot of time to concentrate on my next race. I have not raced at Indianapolis before, but I know it is a unique track and it will be interesting to race on the banked section. My objective is to have a strong weekend back in the car and I plan to work hard with the team to see if we can squeeze a few championship points from this and the final round in Japan two weeks later. From what I have heard Indianapolis is a great place with an amazing atmosphere, so I cannot wait to get there and be behind the wheel at such a famous venue."

Olivier Panis, Toyota:
"The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the most famous motorsport venues in the world and this gives it a very special ambience during the race weekend. The track itself requires a careful compromise of downforce levels to enable us to be quick enough along the very long pit-straight, whilst being competitive through the twistier and slower infield section. We found some interesting things at the tests last week, so I think we should be able to qualify in the top ten again. Then our priority must be to finish the race after the disappointing retirements in Hungary and Monza, hopefully with some points in the bag."

Cristiano da Matta, Toyota:
"I'm very excited about the US Grand Prix, as I haven't raced in the States since my CART days, although I have actually never driven at the Indianapolis
Speedway. Of course, I have seen it many times on the television, but my race debut will be on Friday morning. I don't think it will be too difficult to learn the F1 track, because there is just the long straight and a combination of slow speed corners. On paper, it looks like it will be more of a challenge to set the car up to perform well along the straight, as well as through the slower infield section. Whatever happens, I am sure it will be a highly enjoyable weekend."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
"We are geared up for Indianapolis. A lot of people say that it is a track that is more adapted to Williams, but we can't say that we agree. The same thing was said about Monza but, after a tough fight, we won out.

"Every tiny error can have serious consequences. Whoever is able to exploit the resources during the weekend will come out on top. The competition is so tight that crossing the line first could depend on each day's results. It is a great challenge that we take on without fear, and the other teams will do the same.

"The success at Monza has motivated us even more, but we know we are in a battle and we will not make the mistake of resting on or laurels. We are very well prepared and will show our fighting spirit again at Indianapolis."