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Spain - selected driver preview quotes 06 May 2004

Nick Heidfeld (GER) Jordan.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Imola, Italy, 24 April 2004 Mark Webber (AUS) Jaguar.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 2 April 2004 Cristiano da Matta (BRA) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 2 April 2004 Gianmaria Bruni (ITA) Minardi.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Imola, Italy, 24 April 2004

The Formula One field looks ahead to this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya, the fifth round of the 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Nick Heidfeld, Jordan:
"The Circuit de Catalunya is a nice circuit to be at, as a driver. Luckily we didn’t do as much testing there last year as a few years previously because it actually became boring because all the drivers knew the circuit so well! The track is demanding for both driver and car and it’s meant to be one of the circuits where aerodynamics are even more important than other tracks. One of the corners has been changed for this year which will make the track safer and hopefully make it a bit better for overtaking but I don’t think it will make a huge difference. I finished in the top six at Barcelona twice out of the four times I’ve raced there in F1, coming 4th in 2002. While we may not be in a position to match that at the moment, if everything goes smoothly I am confident of a good race.”

Giorgio Pantano, Jordan:
“I raced in Barcelona in F3000 and in Formula 3 and I was always quite quick there in those series. The Circuit de Catalunya is one of my favourite circuits, so I hope to do well there for the first time in F1 with Jordan. I like the track because of the fast corners and the fact that it’s a technical circuit. It’s less ‘stop-start’ than other tracks, with a real mix of all the elements of a good racing circuit. The atmosphere is usually good too. I am looking forward to enjoying the Spanish Grand Prix and we are hoping to pull everything together for a good result."

Timo Glock, third driver, Jordan:
“We did a lot of miles last week in Vairano and although it was only straight line testing, every minute in the car helps me improve and gain confidence. We collected a lot of data which I hope can be used in the next races. I am looking forward to taking part in practice at the Spanish Grand Prix because I tested with Jordan Ford in Barcelona at the beginning of the year. So I don’t need to spend time learning the track and can get straight to work on accumulating data for the weekend.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams:
“Most of the teams spend a lot of time testing at the Barcelona track so the drivers know the circuit like the back of their hand. We are certainly one of those teams, having completed thirteen test days already there this year and covered a total of 10,363 kilometres. Although we regularly run at Barcelona, I wouldn't consider it one of my favourite circuits as it doesn't really suit my driving style. However, I seem to have scored consistently at the Spanish Grand Prix having achieved two second places and one fourth place in the past three years with the team. I also secured an F3000 victory there in 1998, but that was quite a long time ago now!

“After a fairly disappointing San Marino Grand Prix, I have been trying to relax in order to regain my focus. I've been doing some training but have combined this with golf. The Spanish Grand Prix weekend will start slightly earlier than usual for me, and for some of the other drivers, as we will be playing in a charity tennis match near Barcelona on Thursday morning. I'm hoping this will give me a further boost in preparation for my on-track duties.”

Ralf Schumacher, Williams:
“Even though we couldn't complete the whole of the scheduled test programme due to the bad weather at Silverstone this week, every single member of the team certainly has the enthusiasm and motivation to improve upon our performance. We tested in Barcelona quite a lot over the winter period so we should be well prepared for the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. I don't think miracles should be expected, but it's clear we are able to fight for podium positions, like we did in Imola, and collecting as many points as possible is the most important thing.”

Jarno Trulli, Renault:
(Q: Barcelona is obviously well known to every team, but what factors can catch you out during the race weekend?) “The main factor is really following how the track changes, and adapting the set-up of the car to suit. Basically, lap times are quicker in cooler conditions, and tend to slow down as track temperatures rise. We need to monitor these changes, and ensure that the car balance stays the same during the long runs. The other factor is the wind: much like at Silverstone, this can have an impact on aero performance but also your choice of gear ratios.”

(Q: In terms of car set-up, what are the keys?) “You need a good car balance in the high speed corners so that you can really push and feel totally confident in the car, but the car also needs to be comfortable to drive in the slow-speed sections. As a driver you also get a strange sensation from the ripples in the track surface: they do not really need to be taken account of in terms of set-up, but they are slightly disorientating when you are in the car.”

(Q: What can we expect from you and Renault in terms of performance?) “I go to every race feeling optimistic, but especially Barcelona. I didn't get past the first corner last year, but the car was very strong, and we know the R24 is very competitive there too. I have had my strongest start to the season since I joined Renault, and we know this is historically a good circuit for our car. Our rivals are very strong at the moment, and the battle is very close, but we will keep pushing to improve our performance.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault:
(Q: Your home race must be a very special moment for you?) “We test at Barcelona all the time, but you only get to race there once a year. To see the grandstands full of 100,000 people and know that 95% of them are supporting Renault is a unique sight, and something it's hard to forget. It is a special feeling to be at my home race, in front of my people, and I am looking forward to that. The circuit will not be new for any of the drivers, but there is always something different about actually racing at Barcelona.”

(Q: What about the pressure and weight of expectation - does it affect you?) “For me, the attention adds motivation not pressure. Obviously, I need to make sure it doesn't disrupt my preparations, but the attention from the fans is definitely a big boost for me. When I am driving, it gives me something extra: somehow, you concentrate more, you focus more. I remember from last year on the last lap, how everybody was stood in the stands cheering - they are fantastic supporters in Barcelona, and the crowd definitely gives me a boost.”

(Q: All the drivers know Barcelona perfectly: where can you make a difference as a driver?) “It is much harder than at other circuits, definitely, but it comes from the car and also yourself as a driver. You can make up time under braking, and there are four fast corners where a bit more commitment, a bit more speed, can gain some time, particularly in the last two. But it is only small things, fractions of a second, and to create an advantage over your rivals, you must get every single lap right. It is very important to be as consistent as possible.”

(Q: And finally, what are your expectations for your performance here this weekend?) “We don't know - I don't want to create expectations and then fail to deliver on our promises. We need to be careful talking about performance because, in their own way, each one of the first races has been a surprise for us, and we have had different levels of competitiveness at each track. We will be doing our maximum, both me and the team, and we think a strong result may be possible. But let's wait and see.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber:
"Barcelona is a circuit I know very well from all the testing I have done there over the years. It's hard on tyres, and on your neck, especially in the last two corners that lead on to the main straight! You need a good car there, with plenty of downforce and grip. Without that you can struggle.

"In Imola we made a big step forward with our car, which has proven very reliable this season. I hope we can make a similar step for Barcelona. We are also making progress in our understanding of the best way to set the car up.

"I love the atmosphere in Barcelona itself. It's one of the best places to live and to have fun, and my best memory of all my races at the circuit is setting fastest lap there in 1997 and being very competitive until I had an accident with Eddie Irvine."

Felipe Massa, Sauber:
"Even though I have done a lot fewer races than Giancarlo this circuit is also very familiar to me because of testing so often there. It's a very nice circuit, with some very quick corners that are not so easy. They are very challenging. There's also a mix of slow and medium-speed corners too, and the key is setting up the car for these rather than for the high-speed stuff. The surface is very abrasive so it's important to make the right tyre choice and to look after them in the race.

"Barcelona is a beautiful city. I love the place. It's one of the most beautiful that we visit. And I have a fond memory of my only race there: in 2002 I finished fifth for the team."

Cristiano da Matta, Toyota:
"We don't have any major new parts for the Spanish Grand Prix but what makes me excited about going to Barcelona is that our car has run better in testing there than all the other tracks we have been at so far this year. The TF104 suits the Circuit de Catalunya quite well, so I hope we can perform a little bit better there than we have been at the other races so far this year. Last year, I scored my first ever F1 points at Barcelona when I finished in sixth place, so I will be looking for a repeat performance this weekend."

Olivier Panis, Toyota:
"I must have done thousands and thousands of testing kilometres around
Barcelona. The circuit has traditionally been good for Panasonic Toyota Racing.
We were very competitive at last year's event, running in the top six all weekend. For this year's race we should hopefully be a little bit better than at the first four races of the season. It's a very tough circuit for the car, hard on the tyres and very physical with a lot of high speed corners. The TF104 is better at handling high speed corners compared to last year's TF103, so we'll be pushing as hard as ever to close the gap on the teams in front and perhaps we could score our first points."

Ricardo Zonta, third driver, Toyota:
"Like most of the drivers, I know the Circuit de Catalunya extremely well. I've raced there many times and tested there even more. It's a very challenging track and it's especially difficult to overtake. Downforce and aerodynamics make a big difference to setting a quick lap time, so these areas are a priority. Reliability is always important, but more so in Barcelona because all the teams that go there know their set-ups already, and they know the limits of the car. By the time we put our lap time together, it is really difficult to improve much more on that. Whatever happens, we will all be hoping for an improved race weekend in Spain this weekend."

Jenson Button, BAR:
"Following on from 2nd in Imola, I am confident that we should be very competitive in Spain and, hopefully, even closer to the red cars! We have had very positive tests in Barcelona and the car has shown to be very strong there. The whole team, Honda and Michelin are committed to getting the best results possible. We are pushing hard to maintain our current momentum.

"I enjoy racing in Barcelona. The track is a good challenge, with a lot of emphasis on aerodynamic efficiency. Most of the drivers are familiar with the circuit as we test there quite regularly. Although I did not have the greatest of races in Barcelona last year, I am looking forward to an exciting one this year."

Takuma Sato, BAR:
"Barcelona is the circuit where the team has consistently performed well during winter testing, so I am very excited about the race next week. We have had very strong performances during the first four races and with the improvements that have been made to the car during the test at Mugello this week, I am feeling confident that we can achieve a strong result for myself and the team."

Mark Webber, Jaguar:
"I scored two points here last year so I will definitely be aiming for that again. The track is good fun and yet offers us a challenge with its fast corners and overtaking opportunities. I think it is a well-designed track that allows the spectators to enjoy the race as much as the drivers which is so important these days. We are well prepared going into this race weekend as this track is really like our home track as we spend so much time there as a team. We have an extensive amount of data on the circuit and this allows us to use Friday for setting up the car as opposed to generating basic data that can often be the case at some of the tracks that we only visit annually. I have not been to the factory in Milton Keynes this week as I have been to Istanbul with one of our sponsors, but I know having spoken to Dr Mark Gillan that the team has been working on the R5 and some developments prior to the race weekend. I also understand that Cosworth Racing has been looking into the reasons behind my intermittent electrical engine fault from Imola and are confident that they have resolved it. The track is medium to high down-force and this suits us well, after all our testing there we will be giving it our all and we will be going racing for some championship points.”

Christian Klien, Jaguar:
"The fifth race is upon us already and I can hardly believe it. I have started four races and finished four races so I am pleased with the reliability of the R5. This is all down to the team from everyone in the factory to the people at Cosworth and our tyre partner Michelin. The R5 is always well set-up for me and I would like to try and reward the hard work with a good finishing position in Spain. I know the track really well and I like the fast corners and the fantastic long straight. The car is suited to this track, although since all the teams test here regularly our competition is going to be as tough as ever. We have been making changes to the car step by step and I was at the factory on Wednesday this week to see how we are progressing. The team is working so hard and I have to thank them for fixing my chassis from Imola in time for Barcelona. The chassis was damaged in my spin on the Saturday last week but the guys have repaired it so we are taking it as the T-car for Spain. I am looking forward to the weekend in Barcelona, it's a country I like very much and it will be one of the tracks where I feel most at home."

Bjorn Wirdheim, third driver, Jaguar:
"I like racing at the Circuit de Catalunya and it makes a difference that this is a track where I have some experience in a Formula One car. We have tested here as recently as two weeks ago so the team is really comfortable here as am I. I have also raced here with F3000 and have had a podium, so I know it fairly well and historically it has been a good track for me. It's also one of the more physical tracks on the calendar and it is quite challenging, which is a good thing. There are some very fast corners and these are lots of fun for us as long as we are accurate in our judgement. They have modified the track since the race here last year and they have made another overtaking opportunity, not an easy one as it is quite technical, but an opportunity none the less. Ahead of Barcelona I am testing in Lommel in Belgium today doing some straight-line testing for the team. I will be focusing on our starts and control performance and of course, any time that I spend in the car is good for me.”

David Coulthard, McLaren:
“Again it wasn’t an ideal result for us in Imola and I am obviously not where I want to be in the Championship, but we are working hard as a team to improve our competitiveness in all areas. As with most of the drivers, I enjoy the Spanish
Grand Prix, the atmosphere is always very enthusiastic and the track is great to drive. It has a layout that usually leads to exciting racing, with corners such as the right of Repsol where you have quite a lot of speed going into the turn, but have to brake late to get a good time and the fast sweeps of Renault. The first corner, which is located at the end of the mile long start-finish straight is also fairly key. There have been a number of modifications to the circuit since last year’s event, with the most significant the re-profiling at La Caixa. There is now a sharper left turn with a short straight cutting through what was previously in infield, and back to the previous circuit. This replaces the long sweeping curve and has been designed to encourage overtaking.”

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
“Despite my first points finish of the season at the San Marino Grand Prix, we still have some way to go as we want to be at the front of the grid. It will take time, but everybody is working hard towards this. The Barcelona track is probably the circuit where all the teams test the most during the year, this of course helps with set-up for the race during the free practice sessions. The Circuit de Catalunya is an interesting track to drive and another that I enjoy due to the range of corners, right and left handers, long sweeps and tight turns, and the super-quick straight, which sees us reach speeds of some 310kph / 190mph. The circuit is quite challenging physically, as the fast corners mean your body is under pressure for most of the lap.”

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
“We would like to continue our series of victories at Barcelona; even though things are becoming more difficult. To tell the truth, Spain will be the hardest test so far and, as I said at Imola, I expect BAR-Honda to perform well. They did well during winter testing and in the last round of tests at Barcelona and it wouldn’t surprise me if they showed this form again this weekend. I am tempted to say that they are among the favourites but Renault are up there too. We are a strong team too and we want to win at all costs. Personally, I can’t wait for the fifth race. I think it will be an electrifying one.

“It is believed that a good showing at Barcelona, or simply being competitive here, means being competitive everywhere. Well, I have my doubts about this and don’t think that it still holds true. There are a few things that make me think that it won’t be the case. If we consider that some cars, because of their rigid structure, should struggle to cope with the fast curves at Barcelona, and instead they seem to do well. This either means that the cars themselves are good or that the characteristics of a track, for modern F1 cars, are not as significant as they were in the past. I am curious to discover the answer to this.”

More to follow.