Europe - selected driver preview quotes 27 May 2004
The men at the wheel on one of the oldest race venues
Just a week on from the confines of Monaco, Formula One racing returns to the more conventional setting of the Nurburgring for the European Grand Prix. Its a home race for the Schumacher brothers, Jordans Nick Heidfeld and Timo Glock, BMW, Mercedes and the Toyota team, who are based in nearby Cologne. The historic track is also a firm favourite with many of the drivers.
David Coulthard, McLaren:
After the disappointing end to my Grand Prix in Monaco, I am now looking forward to getting back to racing at the Nurburgring. The European Grand Prix as an event is a completely different concept to the Monaco Grand Prix. The circuit is fairly flowing in nature with a good mix of corner types. There are larger run-off areas, longer straights, the track is wider and overtaking is possible. The Nurburgring is famed for understeer, so a key focus in the early stages of the event will be working on minimising this effect. It is also fairly smooth, which tends to give good grip so a medium downforce configuration is the norm. We obviously have had a quick turnaround for Europe following Monaco on Sunday. It doesnt, however, make too much of a difference to the drivers, but is more a massive logistical effort for the teams to move all the equipment over.
Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
The 3.199 mile / 5.148km Nurburgring is a medium-fast circuit with a number of overtaking possibilities. It is therefore fairly interesting to drive and often leads to exciting racing. The main passing chances are before Veedol Chicane and the hairpin in the Mercedes Arena. The Veedol chicane is a tough braking point as we drop from the highest speed at the Nurburgring, of some 190mph / 300km/h, to 60mph / 96km/h, and it is under braking where you can try and pass. You then have to drive aggressively over the kerbs to carry as much speed as possible through the corner. The European Grand Prix has also historically been affected by unpredictable weather, which of course adds another element to the race. We always have good support especially from the Mercedes Grandstand at this event, as it is a home race for Mercedes-Benz.
Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams:
The Monaco Grand Prix is only just over and we are already heading to the next race. It is quite demanding for all the team having back-to-back races, but some of us are used to it as we often have to leave for a test session straight after a race.
I quite like racing at the Nurburgring. I think this track is challenging which, for a driver, makes it fun. We have always managed to perform quite well there, both in qualifying and in the race and we will have some new bits on the car for this Grand Prix, so my impression now is that we could aim for a good result.
Thanks to last weekend's fourth place in Monaco, I have added some further points to both mine and the team's tally. We still need to work hard though in order to pick up as many points as possible and catch up with the front-runners.
Ralf Schumacher, Williams:
I was absolutely delighted to win my home race last year. Such an event is an unforgettable highlight in a drivers' career, so a repeat performance would be more than welcome. I will obviously do everything I can to make it happen, although our package is not working as well as it was last year. I can promise, though, that we will keep working around the clock to return to form and compete with the front runners.
The Nurburgring has always been special for me. It is only a short drive from Kerpen, where I grew up, so I have watched many races there. I also practiced my road car driving on the old Nordschleife . I've competed in 18 races on the Nurburgring and I won my first race in a Formel BMW Junior car there in 1993, which has to be a good omen. In any case, I am really looking forward to the great atmosphere and hope to see many BMW WilliamsF1 Team fans at the track.
Cristiano da Matta, Toyota:
"We are heading to the European Grand Prix on the back of our successful points-scoring Monaco race, but I think it is unlikely that we will be able to repeat that performance this weekend. The Nurburgring is another maximum downforce, slow-medium speed circuit, which on paper should not suit us, so we simply have to keep pushing to extract the most from our TF104 race car. With our factory just down the road in Cologne, the Nurburgring is effectively a home Grand Prix for Panasonic Toyota Racing, so we will have the additional support of all the team employees watching from the grandstands, which will be very welcome. I just hope we can give them all something to cheer about."
Olivier Panis, Toyota:
"We don't have much time to reflect on the four championship points that we scored last weekend in Monaco as our thoughts have already turned to the European Grand Prix weekend at the Nurburgring. We had a highly competitive package at this race last year, and I was fastest in two of the practice sessions, but in the end we were unable to turn that performance into points. I think this weekend's race will be much tougher, but we are working in the right direction and everyone wants to do well at the Nurburgring, a local race to everyone in the team in Cologne."
Ricardo Zonta, third driver, Toyota:
"I last raced at the Nurburgring back in 2000 before the recent changes to the first corner, so I will have to learn the new infield section on Friday morning. I don't see that as a big problem and I am looking forward to again assisting the team with tyre selection and car set-up in free practice. Michelin did a very good job for us in Monaco, and I believe we are making small steps ahead in all areas in terms of the car's performance. Because we don't have testing this week, most of the Nurburgring preparations were done at Paul Ricard before the Monaco GP. After our good result at the last race, I hope we can continue that trend in Nurburgring in front of the team's home crowd, although I think we will again be looking at battling with Jaguar, Sauber and McLaren-Mercedes for the midfield positions."
Jenson Button, BAR:
"We are very excited about the European Grand Prix this weekend after a great race for us in Monaco. There is just a week between these two races so we are unable to test in-between, but we aren't too worried because we have done a lot of testing at Paul Ricard and Barcelona for the two races. Also we have a good car that should suit the Nurburgring circuit well. It's a track I enjoy, particularly because of its high speed corners and undulations. I have gone very well there over the last couple of years so I am really looking forward to it and can't wait to start running on Friday morning."
Takuma Sato, BAR:
"The Nurburgring is where I had my European racing debut in Formula Opel, so I have lots of good memories of the circuit. This is a great track for me, with some high-speed technical corners and I like the way the track goes up and down hill. The Monaco GP was very disappointing for me personally but we know that our pace and performance are at a very high level, so I am very much looking forward to returning to the Nurburgring this weekend."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber:
"I lost my first Grand Prix win at the new Nurburgring back in 1999, when I was leading easily in the wet but lost control and spun when my car's headrest came lose. I've scored points there a couple of times since.
"It's a good circuit, where you can get into a nice rhythm and flow, though it isn't particularly challenging. You need above everything to get the car working for you, and the first couple of corners are especially important.
"I was very happy with the C23 at our test in Silverstone two weeks ago. We have an even better understanding of setting the car up and I have more confidence in it, and that all helps. I am feeling comfortable with my situation here, which is living up to my pre-season expectations."
Felipe Massa, Sauber:
"It was great to score four points in Monaco and to help the team to move up to the fifth place in the World Championship for Constructors. Now at the Nurburgring we need to try to defend this position, which will not be an easy task, for sure. However, I was sixth there in 2002, so naturally it is a circuit with good memories for me. I raced all the way through with my Sauber team mate Nick Heidfeld and finished a place ahead of him. It would be nice to get a similar result this weekend although I'm aware that it will be difficult.
"The new Nurburgring flows quite well as is very technical, especially the first corner. You have a choice of line going in, but it's very important to get a clean and quick exit to avoid being repassed by the drivers you have just overtaken on the entry.
"We made some good progress with the C23 during our recent test at Silverstone, prior to Monaco. We had some new aerodynamic parts and the car was very well balanced and stable in the fast corners there."
Jarno Trulli, Renault:
(Q: So, first pole and first race win in Monaco. What can we expect this weekend?) This weekend we start again, it is a new challenge. The circuit is different, the conditions are different, and we will just work as normal, trying to make the car as fast as possible. We made some improvements to the car before Monaco, but it was difficult to judge them accurately last weekend because it is such a strange circuit. The Nurburgring will give us a much better idea of how much we have improved the car's competitiveness, and so I am looking forward to starting practice.
(Q: Looking ahead to the Nurburgring, what is your view of the circuit?) To be honest, the Nurburgring is not a particularly technical circuit. I know it well from when I raced there in F3, and before last weekend, I got my best F1 result at the track when I finished second in 1999. The main thing is to find a good rhythm - there are lots of corners close together, and if you get into the right groove then you can be quick. When we are setting the car up, we obviously need to get a good balance as soon as possible, but you also need confidence in the car through the high-speed corners and stability during the heavy braking for Turn 1 and the chicane. Also, the conditions change a lot during the day, from very cool conditions in the morning to quite warm in the afternoon, and you have to take account of that when setting the car up on Saturday morning. Our car was competitive in cooler conditions in Melbourne, so hopefully we can be again.
Fernando Alonso, Renault:
(Q: So this weekend we will arrive at the Nurburgring, and a much more standard circuit than Monaco: what are your thoughts on the German track?) Unlike Monaco, where the driver can make a big difference, the Nurburgring is a track where you can only start to be really quick when you have set the car up and feel comfortable with it - there are not many places where the driver can add something extra. However, we need to work hard with the engineers because it is not easy to get the maximum out of the car there, especially when the weather conditions and temperatures change so much, and you need a consistent car balance in lots of different types of corners: very low speed and also the quick parts. The changes two years ago definitely improved the overtaking opportunities which means you can hope to make up positions during the race.
(Q: The team could have finished one-two in Monaco: what can we hope for this time?) We think the R24 will be competitive at the Nurburgring, and we hope to have a trouble-free weekend so that we can achieve the performances we know we are capable of. I don't know if we can fight for a win again, it will be very tough. But we will be aiming for the podium, definitely, and the cars were very reliable again in Monaco. Everybody is just so motivated right now at Renault, I think there will be a very good spirit in the team this weekend.
Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari:
At the Nurburgring we will do our best on a circuit where we had a tough time last year. Tyres will play a very important role and the lap times between the drivers are usually very close at this track, so it should be another interesting weekend. We have a chance to be more competitive than in Monaco and I will be interested to see what the weather will be like up in the mountains as we are going to be there earlier than usual in the year.
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
I am always pleased to return to Nurburgring, but this time is even more special! Only a week since the Monaco race, at Nurburgring I have the chance to transform the disappointment of Monte Carlo into a successful event and this really motivates me. I hope to have the support of the fans who have always been behind me! It is the first race in Germany this year and it is my home race. The circuit is close to my home town of Kerpen and I feel even more motivated than usual. Racing here always gives me a good feeling and I dont feel any pressure, as some might think. The track shouldnt hold any surprises. After the recent work done on it, it should be smoother and should favour a balanced set up and offer good grip. We should be able to get the most out of our cars and, in all honesty, I cant wait to take on the track in this fantastic car. After a pointless Monaco, my objective can only be to challenge for victory and this is all I have in mind. I am sure that we are in with a good chance and I look forward to an exciting weekend of racing.
Mark Webber, Jaguar:
"The Nurburgring track is one of the more interesting tracks on the F1 calendar. It has undergone some changes recently and this may make overtaking at corner one more likely. I scored some points here last year so I have a good feeling about it, and hope that we can have a repeat performance. I also had a podium here in 2001 with F3000, so my experience should stand me in good stead. The weather, because of where the track is located amongst the forest, plays an important part in our preparation and strategy, which is a good thing to help make the race more exciting for the fans as well as us. It generally requires high down-force and it can be quite demanding on both the aerodynamics and engine of the car. The most important thing is to be prepared for the weekend and that is what we are busy doing at the moment. I have been into the factory this week to speak with the team and help them work through the data from Monaco. We started our points campaign at the Bahrain track and it would be good to continue it at the Nurburgring.
Christian Klien, Jaguar:
"I have great memories of this track and of course this makes it one of my favourites. I have raced here and won in Formula BMW, Formula Renault and Formula 3, so this is going to make racing here much more fun. Having experience at a track makes my job easier - my last race weekend in Monaco was much tougher as you spend time familiarising yourself with the layout and set-up of the car. The back to back races are quite demanding on the team, as there is no break and no testing period. The turnaround time is very short so the guys back in the factory are working flat out replacing parts and preparing for the race weekend in half the time than normal. I know that my mechanics are looking forward to getting to Nurburgring, as we want to get out on track and score some points. The car is well set up and I will be looking to qualify higher so that I am in the right place to fight for points.
Bjorn Wirdheim, third driver, Jaguar:
"Some of my earliest memories from racing come from the time I spent watching my father race at the Nurburgring. I remember some great times from then and I am also in the fortunate position to say that my first Formula 3000 victory was there. It's an amazing track that is good fun, although I preferred the older version of the track, before they made some changes a couple of years ago. I have also been on the old circuit, the Nordschleife, which is an incredible experience no matter how many times you drive it. Since Monday I have returned to the factory to speak with team and my engineers. It helps to have a proper debrief back in the factory before you go the next race. Since we do not have so much time between now and the next race I have been doing lots of exercise, as there is no testing to be done until the following week when we will be at Silverstone.
Nick Heidfeld, Jordan:
"Nurburgring is always a special race for me. I had my first car test at Nurburgring and I went there a lot when I was younger. Its the race circuit closest to my home in Monchengladbach and I did a lot of races there in Formula 3, Formula Ford, Formula 3000. I really like the circuit - its safe and modern and the atmosphere is definitely special because of all the German supporters.
Giorgio Pantano, Jordan:
I was unhappy about my first Monaco Grand Prix as it was looking good and I think if we hadnt had problems with car I could have got a point in the race, as well as Nick. Anyway, I am looking forward to Nurburgring now. I have raced there three times in F3000 and although it is one of my favourite circuits so far I have been very unlucky there - like Monaco! But Im hoping that will change this year and actually I hope it rains. I like the track because it is both technical and fast and not many circuits have both characteristics."
Timo Glock, third driver, Jordan:
"I have driven at Nurburgring a lot of my races there six out of eight I finished first or second and thats quite a good record. Im looking forward to going there with Jordan as it will be amazing for me to come home in F1. We have been to all these different countries and its really good to be in Germany where I have a lot of friends and fans, especially at this circuit. On the driving side, this track suits me because there are a lot of technical corners especially the fast ones in the first sector and thats good. Its a little bit difficult to overtake but thats not my problem yet, as the Friday test driver!