A driver's guide to the Brickyard 17 Jun 2004
US Grand Prix - selected driver preview quotes
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the worlds oldest and most famous motor racing venues a fact not lost on the current crop of Formula One drivers, who are highly appreciative of the legend and folklore that surrounds the celebrated circuit.
Takuma Sato, BAR:
"The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has very unique track characteristics and I personally find it quite interesting. I enjoy the banking on the final turn which gives us good overtaking opportunities following the main straight and turn 1, which should make for an exciting race. I think we will have a good car balance in both low speed grip and long straight top speed, but we have to get on top of the engine problems which I have been having, and I really want to finish the race to achieve my targets."
Jenson Button, BAR:
"Obviously it's great that I have been awarded third place in Canada, but it's a shame to miss out on a podium appearance. Third place and another trophy is great though, not to mention the extra point which takes us even closer to Renault. Despite the result, our performance in Canada wasn't as good as we expected and we have to look at the reasons why we weren't as quick as we should have been. We can't test before Indy so we don't have any changes to the car or engine - we'll just have to see what we can achieve on the engineering side. We should be quicker in the next race and Indy is quite an interesting circuit with the banking at the last turn. Apart from that it is pretty slow but the grip level is usually higher than Montreal and I'm looking forward to getting back in the car this weekend."
Jarno Trulli, Renault:
"Indianapolis is a special place to visit - it is famous as the home of one of the most important races in the world, and it has the same reputation as Monaco does for us in Europe.
"It is not a particularly technical circuit - it is very slippery, and downforce levels are quite low. In terms of set-up, we try and get good speeds down the main straight, and then work hard on the mechanical grip of the car in the slow corners to allow us to take off downforce for straight-line speed.
"We have to hope we stay competitive, as we were in Canada. Although I was disappointed to retire, we can feel the team has built up some momentum in recent races, and I hope we can continue that in the USA.
"The team was very strong last weekend, and in 2003, our package performed very well. This may turn out to be a nice circuit for us."
Fernando Alonso, Renault:
"To be honest, we were quite surprised by our competitiveness in Canada, and that certainly makes us hopeful we can be strong in Indy.
"On paper, Indianapolis is not our best circuit, so we need to be cautious making predictions. However, the R23 was actually quite strong there last year, and as a team, we have been very strong in the last three or four races. So there is no reason to be optimistic.
"Our reliability this season has been excellent, and I think the failures in Montreal were probably more bad luck than anything else. I would expect things to be back to normal on that front for Indy.
"The circuit itself is strange - you have to find the right compromise between the two different halves. It has similar downforce levels to Canada, and we were very quick there. So maybe we can be as well in Indy. I'm looking forward to a good race.
Mark Webber, Jaguar:
I have raced twice before at the Indianapolis Motor-Speedway but have yet to see the finish line. The track itself requires many different set-ups from the car and the team and I will be trying to find a balance on the car that will suit both the long high-speed straights and the slower twisty infield. I like driving at this track, it has much history attached to it and there is something special here that really brings the fans together and they all love race day. This weekend I will be looking to achieve a qualifying position that is reflective of where the R5 is today. Montreal was not where we should have been and I know that we are more than capable of scoring points. I am excited about getting back out on Friday and I will certainly be looking for the chequered flag this weekend. The guys in the team and back at the factory in Milton Keynes have been doing a good and thorough job on the car and in providing the parts that we need to race. With these back-to-back races it is a full speed race in itself to get everything completed in time for us drivers to get out on track.
Christian Klien, Jaguar:
This will be another new track for me this weekend but as usual I just get out there on the circuit as fast as I can and start learning the layout. I have spent much time with my engineers studying the data from previous years this gives me a head start on understanding what is required from both the R5 and myself. Although I have never been to Indianapolis before I have heard many good things about the place and I know that the track holds much history. I am looking forward to seeing the row of bricks on the circuit as this is something special. After the weekend in Montreal I am very focused on scoring points. The R5's pace is good and I enjoy driving the car. I have been watching some of the races from previous years so this is also helping me to understand where the overtaking opportunities are in advance. I will be spending some time with my trainer working on my fitness before the race, this seems to be quite a hot race but my training from the start of the season should stand me in good stead.
Bjorn Wirdheim, third driver, Jaguar:
Although I have never race at the Indianapolis Motor-Speedway I have driven a Formula One car around the track. Last year I did this with the Jordan team so this experience will definitely make my first lap on Friday a lot easier. This track is quite technical and I like that challenge. The slow corners and high-speed straights give the engineers a lot to think about when it comes to set-up and balance. I am looking forward to going out on Friday as this track is a classic in motor-racing history and it is great to be a part of that. This Friday I will be looking to do many more laps than I did in Montreal. We had suffered from a couple of issues there but I know that the team has eradicated those now and I am keen to get back behind the wheel and test. My Friday testing makes a big difference to the other drivers as I can focus on certain areas, like tyres or aero when they can work on their own familiarisation and set-up.
Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber:
"It was very satisfying to score five valuable points in Montreal and hence to join the '100 club'. We continued to make progress on the car and our strategy once again paid off. At Indianapolis I have been unlucky in the past, but the circuit is okay and the race is a biog story in America. The track isn't so great on the infield, where the car is loose because we run such low downforce. But when we go through the Parabolica, that is when we really feel like we are racing at Indy! The first corner is a bit difficult, because you approach at top speed and have to slow down a lot for the first corner and the chicane that follows. If you brake a little bit too late you can be in trouble, which keeps you on your toes."
Felipe Massa, Sauber:
"The medical checks in the hospital after my accident in the closing stages of the Canadian Grand Prix have proven that I was lucky enough to escape from it without injuries. I'm okay and ready to race next weekend. I didn't get to Indianapolis in 2002 so this will be my first visit. I have talked the layout over with the team, of course, and I am familiar with it from television footage. The best way to learn a circuit, for me, is to go round it on a scooter, but in any case I learn them pretty quickly and it should only take me half a dozen laps to familiarise myself."
Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams:
Going back to race in the USA is always a great feeling, especially going back to the Brickyard. To see all those people in the grandstands is a huge boost for me as it reminds me of my CART days and of my Indy 500 victory in 2000. I also have bittersweet memories here. At last year's US Grand Prix, I lost any opportunity I had of winning the Drivers' Championship. That is how it goes in racing, though, so I've put that disappointment firmly behind me. Indianapolis is another fast circuit, probably slightly faster than Montreal, but the infield section is very slow and finding the right set-up for the car will be crucial. For several reasons, we haven't had a good season so far, but I really hope we can start turning things around at the Speedway.
I'll get to see some good friends again while I'm in Indy and I am sure there will be several Colombian flags around too. I consider this race to be a home race for me since I lived in the US for a while and, whenever I have some days off, I enjoy spending time in Miami where my family lives.
Ralf Schumacher, Williams:
After Canada, I will spend a few days relaxing in the United States before the action starts again on Thursday in Indianapolis. Somehow I have a feeling Indianapolis does not really like me as my last two races there have been somewhat frustrating. In 2002, I had a collision with my team mate and, in 2003, I spun off in the wet while running in second position.
Despite past performances, Indianapolis is the home of motor racing in the States and without doubt a special place. I like the circuit as it has a good rhythm and good overtaking opportunities on the long straight, the corner entering the oval section is also a particularly good place to attack. Technically, the circuit is really challenging. Power is crucial, especially for the long straight, while you also need a lot of downforce for the corners of the infield section. Finding the perfect set-up is often really difficult as you need to find the best compromise to handle the track's varying characteristics. I think we will be well prepared, though, so I'm hoping for a more successful result than I've had in previous years.
David Coulthard, McLaren:
"The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of those venues, like Spa and Monaco, that has something a bit special about it. The track itself is formed of two very different sections and therefore demands a medium downforce configuration to maximise performance on the two extremes. We have the sweeping banking of the final corner that flows into the long, very quick front stretch of the Speedway oval, which sees us at full throttle for some 20 seconds. Due to the length of this section, you get a real sensation of the speed at which we are travelling, some 210 mph / 335km/h. Of course we hit this speed at some other circuits, but not usually for this length of time. Its characteristics such as this, and the banking, that makes the event unique. At the end of this section, we then turn right into the tighter infield section that twists around the golf course."
Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
"The United States Grand Prix attracts numerous US race fans and therefore always has a great atmosphere, which I of course enjoy! The weather of course played a major role in the outcome in 2003, hopefully as the Grand Prix has moved to June there will not be such changeable and unpredictable conditions during the race. Although it is quite tough on the teams, I am enjoying having race after race at the moment, and hopefully we will run well at Indy. I think that as with the Nurburgring, the Motor Speedway will be better suited to the characteristics of our car, as it is not an out and out speed track."
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
After such a successful a race as Montreal, we go into Indianapolis with more desire. Winning naturally ups the team spirit even though, I think, it is hard for it to be better than it is now. A one-two like that of Canada doesnt happen every day and this has given us all a boost. I have said it often enough but I think we are going into Indianapolis with a good chance.
You have to compromise on the set up on this track as there is the long straight to consider but then there is the twisty internal section. It is not always easy to do this though we have frequently done well. This year our car is so versatile that I too have lots of faith in it. The positive side of the Speedway is that it offers overtaking opportunities but what makes it really special is the atmosphere. The fans are incredible and really put you in a good mood.
We hope to notch another win. Three days rest between Canada and the USA are necessary to stir the desires for the next race. Make no mistake: we want to go for victory and we will be competitive. I think that Ralf and BAR will be very strong, but so are we. We will see how things go.
Cristiano da Matta, Toyota:
"It is a very special feeling to race at the Indy Speedway. Last year was my first taste of the track, albeit the wrong way, and it was an eventful weekend to say the least. This year, I hope we are at least racing in totally dry conditions! The trick to Indy is to find a compromise on the car's downforce levels up to cope with the 17-second flat out pit straight, as well as the twisty infield section. The grid was extremely close last year I qualified 9th and was only 0.4s from Olivier who was 3rd so every tenth counts. I have spent a few days relaxing a bit in Miami after the Canadian Grand Prix. With the next race already upon us, we can put the frustration of last Sunday's final classification behind us quickly and hopefully we can enjoy a solid and successful weekend in Indianapolis."
Olivier Panis, Toyota:
"I will be celebrating my 150th Formula One race this weekend in Indianapolis. I can't believe it has been so many races already. I still feel as young as I ever have and as motivated as always. There have been many highs and lows over the course of the 149 races I have driven up to now in my F1 career, but one of the better results I have achieved was in Indy last year, when I put my TF103 third on the grid, which is my joint best ever qualifying result. I am not sure whether we can do the same this weekend, but everyone in the team is aiming to get a good result after the disappointment of Montreal. The Indy motor speedway has a great ambience and it is always a pleasure to go there for a race weekend."
Ricardo Zonta, third driver, Toyota:
"I finished in sixth place when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway made its return to the F1 calendar with a new look in 2000, but I cannot say that it is one of my favourite circuits of the year. However, I am eager to get on with my usual programme of tyre evaluation, long runs and set-up work on Friday morning. We will use the pre-Canada test in Monza as our base for the weekend, as we have no new parts on the car. That test was quite productive, so I think we should keep in a positive frame of mind for this weekend."
Nick Heidfeld, Jordan:
"Indianapolis is a circuit I like and I have had a couple of good races here. I finished 4th once and another time I finished in the points despite driving with gearbox gremlins so I have good memories at this track. It's special to see the huge grandstands completely packed out and the legendary racing history makes for a great atmosphere. It's a good feeling to come here from a strong race performance in Montreal."
Giorgio Pantano, Jordan:
"I have not driven at Indianapolis before but in 2002 I came to watch the race. It looks very nice and I am really looking forward to being in the car again. I'm looking to give my all and have a good race for the team, I'd really like to get a good result. We have seen in recent races that the car is improving all the time and we are gradually getting closer to the others. I hope to get a strong finish and ideally score some points."
Timo Glock, third driver, Jordan:
"I visited Indianapolis last year when I had a Champ Car test but I don't know the Grand Prix track at all. I'm looking forward to learning it and helping the team this weekend. It was a fantastic experience to race in Canada and to score points in my first Grand Prix but I'm glad that Giorgio is back now and we can continue our team effort together. Having said that, now that I know how much fun F1 racing is, I think it will be a bit harder to sit around on Saturdays and Sundays at Grands Prix but I am happy because I'm sure my time will come. I'm concentrating on the testing job that the team needs me to do."