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Chinese Grand Prix - selected preview quotes 23 Sep 2004

Mark Webber (AUS) Jaguar spots a photographer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, 10 September 2004 Arden International F3000 race winner Robert Doornbos (NED) has a seat fitting in a Jordan Ford EJ14. Jordan Seat Fitting, Jordan Factory, Silverstone, England, 17 September 2004. World © McNeil/Sutton Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 28 August 2004 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari waves after qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 28 August 2004

With just three races to go in 2004, the drivers look ahead to yet another Formula One first - a Grand Prix in China. A new country and a new track await them, but what do they expect from Shanghai and its innovative Hermann Tilke-designed circuit?

Mark Webber, Jaguar:
"I have been having a fantastic time here in China since I arrived at the weekend. This is my first time to this amazing place and I am sure I have only scratched the surface of it. I have been in Beijing supporting our sponsors and also trying to see a few of the sights. The Great Wall was awe-inspiring as was the Forbidden City. Now I have to focus on the race weekend and knuckle down to get some points. I am really keen to get out on track on Friday and feel the layout of the circuit and how the R5 takes to it. The team has been busy preparing as best they can, but like everything you need to have seen the real thing to understand what you are dealing with. I will be looking to see what we can do to come away with some more points this weekend. The guys here at the track and in Milton Keynes deserve a big thanks for all their efforts coming into this race. I would like to reward them with some points, the car is more than capable and the team is more than deserving."

Christian Klien, Jaguar:
"This is my first time in China and I am amazed at what I have seen so far. I flew out early to Beijing to see some of the sights as well as to acclimatise and train. This country is very different from my own home and this makes it a fantastic venue for me to go to for a Formula One race. Although I have yet to arrive in Shanghai and I have not seen the track, I have no doubt that it is going to be very different and very challenging to drive. I have been analysing some of the data with my engineers and it looks as though the track is a good mixture of corners and straights. I like these sorts of track and I feel comfortable in the R5 on these. The R5 has been really enjoyable to drive recently and I am very much focused on scoring some more points before the end of the season. The car is capable of it and I just need to make the most of the package. Since this is a new track for everyone it may allow us to close the gap on the top teams and chase for points. As always I will be giving it my all and fighting for position on every lap. I can't wait to get out there and give it my best."

Bjorn Wirdheim, third driver, Jaguar:
"It's unusual to have one new race on the calendar, but two is quite spectacular. Bahrain was exciting and I have no doubt that Shanghai is going to be too. I am arriving at the track tomorrow and I can't wait to get out there in the R5. The car is feeling really good at the moment and so it will be good fun to put it through its paces. Mark, Christian and I all have a lot of work to do this Friday, as there is so much data to be collected. We have some information but of course what you are given and what you actually find out for yourself can be completely different. Coming to somewhere like China is also fantastic for us. I love travelling and we are fortunate that we get to see these amazing places. I am not too sure how much time I will have for sightseeing but I will try. My main focus is of course to help the team as much as I can on Friday to ensure that we have as much data as we need in order to make decisions ahead of Saturday qualifying. I am looking forward to watching the race and I will be cheering Mark and Christian on for points. "

Fernando Alonso, Renault:
(Q: How much preparation can you do before visiting a new circuit?) “To be honest, there is not so much you can learn from maps of the circuit - the real time when we learn about the track, in its real finished form, is when we walk the circuit with our engineers in the week before the race. But I think the driver's role is even more important at a new circuit than elsewhere. Not only do we have to learn the track, but there is more work to do with the engineers, explaining how the circuit is, what the secrets of the track are and how the car is behaving, because none of us have any experience or reference points. A driver has to be very adaptable at a new circuit, and I believe that is one of my strengths.”

(Q: What do you enjoy about visiting a new circuit for the first time?) “First of all, it is a brand new experience: I have never been to China before, so it will be fascinating to see the country for the first time, and the reports of the circuit say it is incredible so I am looking forward to seeing what it is like in reality. The layout looks exciting, and I am sure it will have been designed to encourage good racing. I expect the crowd to be very supportive of everybody, and I think the R24 will suit the circuit well. We are hoping for a competitive showing.”

(Q: Finally, are you confident that the team can regain its championship position?) “I think we can do it, certainly. This a strong team, with a strong spirit, and we love to be aggressive when we go racing. That is my style, and that is the team's attitude as well. We need to be aggressive between now and the end of the year to overtake BAR again, because it will be a big fight. We have a very good car, that we expect to be competitive at the next three circuits, and although I haven't finished in the last two races, we were very quick. We will all be intent on bouncing back from the Monza result in style, and taking the fight to BAR in China.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams:
“It's difficult to predict anything for China. Everyone is in the same position of not knowing the circuit so it will be a level playing field. It'll just be interesting to see who gets the best set-up on their car in the quickest time possible. Shanghai is another track designed by Hermann Tilke, who did a pretty good job with Bahrain and Malaysia. I hope this circuit will offer plenty of overtaking opportunities which would make an exciting race for the drivers and provide an entertaining show for the public.

“This year there have been a few races where we've narrowly missed out on achieving a better result, so I hope things will turn around for the team in Shanghai. I am flying out to China a few days earlier because of some marketing commitments which will take me to Beijing. I will also be visiting the Great Wall on Monday, a very different way to spend my birthday! I have never been to China before so I am looking forward to having a look around and getting to know such a different culture.”

Ralf Schumacher, Williams:
“It's good to be back in the car again, especially after such a good three day test. I was very happy to be back on the track at Silverstone and very pleased to find that the car has improved a lot since the last time I drove it. As I expected, I didn't experience any pain in my back at all and I felt ok physically, thanks to the training I'd done over the past couple of months.

“No one knows the Shanghai circuit which makes this race very exciting. It's always fun going to a completely new track because everyone is equal in their lack of knowledge. I've seen the drawings of the circuit and I visited about a year ago but the track wasn't totally finished so there wasn't much to see apart from the buildings and grandstands which were under construction. I will be doing some PR work before flying out to China but then I can't wait to get there and have a good race.”

Jenson Button, BAR:
"I am looking forward to Shanghai as obviously it is a very special circuit. The commitment that has been put into building the new facilities, and also the circuit layout, are exceptional. I think the whole of Formula One is looking forward to racing there. I think that it is going to be a pretty high downforce circuit and that it will be physically very tough due to some extremely long corners, for example Turn One, and also the corner off the back straight. It should make for good racing as there should be some very good overtaking opportunities, which of course is important for Shanghai and Formula One."

Takuma Sato, BAR:
"I think that this year is a very exciting season for Formula One because we have two new races - in Bahrain and China. Having experienced the new GP in Bahrain, which was very exciting, I know that I will have the same feelings about the race in Shanghai. Being Japanese, China is physically very close to my home and to be able to participate in another GP in Asia is a great opportunity for everyone. I have visited the city of Shanghai but have not been to the circuit, so I am very interested to see the track and its facilities. I have heard some extremely positive feedback about the track, that it will be exciting and physically challenging. It is especially important for me personally as it is just before my home GP in Suzuka. I am really looking forward to driving there for the first time next week and hope that we can keep up the momentum from our team result in Monza."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
"Following the Italian Grand Prix, the Team McLaren Mercedes team has been testing at the Silverstone circuit in the UK. We had a productive test where we focused on set-up for China. The Shanghai International Circuit looks like a great track to drive. It has an equal number of right and left handers, a good mix of corner types, from long sweeps to tight hairpins, and a number of straights where we can stretch the legs of the MP4-19B, the longest of which is over 1km and links turns 13 and 14 at the end of the lap. Due to this mix we will need downforce and mechanical grip for the slower bends whilst ensuring we maximise speed on the long straights. We have of course used simulation techniques at the McLaren Technology Centre prior to the race to get an initial understanding of the characteristics of the track and now I am looking forward to actually driving it. David and myself will look round the track with our engineers as soon as we arrive to have a closer look at the braking points, cambers, kerbs and so on to familiarise ourselves with it."

David Coulthard, McLaren:
"I believe the Chinese Grand Prix will be one of the key events of the 2004 Formula One season. In addition to the sport visiting a country that is very different culturally and the enthusiasm that you always get with new fans, the circuit has been designed to maximise spectator viewing and racing excitement. Having looked at the plans there are a number of potential overtaking opportunities, the most obvious of which is under braking at the end of the long straight, we should be able to slipstream along the 1km stretch and get alongside before making our move. The general consensus is that the Shanghai International Circuit will be technically demanding from a set-up perspective and also quite tough physically. I will have arrived in Shanghai on Tuesday, to enable my body to acclimatise to the environment and time difference, and it will also give me the opportunity to have a quick look around the city, which I am really looking forward to as China as a country fascinates me."

Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber:
"I've been lucky to go to quite a few new circuits in my career, such as Malaysia, Indianapolis and Bahrain, so now I am really looking forward to Shanghai, especially as China is a new country for me to visit, too. I never have any trouble learning a new track, but it's important to walk round it the day before practice and maybe to do some laps on a bike, not just to see which way it goes but where the kerbs are and what shape they are, what surface changes there are in the braking areas, how big the run-off areas are, things like that.

"Shanghai looks like a good circuit, interesting and very challenging. We can do well there with the Sauber Petronas C23."

Felipe Massa, Sauber:
"I went to China earlier this year for our demonstration run, and though we ran in the city and not at the Shanghai track itself, I got a real feeling for the atmosphere we will have this weekend. The interest in the race is huge!

"I haven't seen the track first-hand yet, but I am familiar with its layout from our maps and computer simulation and it doesn't take me long to learn new venues. The infrastructure seems fantastic, very modern like Sepang and Sakhir, and the track seems a little bit of a mixture of both of them. I think it will be quicker than Bahrain, which will be good. That should suit the C23 well, so I believe we can challenge for more points this weekend."

Ricardo Zonta, Toyota:
"I am really looking forward to the Chinese Grand Prix. As a driver, it is always enjoyable to visit new tracks, and it is important to have China on the Formula One calendar. Because it is a new track, it is impossible to predict how Panasonic Toyota Racing will get on this weekend, although we will have a much better idea after free practice on Friday. During the first hour of free practice, the most important thing is to get to know the circuit and to find the limit both of the track and of the car. Judging from the circuit map, the track looks very slow. But you have to drive it before judging whether or not it is going to be fun."

Olivier Panis, Toyota:
"I am very happy to be going to China. New races are always exciting, and so much will be different this time with a new country and culture to experience. Everyone in the business world looks to China and Shanghai is now one of the big business centres with a huge population. So it is good both for the image of Formula 1 to race there and for the Chinese to have such a high technology event. Before the weekend itself I'll go round the circuit with my engineer. Then I'll spend the first session on Friday just learning the track without playing about too much with the set-up. You have to find your own speed before you change something. But I'm looking forward to it because the circuit design looks really nice, but also challenging for the driver."

Ryan Briscoe, third driver, Toyota:
"My work on Friday will be even more important than usual at the Chinese Grand Prix. The team will be looking for every extra little bit of detail that we can pick up. The tyre comparison will be more difficult than usual and we will not be 100 percent sure about set-up, so we might vary the set-ups on the cars to see what is best. Of course, the new circuit will be very slippery to begin with and it will improve a lot over the weekend, so we have to keep that in mind as well and see how much of the Friday data will be reliable for the race. Like everyone, I am looking forward to seeing China and I hope to get out and see Shanghai because everyone says it's quite spectacular."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
“I am very excited at racing on the track and seeing it with my own eyes. I am also looking forward to this new experience. I have never been to China but I am sure it will be very interesting. I think that it is right for Formula One to be there as it is a ‘world’ championship. It will be great getting to know the country and its people, apart from racing.

“Everything we have seen seems fantastic so I think there is good reason to be excited about the China race. Until now I have seen the track only in designs and some photos but I had a good impression of it. There are many tight curves, some fast stretches and also a long straight, one on which overtaking should be possible.

“I will try to get a really close-up look the first time, doing a lap on the scooter. Designs and simulations aren't that useful and I need to actually see the track. Usually I do not have any problems with new circuits and I am full of expectation for the weekend. And naturally, we will be going out to fight for the win.”

Nick Heidfeld, Jordan:
"It's very special to go to China for the first time. I have been to Macau for F3 before but I don't think that really counts. I'm looking forward to seeing Shanghai as a city and I am travelling there early to get used to the time difference and spend some time visiting the city, which is a nice opportunity. People who have been already report that the F1 surroundings and facilities look impressively state-of-the-art. For me it's exciting to go to a new circuit as it's good fun racing somewhere new."

Timo Glock, Jordan:
"Shanghai is a more level playing field from my point of view because no one knows the circuit – like Bahrain. It's looks like a fantastic project with everything brand new and really impressive. We are all looking forward to both visiting China and racing in Shanghai but I don't know what to expect on the track - we will have to wait and see! I am looking forward to racing again, it will be really good fun. I enjoyed the Grand Prix in Canada so much and ever since I've been wanting to race again. It's a surprise that the opportunity has arisen so soon and I can't wait."

Robert Doornbos, third driver, Jordan:
“The F3000 season only just ended in Monza and it’s been an amazing season for me – in my first year in F3000 I won a race and got on the podium a few times. To get this chance with Jordan is fantastic and although it’s late in the day and at circuits I have never visited, I’m grabbing the opportunity with both hands and looking forward to my first F1 drive.”