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Bahrain - selected driver preview quotes 31 Mar 2005

Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day, Sepang, Malaysia, 20 March 2005 Felipe Massa (BRA) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang, Malaysia, 19 March 2005 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari and David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing during the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day, Sepang, Malaysia, 20 March 2005 Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 5 March 2005

Another hot and gruelling race in prospect this weekend as the FIA Formula One World Championship moves to the island Kingdom of Bahrain. Can Renault do it again? Can Ferrari topple them with their new car? Or will Toyota spring another surprise and score their first ever victory? The drivers rate their weekend chances...

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 4th, 2004 Race - 7th

"I flew back to Europe after Australia to conduct a short test at Jerez working especially towards the Bahrain Grand Prix. We found a good set-up and some competitive Michelin tyres for the weekend. This combined with the speed and performance of the TF105s in Malaysia at the last race leaves me encouraged for Bahrain. It was fantastic to see a Toyota on the podium in Malaysia after an excellent weekend for the whole team. I was also pleased with my fifth place considering all the dramas I encountered over the weekend. In fact, such was the speed of the TF105 that without my problems, I would have had the pace to join Jarno on the podium. Of course it is natural that we have our sights set a bit higher after such a result and I think the car could be well suited to the Bahrain International Circuit. As a minimum, I think we should be looking to add more points in Sakhir this weekend to our already impressive tally of 12."

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 7th, 2004 Race - 4th

"Following the tremendous success we achieved in Malaysia two weeks ago, we head to Bahrain with considerably raised expectations. It is hard to know whether we will be able to replicate our competitiveness from Sepang in Bahrain, but we will certainly try our best. Bahrain as a venue is incredible – the facilities are state-of-the-art, much like Malaysia and China. The circuit itself is quite nice, but is tough on the brakes. I had a good result in last year's debut Bahrain GP, finishing fourth, and our TF105 performed so well in Malaysia, I can't help but to be excited about this weekend's race. I lie third in the drivers' championship and Toyota is second in the constructors', so let's see if we can consolidate these positions with some more points."

David Coulthard, Red Bull
2004 Qualifying - 10th, 2004 Race - DNF

"My impressions of the track are that it is challenging due to several heavy braking corners which can gain or lose you a lot of time. The surface is high wear so tyre choice will be especially difficult as you juggle one lap performance over making them last for the whole race. It is very dusty off line and last year we experienced a short sand storm which made things tricky before the GP. I did not really have the chance to look around Bahrain itself but the welcome we got from the moment we reached Customs at the airport through to leaving on Sunday night was excellent and generally every one was impressed with the facilities."

Christian Klien, Red Bull
2004 Qualifying - 12th, 2004 Race - 14th

"I like the track very much and last year, I adapted to it quite quickly. The track is surrounded by open spaces, so you miss the usual points of reference, for example when it comes to learning the braking points. Last year, there wasn't very much grip on the new track surface. Your driving has to be neat and tidy, as you only have grip on the ideal line and this makes it difficult to overtake, even if there are several points where passing is a possibility and you need a car with good balance. Last year, on the way to the race track we got caught in a sand storm, with visibility down to about 20 metres, which meant it was like driving into fog on an Austrian motorway! I look forward to racing in Bahrain as I think the track suits me quite well."

Jenson Button, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 6th, 2004 Race - 3rd

"Racing in Bahrain last year was a great experience. For me it's a circuit that I enjoy driving. It has some fast flowing sections and it is great pushing the car though the two large chicanes - turns 4 and 5 - and later the quick left and right. There are several overtaking opportunities, the main one being at turn one after the long straight. With so many teams being competitive, it should make for an exciting race."

Takuma Sato, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 5th, 2004 Race - 5th

"After my unfortunate circumstance in Malaysia, I can't wait to get back into the car in Bahrain. Last year, at the same race, I had a strong weekend. I finished in the points in fifth position, and so I am really looking forward to going back there."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 20th, 2004 Race - DNF

"Despite the result in Malaysia, the MP4-20 felt good and I took the fastest lap showing the pace is there. I am looking forward to getting back behind the wheel in Bahrain and hopefully having a more positive race. The Bahrain circuit is tough on brakes, with similar wear to Montreal, which is usually the toughest. This is because there are a number of hard braking areas and not much chance for the brakes to cool between. We also learnt last year that conditions can change very quickly in the desert, even during sessions, this can be the temperature, wind speed, even rain."

Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"First of all I would like to wish Juan Pablo (Montoya) a speedy recovery. As one of the test drivers for Team McLaren Mercedes this is really an extension of my existing track side responsibilities. I'm looking forward to the challenge of racing in Bahrain and will do my best. It will be a new experience as I have not competed in Bahrain before. I know the team and the car very well from our comprehensive testing programme and hopefully we will be able to put in a strong performance. I'm definitely going to enjoy this opportunity as much as I can."

Alexander Wurz, third driver, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"It goes without saying that I would have preferred to be the one racing the MP4-20 at the Bahrain Grand Prix. However the team and I agreed this was the best solution for this race and I am excited that I will be able to drive the MP4-20 for the first time on Friday in Bahrain. Like the rest of the team I also want to wish Juan Pablo all the best."

Nick Heidfeld, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 15th, 2004 Race - 15th

“I feel very confident after my podium in Malaysia, so I am looking forward to the next race in Bahrain. The circuit can be very dirty as it lies in the middle of the desert, so we might see even less people going out at the beginning of the sessions than usual, in particular on the Friday. I think last year's race in Bahrain was one of the most exciting Grands Prix of the season, so it's likely that the fans will see another great race. Like Malaysia, Bahrain will be a hot race, and so a tough challenge for the car, especially the engine. Bahrain will be the second race in a row for my engine, as well as for some of the other drivers on the grid.”

Mark Webber, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 14th, 2004 Race - 8th

“After such an exciting race in Malaysia, we're expecting Bahrain to be fairly similar. We're clearly showing good progress with both Nick and myself running well in Malaysia, although it was a shame I wasn't able to finish the job. However, Bahrain is a very different circuit to Malaysia with a lot of slow corners and long straights. It produced a very good Grand Prix last year with lots of overtaking and I'm hoping we can get closer to Renault, the current pacesetters, this time round.”

Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"Bahrain is a new track for me. I haven't seen it but I know that it's dry, sunny and sandy so visually it must be very interesting. Talking with other drivers, they say that the track is fun to drive but I didn't see the race on TV last year so I don't really know what to expect. It will definitely be an interesting trip as I've never been in this country before. I am also going to play with an F1 video game that includes this track to get used to the layout, but I will really have to find out when I get there.

"We are not going to test before the race so I hope that we will be able to get the best out of the equipment in Bahrain. We made some good progress concerning set-up in Malaysia so I am confident that we are heading in the right direction."

Felipe Massa, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - 13th, 2004 Race - 12th

"Bahrain is a bit cooler and less humid than Sepang, and last year it was similar to most other races in that respect. It's a nice circuit, with a few quick corners, but there are also a lot of slow and medium-speed bends so we need full downforce. I like driving there, because there are a couple of places where you can pass. It's not easy, but you can do it, especially if you get a good tow. Bahrain itself is also an exciting place.

"Last year we hadn't fully sorted the C23 by that stage so the race was not one of our better ones, but I am optimistic that the C24, on Michelins, should suit the circuit well."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2004 Qualifying - 1st, 2004 Race - 1st

“Based on last year’s experience, we know that the track is not easy. Some points are difficult to judge and so it helps to know the track to be able to find the right racing line. The circuit also puts the brakes and tyres under stress and it will probably be very hot. Considering all of this, I think that it is really useful having the new car.

“We will finally race the F2005 this weekend and I have to admit that I can’t wait to get onto the track with it. We have tested the new car a lot and it has made a good impression on us. Still, we expect another tough battle in Bahrain.”

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari
2004 Qualifying - 2nd, 2004 Race - 2nd

“Bahrain is not an easy circuit for overtaking as the surface is very slippery off the racing line. It is a busy track with a mix of tight and high-speed corners. Last year, I enjoyed it very much. It is very unique and fun. Last year on Sunday morning we could not even see the circuit because of a sand storm and that was certainly a new experience! It has its own character and the country has a different culture to what we are used to, which is always interesting.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 17th, 2004 Race - 6th

“In some ways, Bahrain is quite similar to Melbourne - there is a lot of hard acceleration and braking, without any really long, high-speed corners. But the long straights mean we run downforce levels quite low in order to get good straightline speed in the race, so the car can be nervous under braking - and if you run wide in the slow corners, like turns 10, 13 or 14, then you will be defending your position all the way down the next straight. Good braking stability, to avoid locking the tyres in the race, lots of mechanical grip and a strong engine are what you really need to be quick in Bahrain. We will need to think carefully about the set-up to keep the rear end stable in the race when the tyres are worn.

“The team is definitely on a high at the moment so we will go there feeling very optimistic, but it is hard to be certain. Michelin were very strong in high temperatures at Sepang, and even though the tyre energy is less in Bahrain, the heat will still make it very demanding, so I expect the tyres to be competitive. In terms of car performance, we have been the benchmark at the first two circuits, and I think this can continue in Bahrain - even though we were not very strong there last year.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 11th, 2004 Race - 11th

“On the technical side, the main area the teams focus on is good braking performance, and managing the brake wear through the race: getting the cooling wrong can be very costly. Sakhir is not really a driver’s circuit - there are none of the high-speed corners that we enjoy, and that really show the difference between the cars. But we need to be precise, to get our braking right lap after lap and maintain concentration throughout the race in very hot, tough conditions.

“We saw in Malaysia that the R25 was the quickest car in the field, so I am hoping that we can maintain the performance in Bahrain. The car is good over the timed lap, and gives us the confidence to really push to the limit to get the performance; and in the race, the balance is very consistent meaning we only need small changes during the pit-stops. I know the team is working hard on developments for the European season, but we are not under-estimating our competitors: we will have a fight on our hands. But the car has good traction, good braking and the straight-line speeds have been very competitive at the first two races. That should provide us with the car we need to aim for the podium at this race.”

Narain Karthikeyan, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

“After the race in Sepang, I went straight to Bahrain for a one-day promotional visit before returning to India for a couple of days. I met about 4’000 Indian school children, some Bahrain International Circuit officials and the Indian Ambassador. Although it was a very short stay, I have really enjoyed being in Bahrain and I am looking forward to the weekend. I have acquired a bit more experience after the first two Grands Prix so I am hoping I will also finish the race and make a better result here in Bahrain. I have been around the track and I have to say that it is fantastic. I am sure the race will be competitive, as there are at least three genuine overtaking opportunities. However, the sand might make the circuit tricky but at least it will not be as hot and humid as in Malaysia.”

Tiago Monteiro, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

“Bahrain is another circuit where we have a lot to learn. I feel more confident as I know more and more people in the team now and we work better together so it is very interesting to feel these improvements from a human and technical point of view. Hopefully the cars will be as reliable as they were in Melbourne and Sepang and we will finish the race again.”