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US Grand Prix - the drivers' preview 15 Jun 2005

Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, First Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 2 April 2005 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2005.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 3 April 2005 Scott Speed (USA) Red Bull Racing Third Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, Canadian Grand Prix, Preparations, Montreal, Canada, 9 June 2005 Provisional pole sitter Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, First Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 2 April 2005

With so much motorsport history surrounding it, Indianapolis holds a special place in the heart and any driver - especially the lucky few who get to race Formula One cars around the legendary Brickyard.

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

"Indy is a nice track. You have the infield complex, but then at the end of the lap it's flat out with just a kink when you get on to the main oval and the banked corner. We're going through it at 300 kph, and it doesn't feel like a corner at all. Finally, you have the very long straight with the start/finish line, where we reach 340 kph. There is heavy braking at the end of that, which is different to other tracks. That section offers a good overtaking opportunity. The circuit is also bumpy, and quite difficult.

"It's always nice to go to Indy because the atmosphere outside of the paddock is always great. It feels a bit like a home Grand Prix because the number of Canadian fans that come and the many supporters that I still have around the USA after my time in IndyCar there and winning the Indy 500. Obviously, the track brings some good memories, so I am always happy to race there."

Felipe Massa, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - 15th, 2004 Race - DNF

"In Montreal I could add five points to our score and together with Spa last year this was my best finish of my Formula One career so far. This showed that we are capable of achieving such a result with determination and teamwork. I also think that tracks like Montreal suit my style and Indianapolis is a nice place, too.

"In my time in F1 I have only raced once at Indianapolis, and that was last year when my race lasted until the first corner! There's a good chance I can improve on that this year - I hope to get to the finish this time!

"The banking is easy flat, no problem. It isn't a corner at all in an F1 car. And that high-speed part creates the need for a compromise. You need downforce for the tight infield corners, but you also need good top speed and minimal drag for the banking and the pit straight otherwise you are just going to get overtaken.

"I like Indianapolis. You are conscious of being somewhere special, with a big history, racing in front of knowledgeable fans who really love their motor racing."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 7th, 2004 Race - 6th

"It was a great result for me in Montreal last weekend, and I am looking forward to continuing the Championship battle this weekend in Indianapolis. The Motor Speedway is legendary and it is one of the places that every driver would like to win at, like Monaco and Spa. The circuit is a fast track like Montreal, with a top speed of 335km/h along the main straight. It is the longest time of full throttle we have all year, as we are flat out along the oval part of the track for 1.7kms. The other section of the track is the slow, winding infield, with tight corners and hairpins and as a result we will use a medium-low downforce set-up to have good cornering and the power we need on the straight. The weather can be unpredictable at Indy, and can go from one extreme to the other, which means our tyre selection with Michelin will need to make sure we have a tyre that operates well under a wide temperature range."

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 5th, 2004 Race - DSQ

"After the end to my race in Canada, all you can do is move on to the next event, and where better to go than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It is one of those venues that has something a bit special about it and has some great memories for me, from CART and the Indy 500, which I won in 2000, and the crowds are always so supportive and enthusiastic. It is like a home race for me, with all the Colombian flags in the grandstands. I enjoy competing at the track and hopefully will achieve a podium finish this time. The two contrasting elements of the Speedway, the tight, twisting infield and fast, banked section of the oval, means we have a unique challenge for the whole package. There is very high loading on our Michelins through the banked section for example, and we need to find a compromise to have the durability to take these loadings whilst also providing the low speed grip that is required to be quick in the infield section."

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

"The set-up for the cars at the United States Grand Prix is similar to the one used in Canada. We must run a low downforce set-up to be quick in the long straight, without losing too much time in the slow infield. We were very competitive in Canada with this configuration, therefore hopefully we should also be strong here."

David Coulthard, Red Bull
2004 Qualifying - 12th, 2004 Race - 7th

“After scoring two points in points in Montreal against expectations, I’m looking forward to the race at Indianapolis. The circuit there is very different to Montreal, it’s not as tough on cars or drivers, so I don’t expect such a high rate of attrition. That means qualifying will be even more important than normal there. Having said that, after coming through from a grid position of 12th on the last two races, to finish fourth in Nurburgring and to score two points in Montreal, we’ve shown that anything is possible. For Red Bull Racing, scoring points again is important to maintain its battle in the Constructors’ Championship. It’s very open at the moment and our stated ambition going into season was to be amongst the manufacturer backed teams, which is what we’re achieving. As for the race itself, you never know, but as we showed in Monaco and Germany this year, Red Bull Racing is capable of being up there.“

Christian Klien, Red Bull
2004 Qualifying - 13th, 2004 Race - DNF

“There are always a lot of spectators in America and the event has a good atmosphere, so on that side of things it’s a good race. In terms of the circuit, it’s not the most exciting in the Championship. There’s a long straight where you go flat out for about 20 seconds, but the infield is very slow. It’s not such a technical track and there aren’t really any corners that stick out in my mind. But I enjoyed being there last year, although I didn’t finish the race. I had a crash at the first corner, so I certainly hope to do better this year. It’s hard to set definite aims in terms of finishing and grid positions, but I’ll be looking to do a good job for the team and for myself.”

Scott Speed, third driver, Red Bull
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

“My main focus for Indianapolis will be to gain more time in the car, to learn as quickly as possible and fulfil my job for the team. I think the time I spent in the car in Montreal almost doubled the total time I’d ever spent at the wheel of an F1 car. At the moment, it’s all about getting used to the car’s set-up, as it’s so different to anything else I’ve driven. The main difference is the amount of aero performance, as the F1 car is far more sensitive. Competing in the GP2 series on grooved tyres has helped me with my main job for the team, which is providing feedback to help them assess the different tyres. A lot of people think there might be some pressure on me, but the amount of pressure I put on myself outweighs anything else that the situation creates - I just concentrate on the job in hand. I’m flying to Nice after Canada to complete a GP2 test, before flying to Indianapolis for Friday’s Free Practice session. To drive an F1 car in my home country will be such a thrill, I can’t wait to get back in the driving seat.”

Jenson Button, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 4th, 2004 Race - DNF

"We were very competitive in Indianapolis last year and I think we will be again this year, so I'm looking forward to next weekend. We don't have the best qualifying slot but it's reasonable and I think that we can do great things from there. Montreal was a good race for us even though we didn't score any points, as we showed that the car is back on form. The Brickyard is a very slow circuit. I prefer fast flowing circuits, but the car works well there which is the most important thing. It's always a great atmosphere at Indianapolis. The circuit has a lot of history and the crowd are always very supportive. It should be a good race for us."

Takuma Sato, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 3rd, 2004 Race - 3rd

"I have great memories from Indianapolis in 2004 as I got my first podium at the race last year. I am very much looking forward to getting back to Indy next weekend and I think we will be competitive. The new aero package looked promising in Canada this weekend, so I hope the car will again show a step forward in performance and it should suit the Indy circuit quite well."

Mark Webber, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 10th, 2004 Race - DNF

"Every time we visit Indianapolis, it's impossible to ignore the fantastic history and atmosphere of the Brickyard, and the world famous Indy 500. It's a place steeped in American motor racing history, but I also think Formula One is growing bigger in the States with every US GP. In fact, I expect the interest will be even greater this year given that this year's championship has so many different contenders and new names are coming to the fore. What always impresses me about racing in the States is just how passionate and educated the audience is about Formula One.

“The layout of the circuit isn't the most demanding by any means for either the car, or the driver, because of the repetitive nature of the infield section. But that's why we go to nineteen different venues each year as they all provide very different challenges. Indy is a circuit which generally provides pretty good racing, mainly because the long straight offers the drivers some overtaking opportunities at the end of it."

Nick Heidfeld, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 16th, 2004 Race - DNF

"I have always liked Indianapolis, I've always had good results there in the past so I'm looking forward to going back there again and hopefully getting another good result for the team. The place itself is outstanding, particularly because of the grandstand in front of the pits. I hope there's another good crowd to give us a great atmosphere. The banking looks spectacular but, for a driver, it is actually quite easy to go flat out there as long as you don't have any problems with the car. We should be a bit stronger in the US than we were in Montreal."

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 9th, 2004 Race - DNF

“There is always a fantastic atmosphere there - it is one of the most famous venues in motorsports, and everybody knows about Indianapolis. Without a doubt, it would be one of the best possible races to win a Grand Prix. In terms of the circuit itself, it is a bit complex and there are some very contrasting sections: very high speed straights, and very, very slow corners. You have to be really careful when you are selecting the set-up with the engineers to make sure you do not cost yourself a lot of time.

“To be honest, we want high downforce and high speed! But that is impossible, and you have to find the compromise between the two different parts of the circuit: the twisty slow speed section, and the long main straight. The lap time depends on the aero efficiency of the car and the power of the engine, and you have to find the right balance to be able to protect your position and overtake other cars. We have a good level of potential in our car, the R25, so I think we can be strong in Indy.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 14th, 2004 Race - 9th

“Indianapolis is a great circuit, because you can feel that there is a fantastic history and heritage around the whole place: you know that people have been racing there for a long time and that it has seen some important events. The speeds on the circuit are high down the main straight, but the infield section is quite slippery. You need to take a lot of care to be as smooth and precise as possible in your driving style in order to be quick.

“Even last year, we saw that it can be very demanding for the rear tyres, and with the new single-tyre rules, I think that characteristics will be even more evident this season. There is a lot of acceleration from very low speeds, which puts the tyres under quite a high loading, and also the slippery surface can wear out the tyres. Generally, from half distance onwards, the car is quite tricky to drive and keep on the road. What's more, if you are struggling, it can be quite hard to protect yourself because the long main straight means you can get a good tow and draft past anybody who has a bad exit from the final corner.”

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2004 Qualifying - 2nd, 2004 Race - 1st

“Our chances for the race itself our similar to those at Montreal. We may not be strong in all stages of the weekend, but we're a force to reckoned with and are able to go for it at any given time. The important thing is to make the best possible use of our chances and to fight right up until the end - and we surely will do just that again this time. We're ready for Indianapolis and I'm looking forward to it.

“I very much like coming to this motor-sport city, because I don't think there are many races that draw this many fans. Sometimes you get the impression that all Europeans living in the USA gather for this event. We always receive a rapturous welcome and sometimes the enthusiasm is even bigger than at some of the European races. The support is tremendous, there's so much that goes on here - some days it's even difficult to make one's way to the circuit. A great atmosphere.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 20th, 2004 Race - 4th

"I always enjoy the atmosphere in North America, and this double-header provides a welcome contrast to Europe. Indianapolis is a special venue which plays host to one of the most important races in the world, and I also enjoy the atmosphere in the evenings because the people are so friendly. The Indianapolis track is also different from the rest of the calendar. It is not particularly technical – it is slippery, and downforce levels are quite low. When it comes to setting up the car, we try to get good speeds down the main straight, and work hard on the mechanical grip in the slow corners to allow us to take off downforce for straight-line speed. It's my first season at Panasonic Toyota Racing so I can't predict exactly how we'll perform at Indianapolis until we do some running there on Friday. But we remain positive. Toyota has gone well there in the past, so we'll hope for another good result here this year."

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 6th, 2004 Race - DNF

"Toyota has always performed well in Indianapolis despite not having had a particularly strong car in the past. So that certainly bodes well for us this season. The challenge of the speedway is juggling the set-up of the car to make sure we reach a good top speed along the banked start-finish straight into the first corner while making sure that the car is stable through the slow and twisty infield section. But I have no doubt that we have the tools we need to perform well at Indy. Our RVX-05 engine has proven reliable and powerful, which will benefit us on the straight, whilst our aero efficiency has been gradually improved to cope with the infield. As the home of motor racing in the US, Indianapolis is a special venue and, like Montreal, has a unique atmosphere. Since its arrival on the F1 calendar in 2000, Indianapolis has been an unlucky track for me. But this season is a different story and I am confident we can rectify this unfortunate record."

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

“Even though I have never driven there, I am looking forward to Indianapolis, as there is a legendary racing history behind it. To be racing at the ‘Brickyard’ will be a great experience for me. We will be driving on a part of the oval, where the cars will reach a top speed of 350, 345 kph. The first corner will be tricky and the infield section can be difficult as well. It will be good and I am really impatient to race there."

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

“Indianapolis is a very special place for the motorsport industry. I have some friends there and also my former Champ Car team and engineers are based there. It will be very nice to see them again for a few days. I will be training as well. From what I have seen on TV, the track looks quite demanding and interesting. The oval will also be very exciting and there will be a lot fans. I am sure it will be a great show.”

Robert Doornbos, third driver, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

“I am really looking forward to being back in the car in Indianapolis after two race weekends without driving. I am going to prepare myself in a ranch with my sponsors for two or three days in Minneapolis where I will learn how to fly an old aeroplane. I will also focus on the weekend. I cannot wait to drive in this amazing circuit. I watched the Indy 500 two weeks ago. It will be a great experience to drive on the oval as it will be flat out and I also hope we can get a good result for the team."

More to follow.