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The drivers look ahead to Turkey 17 Aug 2005

Felipe Massa (BRA) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Hungaroring, Hungary, 29 July 2005 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, French Grand Prix, Preparations, Magny-Cours, France, 30 June 2005 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Hockenheim, Germany, 22 July 2005 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Hungaroring, Hungary, 30 July 2005

Some have been watching DVDs to learn the circuit; others have been using computer games; some have even sampled the track in a road car. So what are they actually expecting from the Istanbul Park track, host of this weekend's inaugural Turkish Grand Prix?

Felipe Massa, Sauber:
"I'm looking forward to racing in Turkey, because I have already won there in the Sauber Petronas C24. I did the race simulation on my Play Station, and I won! And I did on the difficult level, against all the other championship runners!

"From what I have seen I think the track layout is not too bad and usually these computer games are very accurate in the way they depict the circuits. There are some quick corners, elevation changes and long straights - it's a bit like the latest Nurburgring with a long back straight with a quick corner in the middle. For sure it will be extremely hot there so it will be a difficult race for everyone, but we have improved the balance of our car in fast corners a lot lately and I am really looking forward to see how well the track suits the C24 in real life!"

Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber:
"I can't really say much about the circuit in Turkey because I've never been there. However, it's always very exciting to go racing in a new country. Jenson (Button), who visited the track earlier this year, told me that the layout of the track is absolutely fantastic so I am really looking forward to trying it out. The weather should be really hot but during the break I have been training for these conditions so I am not too worried about that. I think that we should be able to do well in this race, especially as nobody has run here before. I also hope that I will be able to find a moment to visit the city because I keep hearing that the place is buzzing."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
“It was a great result in Hungary for me and there are still six races with a maximum of 60 points to be won for a driver. As there is no testing at the Istanbul Park, this is the first time I will have seen the track this weekend. I have seen graphics and it looks like a good layout with a mix of challenges, such as slow and fast corners, long straights, and elevation changes. I hope we can put on a good race at the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix for the Turkish fans and everybody watching TV worldwide.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren:
“I enjoy driving on newly designed circuits, such as Malaysia and Shanghai, so I am looking forward to the Turkish Grand Prix. The car feels great and hopefully I will be able to make the most of it this weekend and finish on the podium. When we get there on Thursday I will go for a recce with my engineers, to take a close look at braking points, cambers, apexes and so on. It should be quite a quick track, the estimated top speeds are around 320km/h. The longest straight is just over 700 metres, it has a slight right kink in the middle and it will be interesting to see what affect this will have on overtaking along this section of the track.”

Pedro de la Rosa, third driver, McLaren:
“I had the opportunity to visit the Istanbul Park earlier this year, when the circuit was in the final stages of construction. It looks like a great track, with some interesting and unique corners. Because we have no track data, the process of selecting the correct tyre with Michelin on Friday will be particularly key.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault:
“It is nice to arrive in Turkey (as championship leader), because it means we are strong and have a good chance of being successful in the first ever race there. I expect the temperatures to be very hot, so managing the tyres will be the first priority for us - there are lots of slow corners, which make the rear tyres work very hard on the exits. After that, I think the brakes will have quite a hard time, and it will tough for the drivers too in the cockpit: when temperatures are very high, we can lose up to 3 kilos through sweating in the car. So we need to be in top physical form as well as getting the car to perform to its best level.

“It was a bit of a surprise for us that we had problems in Hungary, but in reality I think the car could have been pretty competitive with a trouble-free race. Of course, that doesn't matter because the fact is we didn't score points, and we need to do that in Turkey. But we still have a strong car, and the team is very motivated. I am refreshed after the break, and ready to attack the final races of the year. The team is leading both championships, and that is definitely the best position to be in right now.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault:
“The first stage is just to learn the basics of the circuit, and you don't need to visit to do that. The team has given me a DVD of some laps in a road car so I can learn which way the corners go, and see the geography of the track. Some drivers use their Playstation to learn the track, but I think the video will be plenty for me. The first thing we do every race weekend is to walk the track with our engineers. It lets us inspect the track in detail - to look at the kerbs and see which parts of them we can use, plus to get a feel for the layout and how we need to drive it.

“It is always fun to discover a new circuit, and to have the challenge of learning it from the beginning. It is quite demanding for the driver, because we have to focus on the technical programme as well while we are learning. We did less practice mileage than usual (in Hungary). That means we have more laps in Turkey to learn the track and fine-tune the set-up of the car.

“I expect us to be very strong. We were not good in Hungary, but we have not performed to our expectations this season on the slow circuits. Turkey is much more like the tracks where we have been successful, and the hot weather is good for our car. I think we will be in the hunt for podium finishes.”

Nick Heidfeld, Williams:
"I'm looking forward to the first Turkish Grand Prix for two reasons. Firstly, I've never been to Turkey before so I'm excited about visiting a new country. That is probably one of the best things about having a career in Formula One, you get the opportunity to see places you may not have done otherwise. Secondly, I'm really looking forward to driving the circuit. There's nothing more exciting for a driver than racing on a new track.

“From everything I've heard, the Otodrom sounds really interesting. It has plenty of gradient changes, which I particularly like. Obviously we're going to have to deal with Turkey's considerable heat, but I've never had a problem with that in the past. The ability to prepare for a new circuit is, of course, limited. I've bought the Playstation game but, before I go to Turkey, I'll also be doing some work in our simulator at Grove."

Mark Webber, Williams:
"I always look forward to new venues. Although there are a lot of races on this year's calendar, it's rare that we go to new circuits which challenge the drivers. I think, though, that Istanbul will do exactly that. I visited the circuit at the start of 2004 and, although they had only just started excavating the site, it looked like it was going to have some good characteristics and have the potential for a great Formula One track. Looking at the data now, the circuit appears to have a lot of slow corners, interspersed with long straights. Whether this will provide overtaking opportunities, we will have to wait and see. The circuit's organisers have put so much effort into bringing F1 to Turkey, I really hope that the locals get behind the race so we can put on a good show for them and the rest of the world.

“Both Nick and I scored points in the last race in Budapest, and I hope we can continue to make progress at Istanbul so we can challenge for podiums again before the end of the season."

Jenson Button, BAR:
"I was really impressed by the layout of the circuit. The design is very interesting and I think it's going to make for some very good racing. The undulations that are part of the circuit make it very exciting from the driver's point of view - especially when it comes to overtaking and in qualifying when you are pushing to the limit trying to find braking points for the corners when you can hardly see the corners. It also makes for some very good viewing for the spectators. I can't wait to race there, although it will be very physical because it is one of only three anti-clockwise tracks we race at, and it will be incredibly hot."

Takuma Sato, BAR:
"It is always exciting to go to a new grand prix, especially in a country that I have not yet visited. From what I have seen so far, the circuit looks great. It is very difficult to know exactly what a new track will be like from two dimensional pictures, so the best way to get to know a circuit is to walk and drive around it first hand. I have had a good rest over the break and have been training hard. We are expecting the race to be very hot and physical, so it is important to stick to our fitness program between the races. I hope that we have a good race at the Turkish GP, to start the last of the remaining races with a strong performance."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
“After the break there is even more impatience to get back on the track. This short break was perhaps necessary for some people but, if I had the choice, I wouldn’t have taken it. I am pleased to be getting going again.

“I think I can adapt very well to the new track. I have not had the chance to take a good look at the circuit yet but I think that it is a mixed one with long, fast curves. It seems an interesting one. We will see how things go.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota:
"When you go to a new circuit it doesn't really have a major effect on the weekend. You just make sure you walk around the track on Thursday, then you spend the first session on Friday learning the circuit. By the second session it's back to normal and the rest of the weekend is the same as usual. Before we get there we have pretty much no idea about what the circuit will be like for driving. The back straight looks long so we might have a chance of overtaking at the end of that. The only other thing that stands out is that it is an anti-clockwise circuit. That means you might feel it in your neck because the pressures are the other way round from usual. There are some hills but when it comes to blind corners you just pick your braking point on Friday morning and get used to it. Apart from that you just go there and see what happens. I've never been to Turkey, so I'm looking forward to seeing the country. The one thing I do know is that it will be hot..."

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota: "I made a trip to Istanbul earlier this year, so I've already had a chance to see a bit of Turkey. The city was nice, we were very well received and I hope to have more time to see it when I come there this time. But I did not get a chance to visit the Istanbul Otodrom. When you go to a new track you usually spend the first session getting used to it. In this case it's a brand new circuit for everyone, so it's not too much of a problem. Everyone is affected in a similar way. I haven't seen any simulations yet, and the circuit maps are just lines on a page. The fact that this circuit has hills makes things more interesting than usual. The blind corners aren't a big problem but it won't be easy to brake downhill and sometimes you tend to lock up wheels on those kind of circuits. So I will take the scooter round on Thursday just to see which corner comes after which corner. Then you take the car on Friday and do the best you can."

Narain Karthikeyan, Jordan:
"I went to India during the break to do a lot of promotions, as it was the first time I had been back to my country in four months. I did a lot of work for my sponsors there, so I have been very busy for the first ten days. I have also spent some time with my family, which was very nice. Then I went straight to Turkey in order to learn the circuit. In the meantime, I have done some computer games of the new Turkish circuit, so I could at least learn what it's like. I have also trained a lot, as again it will be a very hot race. The good thing is that, from now on, I am very happy to say that apart from Turkey, which will be new for everybody, I know the next four circuits and I hope to do well."

Tiago Monteiro, Jordan:
"After Budapest, I went to Portugal to see my family for a few days but also to do a lot of promotions for my sponsors, such as shooting a commercial for instance. I only had maybe three days off in the whole two weeks, so even though we could not test the car, I have been very busy off the track. I am very excited about going to Turkey, a country I have never been to, but also because this is a new circuit, where everybody will be on the same level, learning the new layout, which could maybe be good for us. We know it is going to be a very difficult race as the weather conditions will be once again very hot, but I will do my best to finish another race."

Nicolas Kiesa, third driver, Jordan:
"During the three-week break, I have been doing a lot of physical training. To be honest, I am not sure that if I had had a race drive opportunity at Hockenheim or Budapest, I do not think I would have been physically ready for that. I have been doing a lot of work on strengthening my neck and shoulders. Turkey will be a new circuit for everyone, so it will be interesting to see how the different teams and drivers will adapt to the track. I was used to new circuits when I was driving in F3000. In my first year, every circuit we went to, I went straight into qualifying, so I had to learn quickly. I think I was quite good at that, so I hope it will be the same case here and that I will be able to do a good job for the team.”