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Bahrain Grand Prix - driver preview quotes 09 Mar 2006

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 9 March 2006 Jenson Button (GBR) Honda Racing F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 9 March 2006 Takuma Sato (JPN) Super Aguri F1 at a Super Aguri Racing Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 9 March 2006 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 9 March 2006

The months of preparation are finally over and this weekend the drivers will find out whether all the hard work has been worth it...

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2005 Qualifying - 1st, 2005 Race - 1st

“Bahrain is a unique circuit, because a lot of sand blows onto the surface from outside the circuit. This makes the feeling and driving style quite complex, because as you go into each corner, you don't know what the conditions are like or how much grip you have. The high temperatures also make life difficult for the engineers with the cooling of the car. I think there are still some unknowns for the first race.

“I am excited to arrive in Bahrain with number one on the car, and I will be trying to enjoy this year to the maximum. Honda, Ferrari, McLaren and Renault have been the four big teams in winter testing, and now we must check in the opening races. For sure, Renault are the ones to beat because we are the world champions, and I am confident we have done a good job.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2005 Qualifying - 10th, 2005 Race - DNF

“Bahrain is one of the new generation circuits, with excellent facilities. I have liked it ever since I drove there for the first time. There are some challenging corners and you have to attack the braking zones, which I enjoy. I didn't have much luck there last year, but I believe we will be strong in 2006.

“The tests showed us that Honda are very strong, and McLaren have made a big step forward. We don't know about Ferrari because we haven't done much running with them, but Renault are definitely among the favourites.”

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren
2005 Qualifying - 9th, 2005 Race - 3rd

"It is great to be back racing in Bahrain this weekend. It has been a busy winter season for us, with hard work taking place in every part of the team. Since my first outing in the MP4-21 at Barcelona on Thursday 26th January I have covered more than 3200 km with the new car. The car has felt good on track and is quick, which can be seen from the improvements in lap times of more than 3 seconds. Of course I want to carry on from our performance last year and be challenging for race wins, however we will only see where we are in Bahrain after qualifying. It is also going to be interesting this weekend to go back to tyre changes in the pit stops, we had to adapt driving styles slightly for last year as we didn't have tyre changes, so it may mean people are more aggressive as it is not so important to look after your tyres. Bahrain is a good track, it always seems to have exciting races and I hope there will be another one this year to start the 2006 season."

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

"The start of the 2006 season will be even more exciting than the previous years with all the changes of the technical and sporting regulations. It is a bit different for me this year as I now know the team and the car really well from the very start of the season. We have completed some intensive work on the test track. Since starting my test programme with the MP4-21 on 24 January I have been at the wheel for 12 days and covered more than 3500 km. In addition to this I have spent 8 days at the McLaren Technology Centre with the engineers, working on debriefs, seat-fitting and in the simulation department and I feel well prepared for the long season ahead. But as always there is a lot of work still to be done. The Bahrain track hasn't been my most successful venue to date, and starting there will be slightly tougher for me, as I didn’t race there last season. However I qualified well in 2004 and I always enjoy driving on tracks designed by Hermann Tilke. It has a good mix of corners, turn 12 is pretty cool and quite like Eau Rouge, so you are pushing it hard through the corner as it sweeps you right up the hill. The track is quite tough on the brakes though, as there are a number of long straights and slow corners, and little chance for them to cool. However it is not as bad as Canada, but we do need to make sure we manage this through the race."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2005 Qualifying - 2nd, 2005 Race - DNF

“We are well prepared and want to do well right from the start of the season. Further, we know the track fairly well as we tested there in mid-February. To be honest, I felt much less hopeful last year even though Bahrain was the third race in the calendar and this year it is the first. Last season we didn't even know if we would be able to get the new car to the starting grid, though we did it in the end. The race went quite well and I managed to keep pace with Fernando Alonso before suffering from hydraulic problems. This time, I think, we will be more competitive."

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2005 Qualifying - 6th, 2005 Race - 4th

"It's always nice to return to racing after the long winter break. Of course we will have to wait and see how the first couple of races go before we can truly compare our position to the others. But we hope to take some points in the first few races and take it from there. Our whole winter test programme has been targeting reliability and that is what we will need early in the season. We've been working with the TF106 since November so we've had plenty of time to put mileage on all the mechanical parts. The tests have gone well and both the car and the new V8 engine have run reliably so we should be confident heading to Sakhir, which is a great modern facility. Bahrain will be hot but at this time of year it should not be exceptional. Either way, all the teams have so much experience that the heat shouldn't make any difference from a technical point of view. So let's hope it's nice and warm. After a winter in Europe, that would be very welcome..."

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2005 Qualifying - 3rd, 2005 Race - 2nd

"I've only had good results when I've raced in Bahrain, particularly last year when I made the podium in second place. I had never been to the area before the race arrived on the calendar but Bahrain is incredible as an F1 venue. The facilities are state-of-the-art, much like Malaysia and China, and it has treated me well so far! It would be wonderful to achieve something similar again, so that is why everyone at Toyota has worked all winter to be as prepared as possible for this first grand prix of the year. The new season brings new challenges in every area. There are lots of new factors - the V8 engine, our Bridgestone tyres and of course the new qualifying system where cars will be eliminated during the session. That will be a bit more complicated than last year but it still boils down to producing a quick lap just when it matters. I'm confident that the TF106 can deliver strong results, but as ever we will only find out when we get on track with everyone this weekend."

Mark Webber, Williams
2005 Qualifying - 5th, 2005 Race - 6th

“Usually the first race of the season is at home in Australia, so the start of this year’s Championship has a very different feel about it for me, and it’s certainly a much quieter start than I’m used to! After all the pre-season testing and guessing games, I don’t think there’ll be a driver on the grid who’s not looking forward to getting down to what it’s all about, and that’s pitching yourself against everyone else. Race weekends are absolutely brilliant, we have our practice sessions, qualifying and the race and there can be no excuses at the end of it. You just have to get the maximum result possible for your team and yourself. The first race always has an extra buzz because it delivers the answers to those unresolved questions from pre-season testing. I’m looking forward to seeing where we’re at and to see what the first part of the season may bring for Williams. Bahrain can’t come quick enough!”

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

“After so much testing, its going be good to finally race and it will be very interesting to see where we are compared with the others teams. I'm very confident, though, as the recent tests have been going well for me and I feel very much at home in the car. I am looking forward to my first Formula One race, especially because it’s on a track that I really enjoy and one that I have had great success at having won the GP2 Championship there last year.”

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2005 Qualifying - 15th, 2005 Race - 9th

"It's really exciting for me to be racing for the very first time as a Honda Racing F1 Team driver. Since I have joined the team at the start of the year, it has been a very intense period of working hard on the test track and with the engineers. We have covered an incredible amount of laps and have been able to establish good reliability as well as improve the pace of the car. For me, our most important test was in Bahrain last month where we could work on the set-up of the car in the hot weather we will face this weekend and also complete a lot of laps, which really helped my physical conditioning. I feel very much at home with the team now and I can't wait for the first race of the new season, where I believe we will be very competitive."

Jenson Button, Honda
2005 Qualifying - 11th, 2005 Race - DNF

"Our pre-season testing programme has been extremely positive. The RA106 was strong and reliable from the start which has enabled us to complete plenty of mileage and given me the confidence to push the development from an early stage. I tried to complete as much testing as possible over the winter, which is reflected by the amount of kilometres I have driven. I have also been training hard and feel mentally and physically stronger than ever before. The Bahrain International Circuit is a great track and I enjoy racing here. There are several overtaking opportunities which always makes things exciting and the fast flowing sections are great. Testing in Bahrain in February was hugely beneficial for us and we are the only Michelin team to have tested the tyres and our car in the hot conditions prior to the race. I think that we have a really competitive package, and although this is the first time we will really see where we are compared to the other teams, I hope to be challenging for wins. I can't wait for the racing to begin this weekend."

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2005 Qualifying - 4th, 2005 Race - DNF

"Bahrain is hosting the curtain-raiser for the first time. That's something very special, and I think it will be reflected in the atmosphere of the event. They say ticket sales are high. What's special about the circuit is quite simply that it's in the desert. It means the track surface is always very sandy and dirty at the start, which results in very little grip. Lap times only improve gradually. Record temperatures such as the 42 Celsius we had last year are probably not on the cards for 2006, so the race won't be quite such a strain.

“The Bahrain circuit is an average to high-speed track. It demands high aerodynamic efficiency and a good engine for the long straight. We did a lot of testing over the winter and I feel pretty confident. I'm desperately looking forward to my first race after a long gap and I can't wait to see what the competition is like. It's hard to make any predictions, but my guess is that Renault and Honda will be in the lead to start with, possibly followed by McLaren and Ferrari, and then a group of closely bunched teams. We will probably be in with that group."

Jacques Villeneuve, BMW Sauber
2005 Qualifying - 16th, 2005 Race - 11th

"Bahrain is one of the hottest races of the year, and on top of that the first race is always the hardest one physically. So for sure it will be tough for the drivers and for the cars. Some teams have been testing on the Bahrain track recently, which means that they will have a big advantage. The track itself is fun and not too physical muscularly. We will cope with the heat, we are ready for that.

“We have done a lot of winter testing, much more than one year ago, which is very positive. However, it's time to start. I'm really looking forward to the first race, because this is what it's all about."

Robert Kubica, third driver, BMW Sauber
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

"I'm looking forward to a very, very interesting weekend. It will certainly be a steep learning curve for me, but it also means attending a race for the first time since 1995 without actually taking part. I know ten of the 18 grand prix circuits - all the European ones plus Sao Paulo. That means I've got three new circuits lined up right from the start. So far I've always managed to learn the circuits easily. I only know the Bahrain track from television and computer games, which I really enjoy, although they hardly teach you more than the track layout.

“I'm really looking forward to my new task and will do everything I can to provide the team with valuable information. I'll be learning a lot, not just in terms of the car and driving: I will also experience how the team operates on a GP weekend."

Tiago Monteiro, Midland
2005 Qualifying - 17th, 2005 Race - 10th

"After a long winter of testing, it's very exciting to be back in action. The first race is always very interesting; there are so many unknowns. Everyone on the team is very keen and motivated. I think we did an excellent job of getting ready this winter. We did way more testing than last year, and that can only help us down the road. We have to stay realistic and focused on working on moving in the right direction, but everything is looking positive at the moment. We're ready to go racing."

Christijan Albers, Midland
2005 Qualifying - 19th, 2005 Race - 13th

"I think we're doing quite reasonable, but it's never enough in Formula One. We need to push every day, every minute, every second, to get the results we're looking for. But the most important thing is that everybody is really motivated and everybody is pushing really hard to achieve our goals, which is to crack the top eight and score points whenever we can. Based on what I've seen so far, it's a reasonable goal but we have to keep working really hard for that. We've seen constant improvements in testing: the car is still quite new, but we keep finding performance improvements and it keeps getting faster all the time."

Takuma Sato, Super Aguri
2005 Qualifying - 13th, 2005 Race - DNF

“I am very excited to be going to Bahrain with a brand new team. They have done a great job to ensure that we made it to the first race - and that is a fantastic achievement. We shook down the car with our 2006 aero package last week and although we did not get to do much running due to bad weather, the car worked well immediately.

“It will feel very different starting the season in Bahrain. The circuit in Sakhir provides an exciting race, but it is demanding on the car, especially on the brakes due to the number of low-speed corners and the heat. We know that it will be a difficult start for what will be a very challenging year, but we are very much looking forward to it.”

Yuji Ide, Super Aguri
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

“I have been studying race simulations to learn the Bahrain circuit and the braking for the first corner looks challenging! I have never visited Bahrain, so I am excited to go. I am expecting tough conditions as it is my first F1 race but also because of the hot weather. I have driven in the heat at Sepang in Malaysia for Formula Nippon, but I know that dry heat will be very different. Whenever I race in hot conditions I am very careful to monitor my liquid intake and take care of what I am drinking for my re-hydration. The anticipation of my first Formula One race is nearly over and I am very excited about it.”