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Australian Grand Prix - driver preview quotes 29 Mar 2006

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, 19 March 2006 Mark Webber (AUS) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, 16 March 2006 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, 17 March 2006 Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 12 March 2006

Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit has always been a favourite with the drivers and this year is set to be no different. With this season's later date the temperatures may be slightly lower, but the competition will be as hot as ever...

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2005 Qualifying - 18th, 2005 Race - DNF

"I cannot wait for this race! Ferrari is competitive once again and the others will have to take us into consideration. It is a fantastic feeling and certainly much more than we could have hoped for after last season. I think that this is a relief both for the team and our fans alike. They suffered with us throughout a tough season but have remained faithful. It is a marvellous sensation knowing that we can give them hope for the weekend to come.

"As a city circuit, Albert Park is a scenic one and quite enjoyable to drive. It has also been improved from a safety point of view and this only increases my desire to dispute the race. In any case, I like this circuit and I expect a better result than that of Malaysia. Let's keep our fingers crossed!"

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2005 Qualifying - 15th, 2005 Race - 12th

"After Malaysia I returned to Europe for testing as we look to improve on our start to the year. Heating up the tyres has been a problem for us, so Australia will show us how far we've come. It is not usually particularly warm there and this race is taking place later than usual in their autumn. Because it is a street circuit, the track surface at Melbourne's Albert Park track tends to be dirty, so it could be hard to find grip, especially in the first lap of qualifying. But I do like the circuit - it is one of the most beautiful street circuits there is and also among the safest. The city itself is also one of my favourites on the calendar, so it all combines to make the Australian Grand Prix an exciting event. A difficult weekend awaits but I hope we can continue to push hard and use the data that we have collected so far this year to help pushing up the grid."

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2005 Qualifying - 2nd, 2005 Race - 9th

"Melbourne is a fantastic venue for F1 and the atmosphere is always great. I normally arrive early to put in some training outdoors but this year both Ralf and I returned to Europe last week to test the TF106 at Paul Ricard. I enjoy driving at Albert Park, especially the quick chicane at Turns 11 and 12. The track can be quite bumpy and you need a lot of grip and traction, particularly in the slow corners like Jones, Clark, Ascari and Prost. Given our problems with warming up our tyres in Bahrain the cool weather could be difficult for us but we will use the weekend to understand more about how to make improvements to how our car works with our tyres. There is no question about the motivation of the whole team to get back to the level where we can race at the front of the grid."

Mark Webber, Williams
2005 Qualifying - 3rd, 2005 Race - 5th

“The Australian Grand Prix is always a special fixture on the F1 calendar because there’s a tremendous atmosphere at Albert Park. It is also probably one of the best organised Grands Prix of the season. Of course, it’s particularly rewarding for me to drive in front of my home fans and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the weekend will unfold. Melbourne has finished staging a very successful Commonwealth Games so there’s already a big buzz around the city and an exciting Grand Prix will be a fantastic way to top off the past few weeks.

“The recent pace of the FW28 has been encouraging and, although we had a double retirement in Malaysia which was a big shame, there’s no question we’d like a big points haul in Melbourne. With the race a month later than normal this year, the weather could be a lot cooler, and potentially quite inconsistent, so that could be a factor as well. I’m more than ready for the race weekend and I’ve been in Australia for over a week now and spent a great few days down in Tasmania working on the Mark Webber Challenge which we launched in Melbourne on Tuesday. I was able to do some trekking, cycling and paddling in a kayak in some of the most spectacular and remote locations in the world. It was awesome!”

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

“I’m looking forward to Melbourne and continuing our strong performance. I haven’t been before, but I’ve heard that Melbourne is a lot of fun so it’s going to be good. The cooler temperatures will be a bit of a change from what we’ve experienced at the last two races, but I believe that we have made some improvements in order to be just as strong in cooler conditions.”

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2005 Qualifying - 11th, 2005 Race - 2nd

“I really enjoy the Australian Grand Prix and it is certainly one of my favourite races on the calendar. The Australian people are so relaxed, always helpful and smiling, it reminds me of Brazil really. Melbourne is a fantastic place to be based but what I like most about the weekend is the race track with its great combination of corners. Despite the weather, we achieved some good work at the Vallelunga test last week and I was encouraged by the new ideas that we tested. So I'm really looking forward to getting to Melbourne, our car seems to be strong in all areas at the moment, and I think we should enjoy the weekend."

Jenson Button, Honda
2005 Qualifying - 8th, 2005 Race - 11th

"Australia is a race that I always enjoy and having had a couple of races already this season, I think Melbourne is going to be even more special as we understand already who is quick and who isn't. Usually we don't know who is going to be competitive when Melbourne is the first race of the season. It's a beautiful city and I always enjoy travelling there very much. I'll be spending some time in Sydney before the race as well, working on my training and fitness but also taking some time to relax. The Albert Park street circuit is great for drivers but also for the fans as they can get that much closer to the action. We'll be hoping to build on the podium finish in Malaysia and using some of the developments from the test last week, I'm sure that we will have another strong race."

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2005 Qualifying - 7th, 2005 Race - DNF

"This season's Australian Grand Prix will certainly have a rather different feel about it. To start with, the race has been put back due to the Commonwealth Games, so there won't be that extra buzz you get when it's the first race of the season. And because it's later in the year, it won't be as hot as usual either - the race is a month later than normal and Melbourne will be getting really quite autumnal. The Albert Park circuit is nice to drive, but also a demanding one for the drivers. Because it isn't a permanent race track, there isn't much grip at the start of the weekend. The situation improves with each lap as the cars lay down extra rubber. Australia is my favourite place on the Formula One calendar to travel to and I tend to fly out to Melbourne a few days early to get used to the time difference."

Jacques Villeneuve, BMW Sauber
2005 Qualifying - 4th, 2005 Race - 13th

"It's always a pleasure to travel to Melbourne, especially if I have bit of time there to relax before the race. I enjoy racing at Albert Park - I like the circuit and am looking forward to the GP. BMW have got a lot of things going on around the grand prix and that in itself will make it an interesting weekend for me. As for our performance, I think the two points we collected in Malaysia show that we can be pretty competitive - and that was psychologically important for the team. Added to which, BMW has proved with my engine that they can react extremely quickly when a problem comes up. There is a very constructive atmosphere within the team. Having said that, the circuit in Australia is another that's heavy on engines, and this will be my second race with the engine I used in Malaysia. So we'll have to exercise a certain amount of caution during the weekend."

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

"Melbourne is the third circuit in a row that will be totally new to me. However, my performances in Bahrain and Malaysia have given me confidence that I can rise to the challenge on basically any track. On the Friday in Sepang I drove more or less an entire GP race distance in extreme climatic conditions without experiencing the slightest problem. Up to now the team have been happy with my work, and my top priority, of course, is to collect as much information as possible in Melbourne in order to help Jacques and Nick in their preparation for the race. I've never been to Australia but I've heard a lot of good things about Melbourne, so I'm really looking forward to this third race of the year."

Tiago Monteiro, Midland
2005 Qualifying - 14th, 2005 Race - 16th

"I love this city, and I have very fond memories of this circuit. This was, after all, where I made my F1 debut last year. I tend to like street circuits - this one and Monaco are the only two on the calendar that use public roads - because they're unforgiving and they give the drivers a chance to make more of a difference. I also think this track suits our car a little better than the previous two. Downforce is still a big factor, but there isn't as much of an emphasis on straight-line aerodynamic efficiency. We've made big gains in that department since last year, but nobody sits still in Formula 1, and we still have some work to do. But if we've done our homework and the car is running the way that it should, I'm pretty confident we can have a much better race here."

Christijan Albers, Midland
2005 Qualifying - 17th, 2005 Race - DNF

"Unlike Tiago, my first memories of this track are not so nice! I retired with transmission problems after only 16 laps, so I'd rather forget about that. But I'm really looking forward to this year's race, and fighting alongside the team to get some more performance out of the car. I really think we're going to do better here, because our car tends to work better on this type of track. This is a really hard-braking circuit, and our stability under braking keeps improving all the time, so I expect to have some good battles. There should be some good wheel-to-wheel racing, with plenty of overtaking opportunities. Spectators should enjoy this race, and hopefully, we will, too!"

Markus Winkelhock, third driver, Midland
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

"This is a similar situation to Bahrain, in that I've never been here before, so everything is new. I've tried to familiarise myself with the circuit by doing some laps on Playstation and watching a recording of last year's race, and I think that was quite helpful. I'm also going to do a few laps on foot or by bike, examining all the corners carefully, so hopefully that will speed up the process a bit. I'm going to have to take it easy on my first few laps, though, because unlike Bahrain, there aren't any wide run-off areas - the walls are quite close to the track, so you can't afford to make any mistakes. I may not have actually driven here before, but just from looking at it, I have a feeling I'm going to enjoy this track."

Takuma Sato, Super Aguri
2005 Qualifying - 19th, 2005 Race - 14th

“I enjoy visiting Melbourne very much as the city has good food, a friendly atmosphere and, when the weather is fine, great sunshine. The circuit at Albert Park has very different characteristics to the tracks from the first two races. The team will have a new aero update for this race and I think that our car will be better suited to this meandering street circuit. After the opening back-to-back races the team has now had a chance to take a short break and we have also had time to evaluate our performance from the initial races and hopefully make a step forward for the coming Grands Prix.”

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

"I have visited Australia many times and I always liked it. There's only one hour time difference from Japan and the weather is great. I am looking forward to the grand prix in Melbourne and to hopefully finishing a Formula One race for the first time. It has been very disappointing for me to not finish the past two races, especially since all the mechanics are working so hard. I know that there has been a mechanical problem on my car, but I feel very frustrated. I really hope that I will be able to finish the next race in Australia."

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2005 Qualifying - 13th, 2005 Race - 3rd

“Melbourne always has one of the best atmospheres of the whole season. I think it comes from the people, and their culture, they always make it a good Grand Prix. It is a long way from home, but we are always happy to be in Melbourne, to feel the country's passion for Formula 1. It will be a fantastic weekend this year, I am sure.

“The fact it is a street circuit means there are some traffic lines on the asphalt, so it we get any rain, then you have to choose the line very carefully because these areas are slippery, and that can make the circuit a bit complex. It is quite bumpy too, and takes a long time to clean up during the race weekend. It makes for a difficult Grand Prix.

“Over the last few years, good braking and traction have been strong characteristics of the Renault cars, and this is what you need in Melbourne. The key is the slow-speed chicanes, where you arrive in sixth or seventh gear, brake hard, then get back on the throttle in second gear. We know the car is good in those areas, and we were very quick at this circuit last year. It should be the same for 2006.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2005 Qualifying - 1st, 2005 Race - 1st

“I have a great feeling here, I won last year, and I am hoping to do the same again! This is the last flyaway race, and it is very important to score lots of points early in the season. I think Renault will be very competitive in Australia, and I am going for the win. I want to arrive in Imola, one of my home races, with a very strong position in the championship.”

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren
2005 Qualifying - 10th, 2005 Race - 8th

"After the first two races, I am really hoping to have a trouble free weekend in Australia, as the car feels good and I think that we can get some good results with it. I am aiming to get a solid points finish at this race to take back to Europe. Albert Park is a high downforce track and it has pretty low grip, this is because the surface is always dusty as it is old roads that are not used anymore. But this tends to clean up quickly during Friday running and then the track surface is fairly smooth. There are some hard braking zones and sharp bends, which can be tough on the brakes and tyres, such as into turn three, and demand good traction to be fast out of the corners. The Australian race is one of the favourites I think with most people in the sport, and there is always such an enthusiastic atmosphere in Melbourne for the event."

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren
2005 Qualifying - 9th, 2005 Race - 6th

"It wasn't an ideal weekend for me in Malaysia, but at least I finished fifth and fourth in the last two races. I am now looking forward to racing in Melbourne and hopefully challenging for a podium position. Albert Park is quite a flowing circuit, with long, sweeping bends and quick corners, so it is fun to drive and you can really build up a good rhythm. There are some places on the track where you can pass, primarily the right hander of turn one at the end of the main straight, where your speed drops from over 300km/h to around 130km/h, and also as you flow on through the curve of turn two that immediately follows. Another chance is through the left flick of 11, which is taken quite quickly at just over 210km/h in fourth."