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US Grand Prix - the drivers' preview 28 Jun 2006

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian Grand Prix, Preparations, Montreal, Canada, 22 June 2006 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda Racing F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Preparations, Silverstone, England, 8 June 2006 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, 23 June 2006 2nd place Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, 25 June 2006

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the world’s oldest and most famous racing venues. Imbued with a strong sense of history, the track is a definite favourite amongst the drivers. Here the men behind the wheel discuss their prospects for the weekend ahead…

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2005 Qualifying - 5th, 2005 Race - 1st

"Indianapolis should suit us and we will be doing all that we can. In my opinion, I think that we will be competitive although I cannot say for sure how we will do compared to our adversaries. The race will be on a track that none of us have tested on and this means that things always turn out differently to how we expect. For Indianapolis, the set up has to be a sort of compromise as there are long straights mixed with tricky stretches.

”It is not very easy but we have always done well here. This year, I do not expect our car to have any problems with the set up. Further, the great thing about Speedway is that overtaking is possible.

”The title challenge is not over and until it is, we will do all that we can to change the current situation. We will see what we can do. In any case, I am looking forward to the race. We want to put on a show for the fans."

Felipe Massa, Ferrari
2005 Qualifying - 10th, 2005 Race - DNF

“In these two races, Canada and Indy, it is very important for us to be in front of Renault. We have a good package, a good engine, and a good team working together to maybe the best race of Ferrari, and we just have a good chance to be in front of them.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2005 Qualifying - 6th, 2005 Race - DNF

"I am excited to be going back. The fans we see there are really passionate about Formula One - they are real motorsport fans and really interested in everything that is going on. The atmosphere in the paddock, in the pit-lane and around the track is fantastic thanks to them, so I am looking forward to racing there again. We have a great opportunity to put on a good show, and to demonstrate to the American fans that F1 is an interesting type of racing. To help us grow in America, we need to give them some excitement, some overtaking, and a good race.

"I am expecting another really tough battle. It was very close during the race in Montreal between Renault and McLaren, and Kimi put a lot of pressure on me all the way through the first part of the race. I expect it will be similar again this weekend, because we will be running basically the same cars without any developments on them. Depending on the tyre situation, Ferrari will be very competitive too. I have never finished a race in Indy, so this is another place where I really want to get on the podium and add a trophy to my collection!"

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2005 Qualifying - 4th, 2005 Race - DNF

"There is so much history at the Speedway, and you can feel it every time you go there. This is one of the big races of the year for Formula One, and the circuit has some unique characteristics like the banking, which is very high speed and different to anything else we encounter all year. The fans bring a special atmosphere to the circuit as well, and I think we can have a great weekend in Indy.

"Canada showed us that we have a very competitive package at these low downforce circuits. We had both cars on the front row in qualifying, and we were able to race at the front on Sunday. I didn't get the result that I wanted after making a mistake at the start of the race, but I am very confident that our car will be able to run at the front again this weekend in Indy. We need to wait and see how the tyre performance compares before we can predict any results. But we know that an aggressive approach is needed to carry on beating Ferrari - and that is what we will have."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren
2005 Qualifying - 2nd, 2005 Race - DNF

"At Montreal, we were able to show the step forward we have made with the MP4-21 and hopefully this week in America we will be able to challenge for the top step of the podium. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a great venue, and it is one of those everyone wants to say they have won at. The fans are also great, they are real petrol heads and I hope we can put on a good race for them this year. The track is all about compromise and is tough on all elements of the car. It is another fast track, like the past two of Silverstone and Montreal. Set-up wise the United States Grand Prix is more similar to Montreal as you have the long straight and slow corners, but you do have to allow for the slower infield section also. You can really challenge for position here, for sure the best opportunity is slipstreaming along the straight section of the oval and pass under braking at the right hander that takes you back into the infield. It also helps that the track is so wide here."

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren
2005 Qualifying - 11th, 2005 Race - DNF

“After my race in Canada, I cannot wait to get straight back on track this weekend, as the car felt really quick. It is even better for me that we are at Indy this race and competing for the fans, who are amazing and I personally have awesome support from Colombia, so I am looking forward to getting out there and putting on a fantastic show for them. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has such great memories for me from my days in CART and of course winning the Indy 500 in 2000, it is such a special venue, full of history and legend. The nature of the track, with the immense straight along the oval and the tight infield sees us use a medium to low downforce configuration to allow for the contrast in track style. The 1.7km section of the banked oval we use is the longest stretch we have at full throttle all season, it is pretty good fun as by the time you get to the end of the straight you really feel like you are going super fast because of the length of time!"

David Coulthard, Red Bull
2005 Qualifying - 16th, 2005 Race - DNF

“I would imagine that because it is one of the longest straights, we have 20 seconds of full throttle, given that our top speeds have not been particularly strong this year, I’d expect us to be mid-grid and possibly slightly further down. It will be difficult to get into the top 10, but that does not mean that we are going there with a defeatist attitude. We will try to do the best we can.”

Christian Klien, Red Bull
2005 Qualifying - 14th, 2005 Race - DNF

“We don’t know how competitive we will be because we didn’t race there last year. So it is a bit difficult. It has a very long straight, and the infield is actually very slow. Normally our car is a bit better on the slow circuits like Monaco and Hungary. We always try to fight for points, but for sure it will be difficult in Indy.”

Tiago Monteiro, Midland
2005 Qualifying - 17th, 2005 Race - 3rd

"This is a very special place for me. I took my first F1 podium here after what was admittedly a very strange race, but that doesn't diminish the pride I feel in my team for having achieved it. I've always loved Indy because it's also where my Champ Car team was based when I raced in that series in 2003, so I have a few friends there, as well. There is so much history at this track and it's also a nice place to drive, with a very technical infield and then this long, incredibly fast straight. I really enjoyed driving there in the past and I'm looking forward to doing it again."

Christijan Albers, Midland
2005 Qualifying - 18th, 2005 Race - 5th

"I hope we can do much better at Indianapolis than we did in Canada, which was really a disappointing weekend because we weren't able to get the maximum out of the car. The incident with Tiago was really unfortunate, too. It can only mean that things will get better at the Brickyard. Hopefully, we can find the right set-up for the car and do well in qualifying. The guys in the wind tunnel are working hard on a number of improvements for the car and hopefully they will be ready in time for the US Grand Prix."

Giorgio Mondini, third driver, Midland
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

"This will be my first time driving at Indy, so I'm very excited to be here. I'm really looking forward to the speeds we will be reaching on the banks and straight sections, although it's in the more technical infield section that the car will really be in its element. The team scored a wonderful result here under very strange circumstances last year, but I think we can still have a good showing with a full field."

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rosso
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

“We will struggle a lot at Indianapolis because with the V10 we always struggle on the fast circuits because we don’t have any top speed, and the V10 is not pushing enough.”

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

"Of course I have mixed memories of Indianapolis, not least from last year. It was a tough decision for the teams not to race and it was particularly hard on the fans who had travelled to see the event. But it was the right decision because it was clearly unsafe to race and the safety of the drivers has to come first. It's in the nature of a racing driver to want to race but I hope the fans will understand that it was just impossible last year. Now we just have to hope that we have a trouble-free race this time so that the American public can look forward to seeing Formula One as it really is. The organisers have done a good job with the circuit at the Speedway and the challenge is to set up the car for good speed along the oval section while retaining stability through the twisty infield. The atmosphere is usually great at Indianapolis and I hope it will be similar again this year."

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2005 Qualifying - 1st, 2005 Race - DNF

"Last year's US Grand Prix was an unfortunate weekend, and I was most sorry for the spectators who had come to the event. But we had no choice on race day because the risk to the drivers was too big. Of course it was hard to step out of the car but even though I was on pole, I would not have wanted to race under those conditions. Now we will just hope for a better weekend for everyone concerned this time. Indianapolis is a special venue and I enjoy the atmosphere both at the circuit and in the town because the people are so friendly. It has not been a very lucky season so far for me but we have definitely improved our performance as the season has gone on and the points in Canada were very welcome. I'm really looking forward to finishing the year well and I think I've earned the right to a change of fortune. But most of all, I just hope we can put on a good show in Indianapolis for the fans and try to erase the memories of last year."

Mark Webber, Williams
2005 Qualifying - 9th, 2005 Race - DNF

“It will be good to be back in America this week and I hope that we can put on a good show for the fans, they deserve it and Formula One needs it. As a team, we also need to do a lot better than we did in Canada, primarily by benefiting from a better tyre choice. I think we can be quite strong in Indianapolis, providing we make the right decisions in our preparations. I like racing in the US, even if the Speedway was not designed for Formula One cars, and I respect the history of the track. It’s important that we come home with some points from these two fly-aways.”

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

“Again, Indy is a track I haven’t yet raced at but one which I’ve learnt on the simulator. It seems to be quite different from the other circuits due to the very long straight and the banking. It will be interesting to see what Michelin and Bridgestone will come up with after what happened last year. I really hope that the fans will come back this year because I have watched several Indy 500 races on the TV and the atmosphere is just great with all those huge grandstands packed with people! For a driver, the bigger the crowd, the better it is!”

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2005 Qualifying - 7th, 2005 Race - 2nd

“I really enjoy racing in the United States and have a lot of friends based there so I always look forward to this particular race. The track itself is a lot of fun with some great overtaking places and it feels good to drive through the first corner of the oval banking flat out, although it is an easy corner for us in an F1 car. Indianapolis has such a strong motor racing heritage and traditionally puts on a great show so I hope that the race weekend goes really well this year for all the fans that come to watch. I had a disappointing race in Montreal so we will be hoping for better this weekend, but it will be tough for us until we return to testing and work on improving the performance of the car."

Jenson Button, Honda
2005 Qualifying - 3rd, 2005 Race - DNF

“It's always exciting to race at a venue which has such a strong history and Indianapolis always has a great atmosphere. The circuit itself is very slow with the tight in-field section. I generally prefer fast flowing circuits but you can overtake around here which should make for some exciting racing for the fans. We will be using different tyres at Indy to those we used last weekend in Montreal so I am hoping that we can have a better race there. I also hope that we can give the American public a really good race this year."

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2005 Qualifying - 15th, 2005 Race - DNF

"I am looking forward to the U.S. Grand Prix. Indianapolis is the Mecca of American motorsport. For us F1 drivers it is something special to drive on the banking, although basically this is a simple task as you just go flat out. We only use a part of the oval, as especially for F1 an infield section with lots of corners was built for its debut year in 2000. In the first year we didn't know whether it was better to drive with a lot of downforce in this part of the track, or if it was more important to be fast on the straight and have very little rear wing. In 2006 this question will be asked again, as we have changed from V10 to V8 engines and have approximately 200bhp less.

"I have done well in Indianapolis. In 2001 I had one of my best races to date. Although I lost first, second and seventh gears, I finished sixth and scored a point."

Jacques Villeneuve, BMW Sauber
2005 Qualifying - 12th, 2005 Race - DNF

"The F1 circuit in Indianapolis isn't a bad track, although I feel it's not as good as it could be. If I had designed it I would have used both straights on the oval, not just the one which is at the start of the lap. It is very long and we get up to speeds of well over 300kph. Here you are driving next to a wall and at the end you have to brake heavily, so that makes if different to other tracks. When you get near the end of the lap there is a kink where you rejoin the main oval and go into the final corner, which is banked. In this corner we reach speeds of 280kph and it doesn't really feel like a corner. It is a difficult track to drive and the fact it is bumpy doesn't help.

"It's always nice to go to Indy after a spell in Europe and the atmosphere outside the paddock is always great. It feels a bit like a home Grand Prix because of the number of Canadian fans that are there, and the US fans also know me quite well."

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

"Another new track for me. Another new experience. I just hope the car goes well there. Our testing has been very positive lately, so we all have high hopes for the races that are coming up and this includes Indianapolis. I am looking forward to seeing the Brickyard, as obviously I have heard a lot about it. It will be interesting driving a Formula One car on banking, but it will not be a totally new experience as I have driven on banking in Formula 3. From what I have heard other drivers say we are doing speeds in excess of 300kph and get fairly close to the wall."

Takuma Sato, Super Aguri
2005 Qualifying - 8th, 2005 Race - DNF

"Indy is a special place for me because I had the best race of my F1 career there in 2004 when I achieved my first podium finish. It is an historic place for motor racing and the fans are always very supportive. We could not race there last year, so for me the most recent memories from Indy are from 2004. The circuit is very unique as it uses the oval banking area with a long straight, but in contrast, the infield features many slow corners. I like the atmosphere at the two North American races, so I am very much looking forward to returning to Indy this week."

Franck Montagny, Super Aguri
2005 Qualifying - NA, 2005 Race - NA

“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the most popular circuits in motorsport, especially as it hosts the Indy 500 race. I am very happy to be going there for Formula One, I don't know the circuit, but I am not worried about it because I adapt quite quickly. I have been told that the circuit is more or less the same situation as Montreal in terms of set-up and as I think that we had a good car there I believe it's going to be a good weekend.”