Italian Grand Prix - driver preview quotes 05 Sep 2007
This weekend Formula One racing will descend on Monza for the Italian Grand Prix and after last weeks successful testing session at the track, all the drivers are eager to start racing.
Here they explain why Monza is a particularly exciting prospect and predict how they might fare at the fastest race of the year
Fernando Alonso, McLaren
2006 Qualifying - 10th, 2006 Race - DNF
The Monza track is not like any other we race on during the season, it is all about high speeds. The cars always feel so different, very light and not always under control to be honest! That is because of the low downforce we use to get the high speeds. The wings are the thinnest we run and there will be a lot of Monza specific parts on the car. With this small amount of downforce, you then have to adapt areas such as braking stability and mechanical balance to get good grip in the corners, because the lack of downforce means the car has very little. We spent time testing these on the track this week, and we had some good feedback so I feel positive going into the race.
It is a challenge, but it is a special circuit and it is a great feeling to race here. Last year did not give me any good memories, but it is a track that I would really like to win at so hopefully we can make that happen in 2007. The track is very famous for the Parabolica corner, alongside all the straights. It is flat out, and you really have to be on the edge and push the car hard, which is a real feeling of risk because of the light handling of the car. To get a quick lap time here, you have to be strong through Parabolica as it takes you back onto the longest straight of them all over the start / finish line.
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA
Monza is a very historic circuit, so it is quite special when you go there for any driver. It is a great track, you have the long, long straights and some great high speed corners. I had my first race there last year in GP2 and it was a very memorable weekend because it was where I won the championship. I also had an awesome battle with Giorgio Pantano for the whole of the Sunday race, which was one of the most enjoyable for me all year.
Hopefully this year I will have just as good a race and great memories for the future. I remember it is not an easy track to get a good set-up at, so the test this week was very useful. It is really tough on the cars, and you have to use the kerbs a lot to get quick lap times. Because of this we have a softer suspension package to make the car ride over them better so we can use them more and in a bid to avoid any damage. Slowing the cars down with the incredibly low downforce is not easy, and the balance under braking is key. This was another area we worked on in the test.
Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2006 Qualifying - 9th, 2006 Race - 4th
It means even more because this is the only race in Italy this season, because we haven't been to Imola! I have always enjoyed racing at Monza, ever since I won here in Formula 3. I got on the podium in 2005 as well, the first Italian to do that since Alboreto. It is a challenging circuit for the drivers, and I have some good memories, so I am looking forward to seeing what we can do this year.
We have been working hard to ensure the car can be competitive. Our test last week was spent preparing for the race, even though bad weather on Thursday restricted our running. Like the other teams, we have a specific, new aerodynamic package for this race, which is adapted to the specific demands of the circuit. We know that our engine is strong too, but even though we have tested here recently, it will still be important to make good use of practice to fine-tune the car, and find the right compromise for qualifying and the race.
Heikki Kovalainen, Renault
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA
I think it is a very exciting race, because of the layout and also the atmosphere. This is a special weekend in the F1 season. The circuit is very fast, you run very light downforce and the drivers need to maintain total concentration throughout. You often see quite dramatic races here as well, and the Ferrari supporters will be out in force this weekend to cheer on their team. Our goal will be to put on a strong performance for the fans who are supporting us out in the stands too.
It is very demanding for the drivers and the teams. The car feels very 'light' to drive, and slides very easily in the corners. Lesmo One and Lesmo Two are particularly tricky, because you take them in fourth gear at high speed and when the tyres are already a bit worn, like in race conditions, it is very difficult to control the car. Those are the unique challenges Monza offers.
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2006 Qualifying - 1st, 2006 Race - 2nd
I'll race at Monza for the first time with a Ferrari and it will be really special to feel the heat of the tifosi: I can't wait to see all the flags with the Prancing Horse on the grandstands. I always liked the atmosphere at this track. Already during the test many fans came to see us there and it's good to know that you can rely on their support. This is a very special track from the technical point of view; it's different from all the others. You need good aerodynamics, so you remain stable over the curbs, to be quick; but you also need a great engine, as you give it all for most of the lap.
Traditionally Ferrari has been very competitive here, but also McLaren has been very strong, during the years when I raced for them, but for some reason or another I never managed to win. Let's hope we can make it this time, by being perfect from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon. Winning the homerace of Ferrari would be a great feeling.
Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2006 Qualifying - 13th, 2006 Race - 15th
Turkey was a difficult weekend for me after qualifying but, despite the disappointing result, the positive thing was that the car felt good during the race. From where we were on the grid it was almost impossible to achieve a good result but I am confident we can have a better weekend in Italy. It is always nice to race in Italy because of the heritage and history of Monza.
We will use a very low downforce set-up because of the long straights but, as well as high speed, having confidence under braking for the tight chicanes is important. It is completely different from most other circuits and that makes Monza an interesting challenge for drivers. We will have a different aero package on the car for this race because Monza is unique. Im looking forward to this weekend and hopefully we can show the potential of our car by fighting for more points.
Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2006 Qualifying - 11th, 2006 Race - 7th
For me the Italian Grand Prix is special because it is my home race and I get a lot of support from my Italian fans. This is the only race in Italy so I am really looking forward to it. Monza has a really special atmosphere and it is a very different circuit compared to the others, with the very high speeds on the long straights.
The engine plays a more important role at Monza than some other tracks and you have to work on setting up the car to be as quick as possible on the straights, but stable under braking because you need to brake hard from high speed. We had a disappointing race in Turkey after my incident at the first corner, which was a shame because the car was well balanced and we were expecting a better result. Now we will focus on getting the most out of the car in Italy and hopefully I can score points in my home race.
Nico Rosberg, Williams
2006 Qualifying - 12th, 2006 Race - DNF
I like racing at Monza. I have good memories there, especially from my GP2 race when I had a very good weekend, finishing in second twice and setting the fastest lap. The circuit itself is unique, has a great deal of history and its fun to drive. The whole lap is a great experience because every corner is different and interesting in its own way. The second chicane is fun because you have to throw the car over the kerbs, hold onto as much speed as you can and brake as late as possible, unlike at the two Lesmos where you need to brake a bit earlier. The Ascari corner and the Parabolica are also interesting for the drivers. The atmosphere at the Autodromo is brilliant thanks to the tifosi. Italy has a lot of nice places to visit, it has fantastic food and I really like the Italian attitude to life, which is probably why most of my friends are Italian!
Alexander Wurz, Williams
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA
We have Monza coming up this weekend, which is always a special race because of the tifosi. I also enjoy the Italian lifestyle, so its nice to spend a few days there. The circuit is the last remaining high speed track on the calendar and I really like driving it. It always takes a while to get used to it but once youve adapted your driving style and tuned your brain into it, its challenging, but its great. I usually have good races at Monza, so I hope that continues for the coming race weekend. I want to chase a few more points to keep ahead of my team mate and so the team can move comfortably ahead of Red Bull and Toyota.
Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2006 Qualifying - 8th, 2006 Race - 6th
Monza is quite simply one of the most special races on the Formula One calendar and it is a real honour to race around the legendary circuit. Some of my favourite racing memories took place at this track, particularly my victories here in 2004 and 2002. The atmosphere over the race weekend takes some beating and you can really feel the history of all the great races that have taken place over the years. In terms of the track itself, Monza is the quickest circuit on the calendar, featuring very long straights where top speeds are in the region of 340 km/h so the power of the engine is very important. The cars are run in the lowest downforce configuration of the year, with stability under braking and the ability to use the kerbs being crucial to getting a good lap. We tested at Monza last week in preparation for the race, focusing on the required set-up and evaluating the tyre options. We set some reasonable lap times and the car reacted well so I am fairly happy going into the race weekend.
Jenson Button, Honda
2006 Qualifying - 5th, 2006 Race - 5th
I always look forward to racing at Monza and it is a track that I really enjoy as the racing around there can be very exciting and the atmosphere over the weekend is always electric. Ascari is probably my favourite part of the track and you can have a lot of fun through there, particularly in a well-balanced car. It's a very fast lap with big braking points so you have concentrate hard the whole way round and make sure that you use the kerbs to your full advantage to take every tenth from the lap. We tested here last week for four days which went well despite the unusually poor weather. We ran the car in the unique set-up required for Monza with a lower downforce setting than usual and it performed well. The race will be tough however I expect our performance to be more competitive than some of the recent races which gives cause for optimism.
Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2006 Qualifying - 3rd, 2006 Race - 8th
Monza is a very special circuit, the only real high-speed track left in Formula One. We hit speeds of up to 350 km/h on the straights, faster than at any other venue during the season. Monza has a lot of tradition and character, but unfortunately also rather outdated safety provisions. Given the high speeds we are driving at, the run-off areas are pretty small.
I think we'll put in a good performance at Monza. It's a circuit where a good low- downforce package is important, and we're normally pretty strong in that area. The other thing you need is bags of engine power, and I think we'll be okay in that department as well. We were right up there at Monza in 2006. I was 'only' third in qualifying, but that was with a heavy fuel load. If we had all been carrying the same amount of fuel, I would most likely have been on pole. In the race itself, I still managed to get a point despite having to come in for a drive-through penalty.
Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2006 Qualifying - 6th, 2006 Race - 3rd
After doing so well at Monza last time around, we're looking forward to racing again at the lowest-downforce circuit of the season. I picked up my first podium finish in Formula One here in 2006 and am still waiting for my second. I hope we will be able to reproduce our performance of last year.
I like most sections of the track because they are different from other circuits, quite unique. There are some very fast corners and a chicane where you jump heavily over the kerbstones. The car set-up has to be a compromise and meet the demands of both fast and slower sections, offering grip and allowing the fastest possible straight-line speed. Monza is not an easy race track.
I lived in Italy for a long time and know Monza well after doing a lot of testing there. However, until 2006 I had never really done that well in races at the circuit. I'm a fan of Italy. I always worked with really good people in Italy and drove in karting, Formula Renault and Formula 3 races there - always for Italian teams. I have great memories of those times, especially of my karting days.
More to follow.