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Australian Grand Prix preview quotes 12 Mar 2008

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 27 February 2008. World © Moy/Sutton Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 makes a pit stop. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 25 February 2008. World © Moy/Sutton Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault Formula One Testing, Day Two, Jerez, Spain, 13 February 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 VJM01 and Colin Kolles (GER) Force India F1 Team Principal Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 27 February 2008. World © Moy/Sutton Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.08 Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 01 February 2008. World © Patching/Sutton

This weekend’s Australian Grand Prix will put an end to four long months of waiting for Formula One fans across the world. For the teams and drivers the joy of getting back to racing again will prove just as exciting, and with Melbourne a firm favourite with most, there couldn’t be a better place to kick start the 2008 season...

Felipe Massa, Ferrari
2007 Qualifying - 22nd, 2007 Race - 6th

“After all our winter testing, the serious business of racing starts again and I cannot wait for Sunday afternoon to come here in Albert Park. I only arrived in Melbourne on Tuesday, having spend some time at home in Brazil. On the reliability front it is difficult to say exactly what might happen, but on this point we are definitely in better shape than we were at the start of '07. Now, with the racing starting, we will see where we stand and if and in which areas we need to improve. What we are certain of is that we are starting from a good base line.

“I have not been so lucky at this circuit in the past, failing to complete the first lap two years ago and then last year I had a problem in qualifying. Sure, it is important to make a good start to the season, but the sport is so competitive, you also need to have a good middle and a good end! Hopefully this weekend will go better than the last two in Australia. You know, when there are two teams that are very close and competitive, which I think is the situation again this year, then every single point counts race by race.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2007 Qualifying - 1st, 2007 Race - 1st

“I'm a racing driver. And obviously all I want to do is to race. That is my job and I love it. I can't wait for the new season to start. I believe that we're going to Melbourne with a competitive car. The tests during the winter went very well and we did everything possible. The F2008 is a step forward from the car we had last year. I really like racing in Melbourne and it's nice having won there already before. The track is very slippery on the first day due to the fact that it's only used once per year. Braking without the engine brake will be a bit more difficult, but we've had already many tests and a driver adapts quickly. I have good memories from last year: we dominated the whole race weekend and in the end we gained the pole position and won the race. It's really nice to get off to a good start. We managed that last year, although afterwards we lost it a bit. I definitely want to win also this year, because it's always better to lead instead of having to catch up!”

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2007 Qualifying - 12th, 2007 Race - 7th

“I travelled out to Australia early for a driver day in Sydney with RBS; it’s now an annual event and is always one of the best sponsor trips. Looking ahead to the race, I’m looking forward to getting to Melbourne and getting the season underway, and there’s a good chance that we will be stronger at Albert Park this year than we were last year. Saturday’s qualifying results will provide the moment of truth for all of the teams and will reveal testing bluffs and low fuel runs. I believe that we will have a solid race this weekend and will look to bring home some points. Reliability-wise, it will be challenging to achieve our target of 100 percent this season, but we’re in good shape.”

Kazuki Nakajima,Williams
2007 Qualifying - NA, 2007 Race - NA

“It’s amazing that the first race of the season is finally here and I’m obviously really excited to get my debut year in Formula One underway. We’ve been working hard over winter testing and done a lot of good preparation work so the team is looking forward to racing again. Because Melbourne is a street circuit, it will be quite slippery when we do our initial runs, but it should have settled down by Saturday. The track is a good combination of slow and medium speed corners, with some fast ones thrown in as well. It’s also looking like it will be a hot race, which will suit the car. I feel like I’ve been testing for quite a long time now, so it’ll be good to actually race!”

Sam Michael, Williams technical director
“Heading off to the first race of the year is always an exciting time for everyone. There is a great buzz among the teams before the racing starts again because it allows us to see where our performance lies relative to each other. From the last race in 2007 to the first race in 2008 testing provides some indication, but not the solid reference point that racing offers. With regards to the track, Melbourne is a low grip street circuit so special attention is required when it comes to the mechanical set-up of the car to get the best out of the Bridgestone tyres. Nico and Kazuki are both well prepared going into the season ahead, as is the car, which has covered thousands of kilometres on the test track over the winter to ensure strong race reliability.”

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2007 Qualifying - 4th, 2007 Race - 3rd

“My motivation is even higher than last year, but in a slightly different way. I would say last year was an uncontrollable determination and excitement and just not really knowing what was coming up, just going into the deep blue. I feel very positive about it, I think we have made some mega steps forward and the reliability is even better. The car feels stronger than last year, and despite the removal of areas such as traction control, it is also very similar in certain ways. I think we have come a really long way already before the first Grand Prix, and I am confident we will be able to compete with the other teams.”

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
2007 Qualifying - 13th, 2007 Race - 10th

“I am looking forward to my first race with McLaren, I think I have prepared well and I hope I can have a better start to the season than last year. This is my target, but I am aware that I still need to learn many things, I am still in a learning process with the team and I know there are things I need to improve. But I believe I have a solid base and we are ready to get out there and start the season. At the moment for me the focus is just on the first race and trying to start it better than last year. Hopefully we can finish the race and have a good start to build on. Then later on in the year, trying to improve the performance all the time. To be honest, for me it is better not to think too much about anything but the first race.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2007 Qualifying - 2nd, 2007 Race - 2nd

“The first race will not be easy, but I am looking forward to it and the beginning of the championship. Many challenges await the Renault, but we have worked hard these last few months and it is now time for the racing to begin. I know that a win or a podium in Australia will be difficult, but you never know what can happen during the race. It may rain; the race may take place on a drying track and you can have the chance to spring a surprise. If an opportunity presents itself, I am ready to seize it.”

Nelson Piquet Jr, Renault
2007 Qualifying - NA, 2007 Race - NA

“These last few weeks have been busy with testing and I have been concentrating on my work and preparation so that I am ready for Melbourne. I feel I have done everything in order to be ready, but the only way to get fully prepared is to do laps on the circuit. Only then can you really have an idea of the layout of the track, how to use the cubs and the best lines. I need to work well with my engineers to set up my car and then I need to get the best of it. I’m very competitive and I would like to score points in my first race, but I recognise that these things can take time. Above all, I want to approach this first race calmly, one step at a time.”

Bob Bell, Renault technical director
“We want to be fighting for a podium - that will be our clear objective for the season, and that’s what we’re aiming for in Melbourne. Exactly how things will shake out is anybody’s guess, but we will be doing everything we can to try and achieve that. Albert Park is a circuit that Fernando knows well, and he’s been successful there in the past, winning with the team in 2006. It’s a new circuit for Nelson, and so our main focus is to make sure that he is as well prepared as he can be. It’s probably the most difficult circuit for a driver to learn because it’s so technical and one of those places where drivers find it difficult to get their lines absolutely right.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India
2007 Qualifying - 6th, 2007 Race - 5th

“Since I joined Force India two months ago it's been a very exciting time, both for the team and for myself. I feel totally at home here, with both the engineers and the mechanics. It feels as if I have been at Force India for a long time! Australia is a good place for me to start the season and my Force India race career. I won the race in 2005 and started in second place in 2006 and with a car that was not as competitive as we would have liked, I finished in fifth last season.

“I feel confident for this first race with Force India. My first target is to get into Q2, but then the final hope is to score Force India's first point in the championship. We have maybe another two to three tenths to come from new developments we have in the pipeline, which could mean a step forward and another few places on the grid. Looking at the other teams, under race conditions I do not think they will get away from us that easily.”

Adrian Sutil, Force India
2007 Qualifying - 20th, 2007 Race - 17th

“The winter period was quite busy with two trips to India and then some busy tests with full programmes. As we are using the same chassis as last year and are familiar with how it behaves, the focus has been on getting the new electronics to work with the car, understanding how the car works without traction control and trying to find the stability on entry and exit into the corners. We took some time trying to find the limit, but I am not worried about having the last tweaks so close to the start of the season; it just gives us more time to get it right in development.

“You can see that the team is better structured this year, and everything seems to be going in the right direction, there is more budget, and we can develop the parts we wanted to last year, but couldn't because of resources. My goals are to do everything possible to be better this year; to make fewer mistakes and get a few points. I want to help the team move forward.”

Dr. Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and managing director
“To be one of 11 teams participating is itself is a matter of great pride. Not everyone can say we own an F1 team and we are on that grid. It takes a lot to be there in the first place. You're effectively competing at the very highest level in the world, for the world championship, and you're one of the chosen 11. We have a lot of work to do, but we're moving in the right direction very positively, and in a very determined manner.”

Colin Kolles, Force India team principal
“I have been with this team through some difficult times over the past three years, but with dedicated team owners, a realistic budget and high ambitions, I can now see a long-term future for us. We are here at the start of something incredibly exciting - a new market to capture, a new spirit in the team and increased resources to really deliver. Having the strong driver line-up of the experienced Giancarlo Fisichella and the very promising Adrian Sutil, backed very ably by Tonio Liuzzi, was the first sign that we are not just happy to be at the back anymore - we are looking forward and laying down stones for the future.”

Mike Gascoyne, chief technical officer
“The feeling in the team is one of excitement and the atmosphere is very optimistic. Times have been very hard for this team over the last five years, with various owners and false dawns, but I think now with a realistic budget and an exciting driver line-up we can really start to do a good job. As a result everyone is excited about the future. We are under no illusions that we are starting from the back, but I think we can look at this year as the team really starting to build itself up as a competitive unit, so there is a very positive feeling.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2007 Qualifying - 8th, 2007 Race - 9th

“I am always excited by the start of a new season and this year I am probably more motivated than ever. Testing has gone well with the new car; we have made good progress and we know the right direction to work in so I am optimistic. This year's car is a big improvement; it is very different to the TF107 and we have a lot of potential to continue the improvement we have seen in testing. I really enjoy visiting Australia and Melbourne in particular so I am looking forward to good weather and another enthusiastic crowd, as we always seem to get at Albert Park. The circuit isn't the most challenging but it's nice to drive and I hope we can be competitive. I am totally focused on getting a strong result this weekend and I think we have a good chance to score points.”

Timo Glock, Toyota
2007 Qualifying - NA, 2007 Race - NA

“The Australian Grand Prix will be my race debut for Toyota so I am very excited. The Albert Park track is a very picturesque street circuit but it is not the most challenging circuit on the calendar for a driver. It's a quite an unusual track because it is only used for the Australian Grand Prix; there are no other motorsport meetings there during the year. This means that every time we go there it is a green track, so there is no grip at all to start with, and that makes it sometimes quite difficult to find the right direction in terms of the set-up. But this is the same for everyone and I have an experienced team mate in Jarno so that should help me a little bit. The Australian fans are always very enthusiastic so I am looking forward to racing in front of them. My goal for the year is to consistently fight for the points and I hope to make a strong start to the season in Melbourne.”

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota’s senior general manager chassis
“When you are in this business because of your passion for motorsport you cannot fail to be excited when the first race is coming around, so we are all looking forward to Australia. Generally Melbourne is a very specific track and not totally representative of an average Formula One circuit. The tarmac is very smooth which favours a lack of warm-up and lack of bite from the tyres and we have to cope with that to balance the car. It is a given, a fact in Melbourne, and we have to deal with it. We are optimistic for this weekend, particularly because the second half of winter testing went well and the estimated window of competitiveness has been clearly improving since the tests in Bahrain. So we are definitely hopeful and willing to fight close to the front. Our goal has to be finishing in the points and fighting for the top six. Based on the facts in front of us it is a realistic target.”

Takuma Sato, Super Aguri
2007 Qualifying - 10th, 2007 Race - 12th

“I am excited about 2008 and happy to be able to carry the momentum gathered during the past two years into a third season with Super Aguri. Our winter preparation has not been as comprehensive as we had wished; however we always get over these difficulties and keep pushing forward with our fighting spirit. I hope that we can maintain this through the coming season and make up for some lost time. I am looking forward to the coming season - the new rules with no traction control will make race interesting and should be very exciting. I have been training hard all winter and have completed the best preparation I can. As a team we hope that we can have a good race in Melbourne and the rest of the year.”

Anthony Davidson, Super Aguri
2007 Qualifying - 11th, 2007 Race - 16th

“I'm really looking forward to my second season with the Super Aguri team and to building on what we achieved last year. The testing we have been able to do has gone well and we are continuing to make improvements to the car in conjunction with the new MES system. I've concentrated on my training and preparation over the winter and I'm fully motivated for the challenges that this year will bring. Everyone in the team has been working hard and I'd like to thank them, and Honda, for the continued support.”

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2007 Qualifying - 16th, 2007 Race - 11th

“The mid-field is going to be very close this year, so we could see an interesting battle. It's almost impossible to say where we'll end up in Melbourne because the lap times will be close. So it's a case of wait and see. I feel like a boy with a new toy! Having driven without TC (Traction Control) for many years in the '90s, it didn't take me long to adjust. It will throw up new challenges, particularly when it's wet, but they are challenges that I'm looking forward to.”

Jenson Button, Honda
2007 Qualifying - 14th, 2007 Race - 15th

“It's a very driveable car, which gives us a good basis to build on. It still lacks a bit of speed, but we've made improvements at every test in many areas and I'm confident that this level of development can continue throughout the year. Like all of the drivers, I've been busy with testing the new car and there's no substitute for that kind of training. But I've also been working on my fitness away from the track and I'm fitter now than ever before. I've got a new physio, Mike Collier, and we've done three training camps together in Lanzarote.”

Ross Brawn, Honda team principal
“We've made steady progress with the RA108 since its launch at the end of January. Practically all of the aerodynamic and mechanical parts have been updated and when we ran our Melbourne-spec package for the first time last week, we saw some positive changes to the performance of the car. We now have to see what that improvement equates to on the race track and relative to the competition.

“We have a very talented group of people in the team, whose collective expertise is good enough to succeed in Formula One and I have every faith that we will. For now though we must continue to take it one step at a time and our first goal is to improve the RA108 at every race.”

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 3rd, 2007 Race - 4th

“I'm really looking forward to the curtain-raiser in Australia - to a couple of free days to
acclimatise and then for everything to get going at last! This time round I found it particularly difficult to gauge how the teams measure up against each other. We made progress between the roll-out in Valencia and the final test in Barcelona, but none of us will know where we stand until Melbourne. Autumn in Australia brings the possibility of rain, which would make driving without traction control and engine braking control a real challenge. I did some testing on a wet track and it was great fun. The Albert Park circuit doesn't provide much grip even in dry conditions, especially at the start of the weekend.”

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 5th, 2007 Race - DNF

“In Australia all the speculating will finally come to an end. I just can't wait for the season to start in Melbourne. The whole team has been working incredibly hard over the past weeks, the F1.08 has steadily improved and I think there's even more potential lurking inside it. I like the circuit in Melbourne. If it were up to me, I'd have all the races on street circuits. Overall, precise driving skills have become even more critical in 2008 because there's no more traction control to help if you stray onto the dirty side of the track. That's going to cost time because you then have to ease off the throttle to correct yourself. Then there's the great atmosphere in Melbourne with the fans and the beautiful city, all of which lends a special charm to the season-opener.”

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director
“We are pleased that Australia is kicking off the season again in 2008. There's always a very special atmosphere in Melbourne. The city just throbs, the spectators are all smitten with the Formula One bug, and everyone looks forward to the first test of strength with excited anticipation. Last year it turned out that we achieved our best qualifying result of the season at the curtain raiser in Albert Park. Nick started from third place, Robert from fifth. The first race weekend always brings the moment of truth. That's when we find out where everyone stands.

"During the winter we consciously opted for a change in concept for the BMW Sauber F1.08. To be able to catch up with the teams ahead of us we had to go for an aggressive approach. The reliability of the new car has been very good from the outset. We have also learnt that a car with a lot of potential is harder to control at the start than a more amenable car that reaches its limits far more quickly. For us it's now a case of forging ahead with the fine-tuning. Since the roll-out, I believe we are on a good path. Our ambitious target for 2008 remains unchanged: this year we want to close the gap to the leaders and win our first race.”

Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber technical director
“Melbourne is the perfect start to the Formula One season. It's a fantastic city with a great atmosphere. Naturally we're all keen to find out where we actually stand when all the teams put their cards on the table for the first time in Saturday's qualifying.

“The circuit in Albert Park is a stop-go track with a lot of slow corners. With traction control and engine braking control now banned, the drivers will be under pressure when braking into as well as accelerating out of corners. Heavy demands will be made above all on the rear tyres on account of the circuit layout, and that will require the drivers to apply a more sensitive touch to the accelerator.

“In terms of the car's set-up, the priorities are good traction and high braking stability.
Sufficient brake cooling is also important as Melbourne has the highest braking loads after Montreal. The first race of the season also marks the first stage in the gearbox lifecycle. According to the new regulations, gearboxes have to be used for four race weekends, on both Saturday and Sunday.”