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Malaysian Grand Prix preview quotes 18 Mar 2008

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 20 March 2008 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 20 March 2008 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 Jenson Button (GBR) Honda on the grid.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF108 on the grid.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008

If Australia was hot, then Malaysia will be even hotter. But despite the intense heat, the Sepang circuit has always been a firm favourite with the drivers. Here, they explain why…

Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India
2007 Qualifying - 12th, 2007 Race - 6th

“I am looking forward to Malaysia now so we can show what we can really do over a race. As we went out very early in Australia, we could not demonstrate how much closer we now are relative to the other teams. The VJM01 feels more consistent and stable, and now we have some new aero parts coming for this race I think we can make another step forward. I have good memories of the race here too. I won in 2006 with Renault and, although we will not be in that position now, I do think we should be able to put in a good performance. My aim is the same as before: I want to take the team into Q2 for the first time, and then finish the race. As Australia showed, anything can happen and if we are there, then we have a good chance of picking up a good result.”

Adrian Sutil, Force India
2007 Qualifying - 21st, 2007 Race - 20th

“I enjoy Malaysia, even though it is very tough on drivers with the heat and humidity. It is also a very bumpy track so it makes it very physically demanding. I think I will be well prepared though as Australia was also hot and I am spending three days training in Malaysia to acclimatise. Last year was my first time in Sepang and it was not such a great event for us. Unfortunately we were not as quick as the others on the long straights, and then I went out very early on in the race in an accident. This year I think we will be better. I am really disappointed that I did not get into second qualifying and then could not finish the race in Australia, as I think we could have finished very high up with the way the race went. But you just have to forget that now and look forward to the next event. Q2 is for sure my aim, and I really think we could make it this time.”

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2007 Qualifying - 4th, 2007 Race - 2nd

“The race at Melbourne was the perfect start to the season for me, although it would have been that bit better to have Heikki (Kovalainen) on the podium as well. We are going to Sepang aiming to get another great result, but it is likely to be hotter again so it will be a big challenge. Sepang is a fantastic track, but the climate plays a major role making it very tricky for all of us, everyone is really on the limit and so is the car. The track is very high speed with some great overtaking opportunities, but in some places it is quite difficult to stay close enough to the car ahead.”

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
2007 Qualifying - 8th, 2007 Race - 11th

“My target is to build on the fifth position from Melbourne. We were really competitive all weekend, and I was making sure I kept relaxed and didn’t put any additional pressure on myself. I now have my first race with the team under my belt, apart from the safety car it went really well and we are now going to push harder in Sepang. The car was really quick and we now have to work hard to take that performance to Malaysia. I consider Malaysia last year my first proper race in Formula One, so I have some good memories from there. It is a very interesting track, very wide with some great corners. It is a cool place to go and I am looking forward to the race.”

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 5th, 2007 Race - 4th

“For years now the Malaysian Grand Prix has been rather a special race for me. Petronas, of course, was already a partner of Sauber when I was driving for them from 2001 to 2003, and we used to do promotional tours around the country. As a Formula One driver you usually don't get to see much beyond airports, hotels and race tracks as there simply isn't the time to get to know a country and its people. But in Malaysia I've already managed to get around quite a bit and I feel very much at home there. It always takes a while to get acclimatized to the combination of heat and high humidity, but that's never been a problem for me. The circuit is an attractive and challenging one. Last year I had a great race in Sepang and finished fourth. I managed to get past Felipe Massa and kept the Ferrari in check behind me.”

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 7th, 2007 Race - 18th

“I'm looking forward to the race in Malaysia because Sepang is a very challenging track which I'm fond of. Of course the climatic conditions are at the extreme end, which makes it even more of a challenge. But fortunately we already had very high temperatures in Melbourne, so we've had a bit of a chance to adjust. Last year our car was very competitive, but for me pretty much everything went wrong. So I still have a score to settle in Sepang. The Malaysian Grand Prix is a very special race for us on account of our partner Petronas. We have a lot of fans rooting for us there.”

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director
“No sooner have we ticked off the season opener in Australia than Malaysia is already beckoning. This Grand Prix is a kind of home race for us. Since 2006 we have experienced the sheer charisma that our premium partner Petronas has in Malaysia. The euphoric welcome extended to our team in this country is a fantastic experience every time, and the various events held at the foot of the Petronas Twin Towers have always exerted a magnetic pull. As part of its Asia strategy, the BMW Group has ramped up its involvement in Malaysia over recent years. The race in the Greater Kuala Lumpur area is an important grand prix for both BMW and Petronas. Following the unexpectedly hot battle in Melbourne, we now head for the steam bath of Sepang. Not only are temperatures above 30° Celsius, but humidity levels are also extremely high due to the proximity to the equator. Consequently, we are looking ahead to this test of endurance with bated breath.”

Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber technical director
“The race in Australia has given us a first pointer as to where the individual teams stand, but no more than that. That's because the Albert Park circuit with its distinctive characteristics is not very representative. And so I believe we won't get a reliable picture of the true balance of power until after the Malaysian Grand Prix. Due to its many differing corners, Sepang makes huge demands on the set-up of the cars. The slow sections require plenty of traction, while high stability levels are crucial particularly for the many fast corners. Good aerodynamic efficiency is another essential. In Sepang, moreover, the rear tyres come in for a great deal of punishment, which will be exacerbated further by the absence of traction control.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2007 Qualifying - 3rd, 2007 Race - 3rd

"There's really not much to say about the first race weekend of the season: The only positive thing is, that it's all behind us. The lack of reliability is a real problem for me now. But I know that back in Maranello the team is working hard to solve our problems. I'm not worried at all about the performance and the competitiveness of the car. The first race was like it was, but we know that we have a really good car. I won my first race in Malaysia in 2003. We can do very well in Sepang, as long as we have the necessary reliability. It will be very hot there, but not much hotter than it was in Melbourne!"

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2007 Qualifying - 2nd, 2007 Race - 1st

“Sepang really is my favourite track. I took my first pole position there in 2003 with Renault, and I have won this race twice. It's a circuit that I enjoy and I always tend to attack a little bit more. I hope that this year I will be able to do well and I'm really looking forward to the race. We have already experienced amazing temperatures last week in Australia and so we should not have any particular problems with the heat. In terms of the physical demands, I trained a lot over the winter and so I feel fit and ready, so there should not be a problem. I think that we must certainly improve our performance level on a single lap in qualifying so that we can be in a better position on the grid to make things easier in the race. Then it is important to have good consistency so that we don't lose ground and can start to move forward. This is what we must keep in mind during the practice sessions on Friday in Sepang.”

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

I did little running during Friday practice and that complicated things for the rest of the weekend. However, I learned a lot and I now know what a Grand Prix weekend is like - it passes very quickly and you need to be able to get comfortable straight away. I am now looking forward to the next race in Malaysia, so that I can put into practice all that I have learnt from my first race. I drove at Sepang in 2005 in A1GP so I therefore know the circuit and I have experienced the extremely high temperatures which we expect in this part of the world. So I think that things will be a little easier this weekend. I will be able to find my feet more quickly and to concentrate on the set-up of my car with the engineers. I hope to be able to push hard and avoid reliving a Grand Prix like I had in Melbourne. This is an exciting circuit for F1 cars and interesting for the drivers. There are two long straights, some big braking areas into some slow corners, and some fast exciting turns. I will work with my engineers to try and have a well balanced car as early as the first practice session so that we can try different solutions and hopefully make good progress throughout the weekend.”

Pat Symonds, Renault technical director
“I think fourth place is a result that the whole team is quite happy with, but we're looking forward to getting onto a more classic type of circuit in Malaysia next weekend. It's an interesting technical challenge with fast sweeping turns, especially through Turns 4 to 8, where you need good balance. Good traction is also important, especially on the exit of Turn 9, a tight left hander. The opening complex of Turns 1 and 2 is also a difficult challenge for the drivers, but I think my favourite part of the track is Turn 14 - a real drivers' corner with a tightening entry where you approach on the brakes. We will also have the high temperatures, which we have already seen in Melbourne, but Sepang will be much harder on the tyres, so we will be using the hardest tyres available. Our soft tyre in Sepang will be the hard tyre we used in Melbourne. It's a fairly old track surface now so it tends to put a lot of energy through the tyres, so we will need to pay attention to rear degradation.”

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2007 Qualifying - 6th, 2007 Race - DNF

“Sepang is one of my favourite tracks on the calendar. We should be stronger there than we were in Melbourne as well, especially if we have the whole weekend to prepare properly, so we’re looking for another good performance. Perhaps not a podium, but another solid points-scoring finish. We seem to have a car that isn’t too tough on its tyres so, with the heat in Malaysia, that’s a positive. Physically, these races are really difficult, particularly for concentration, but that’s why I worked so hard over the winter to be fit in these conditions. Every single minute of pain I felt during training played through my mind in Sunday’s race! I’m going to Singapore with RBS this week to visit the new track there, then I’ll have a couple of days to relax before making the trip to Malaysia.”

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

“Firstly, we had a really good result in the opening Grand Prix in Australia and that’s motivated all of us. I’m going to have a ten place grid penalty for Malaysia so it’s going to be difficult for me, but I’m just going to concentrate on my race and do the best I can. Sepang is a really nice track, it’s tough on the car and tyres, but we have a good chance and I have a good feeling. Like in Australia, temperatures will be extreme again, so it’s going to be another hard weekend for everyone. I’ll be heading to Malaysia straight away to get some training in and to make sure I’m as ready as I can be for the weekend.”

Sam Michael, Williams technical director
“It is always hot and humid in Kuala Lumpur and the weather forecast says this year’s race will be no different. With only a week between these two Grands Prix, we will be focusing on tidying up any reliability issues that we encountered in Melbourne before Friday’s practice. Although our qualifying performance in Australia wasn’t bad, particularly considering the time we lost in practice and then the red and yellow flags during qualifying itself, it wasn’t good enough and didn’t meet our expectations. We are therefore heading to Malaysia with a view to improving that and to build upon our second place in the constructors’ championship. It seems that the field is very close this year so any additional tenths that we can find will help significantly. The track layout in Malaysia consists of mainly medium and high speed corners and enough straight lines to place a certain level of importance on engine power. With a two stop strategy typical, and a few overtaking opportunities around the lap, it should be an exciting race. If it’s anything like Melbourne, then it will only be good news for Formula One.”

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2007 Qualifying - 22nd, 2007 Race - 11th

“We knew we had made a step forward at our final pre-season test in Jerez. What we didn't know was where we were in relation to the other teams. I'm encouraged by the start we have made to the season and for this I have to thank everyone in Japan and the UK for all the hard work that has gone into the car over the past few weeks in particular. I think we are going to have a positive season. The most important factor is to have a good aerodynamic balance, which is something we have obviously been able to improve for the start of the season. Hopefully this will benefit us again in Malaysia.”

Jenson Button, Honda
2007 Qualifying - 15th, 2007 Race - 12th

“I'm looking forward to Malaysia. Obviously I didn't get to compete in Australia because I had an accident at turn one, but I'm very positive for the next one. We made a lot of improvements with the car during the weekend and I'm hoping for the same improvement over the next race. It's very competitive in the midfield and we have to get the best out of the car at every stage. If we can do that we can get a good result in the race. It's tough racing in the temperature but that isn't the real problem, it's the humidity. It's one thing taking in hot air but quite another taking in hot and damp air. It's pretty tough to breath and it can get quite claustrophic in the helmet. You just have to make sure you're prepared and we will be!”

Ross Brawn, Honda team principal
“Whilst the Australia result was disappointing, we have to look at the positives. Qualifying confirmed that we are in the midfield and a very strong race drive from Rubens showed that we have the potential to fight for points. It was pleasing to see that the aerodynamic upgrade from Jerez worked as expected and I think we have a good basis for the first three races until we can introduce the next development step for Spain. I think we can have a similarly strong weekend to the one we experienced in Melbourne. We have shown that we have a car with which to target the points and two drivers who are very determined to achieve that.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2007 Qualifying - 8th, 2007 Race - 7th

“I like to race in Malaysia but I am not so keen on the climate, with the heat and in particular the humidity which makes it a bit uncomfortable; it is definitely one of the hardest races of the year because of this. Australia was a very hot weekend as well but Malaysia will be much more humid. Sepang is a modern Formula One circuit and we have very good facilities there. It is also an unusual and technically challenging circuit to drive; there are some fun corners but in my opinion the best corner is after the hairpin, turn 10, where there is a double left hander. I like this corner, it is a challenge and it's exciting to drive. In Australia we saw that the TF108 certainly has a lot of potential, as we had already seen in testing, but this is a different kind of track to Albert Park so we will have to work hard on Friday to get the best set-up for this race. It was a shame we retired in Australia when I was looking good for a strong points finish but I think we will be quite competitive this weekend so I expect to score points.”

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

“I have never raced at Sepang so this will be my first time. I am looking forward to it as it is an interesting track to drive on, as I found out when I drove in Friday practice in 2004. From what I remember the track is wide but it is also quite challenging for the driver - there are some difficult corners and you have to concentrate to get the best out of your car. It's quite a hard track for the driver but I like driving there. We do not go to any other venue where the heat and humidity are so extreme; I expect this to be one of the toughest races of the season. You need to be extremely fit in Formula One anyway so I don't think I will have any problems. The circuit itself is quite an interesting one and it is also pretty technical, with a lot of fast, sweeping corners and also some slow corners. The race in Australia was quite difficult for me and it was unfortunate it ended like that but I am fine and hoping for a better result this weekend.”

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota’s senior general manager chassis
“The Malaysian Grand Prix is always a challenge for everyone in the team due to the conditions, but we had a taste of that in Australia already. Usually we expect ambient temperatures of between 32° and 36°C but the most outstanding temperature is the ground temperature, which is typically around 55°C - massively hot for the tyres. It is also difficult for other parts of the package as well because the high temperatures are very demanding on the cooling package and the brakes. In Malaysia we will get a clearer picture of where each team stands because Melbourne is a unique circuit and it is not always clear if the characteristics of the circuit are causing issues or if it is down to the car itself. As this is a back-to-back race, we will have the same spec package as in Australia, unless there are any unexpected problems, but we saw in Melbourne that there is a lot of potential in the TF108, even though we did not achieve the result we expected, so I am confident we have a competitive car and I expect us to score points.”