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Spanish Grand Prix preview quotes 22 Apr 2008

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2008 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Barcelona, Spain, 17 April 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda Racing F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Thursday, 3 April 2008 Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault talks with journalists.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Thursday, 3 April 2008 BMW Sauber technical director Willy Rampf gives his last words of wisdom to Nick Heidfeld before the race, 2007 United States Grand Prix

While most of the teams may have spent the last four days testing together at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, nobody is quite sure where they stand when compared to their rivals. This should all become a great deal clearer at next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix and it seems that team personnel and drivers alike can’t wait to discover their true pace…

Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India
2007 Qualifying - 10th, 2007 Race - 9th

“The VJM01 for sure seems to be moving forward with each race, and the Barcelona test confirmed this very clearly. It has more grip overall, but especially under braking, so it is more stable and we are able to push. We've gone from a 1min 22.2 lap round Barcelona in February to a 1min 20.7 at the test last week, which even if some is down to improved track conditions, it is still a step forward.

“With new aero parts coming in Spain too, I am pretty sure we can carry on with this progress as all the parts that have been fitted to the car so far have worked really well - our aero department has got the right ideas!

“This week's Spanish Grand Prix will be as close as it has been in the past. I enjoy the track, it is one of my favourite circuits so if we play it right, I think we have a good chance. Our closest opponents at the moment are probably Toro Rosso and Honda; we are all just outside the point scoring area and are fighting for any chance. I want to be there fighting again this year and taking advantage of anything that comes our way.”

Adrian Sutil, Force India
2007 Qualifying - 20th, 2007 Race - 13th

“Bahrain was a difficult race for many reasons. At the first corner I came together with Coulthard and lost my front wing and picked up a puncture in my front left tyre, and the race was over really. I was very disappointed, but the most positive thing to take away was that I could finish the race. I could do some mileage, and just try different things with all the settings. It was like a test session really, and I tried to push to do it like a race simulation.

“When we could push the race pace was not bad. It's very close, and I'm now looking to have the opportunity where I can really race with other cars. Unfortunately in the first three races there hasn't been a chance, but if you see the race pace, compared with other cars we were really on it.

“Let's see how it is in Barcelona. We had a very good test last week where we tried out some new parts, which worked well and gave an increase in grip and stability. I think with the small steps we have made we really have a chance go in to Q2 this time out.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India Chairman and Managing Director
“A tenth of a second has never mattered as much as now. All the guys at the track and back at the factory are doing everything they possibly can to get every millisecond and we are now tantalisingly close to that competitive midfield group. I have every confidence and no doubt that it will come. If you look at what we have achieved over the winter in just five months, which isn't very long in the context of this sport, you'll see just how much we've come on. We're no longer at the back and though it will get tougher here on in, it's a golden opportunity for us.

“Our relative success has led to the popularity of Formula One growing exponentially in India. We've attracted a lot of positive print and TV coverage back home and everyone is congratulating the team on the progress we have made. We are deploying all our resources to keep it up and make sure that the team, and in turn the sport, retains this wave of support.

“No one expects miracles, but the fact that we qualified close to the top 16 and finished in the top 12 in Malaysia and Bahrain demonstrates everything is happening strongly and positively. At this stage of the season everything counts and that's the challenge we face now.”

Colin Kolles, Force India team principal
“Unfortunately we missed out on Q2 in Bahrain by just over a tenth, but again Giancarlo put in a very impressive race with very competitive lap times to finish 12th. Adrian had unfortunately an incident at the start that compromised his race, however he managed to finish the race with a strong performance.

“This outing in Bahrain demonstrated our improving form, which we hope will continue in Barcelona. Our targets this time out will be to reach Q2 in qualifying and to score points. We are working very hard to reach these targets and I am confident we will reach them sooner rather than later.”

Mike Gascoyne, chief technical officer
“For the Spanish Grand Prix we will introduce some more aerodynamic updates, which is really a continuation of our cycle of aero development that has produced new parts for every race so far this year.

“We tested these parts, and also some new parts for suspension set-ups and some improvements on the braking system, at the test in Barcelona last week. In general we had three very productive days with a lot of laps and worked through the whole of our test programme and certainly found some positive steps forward. This culminated in the dramatic improvement in lap times from the previous test, with all the drivers reporting improved downforce and grip.

“We have been very close to getting into Q2 and that has to be a target. We have also shown that we can race very competitively, so now we have to be racing to get into the top 10 and maybe even pick up a point. Overall we can go to Barcelona feeling very positive.”

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

“I'm glad we're back to race in Europe. We don't have to travel so much and we can put all our energy into the race weekend. It's a bit of a tradition: it's almost as if the season starts now. For me personally it's a bit special, because it's the first time that I start the European season as the leader in the championship.

“I've won once at Barcelona, in 2005. Obviously that's my best memory of this Grand Prix. Actually that was the only time I managed to get on the podium here: I can't wait to do it again! The Circuit de Catalunya is one of those tracks, where you have to find the exact set up for every single detail to stay ahead of the rest. All the teams have tested many times here at this circuit, so it will be difficult to have an advantage.

“The set up is really crucial here, because the circuit changes according to the wind and the temperature. It's hard to say how things are at the top after last week's tests here, because the teams' test programs and the fuel loads usually are very different. We had our ups and downs over the first races, but now I expect Ferrari to stay where we were in Bahrain and Malaysia.”

Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal
“We come to Spain with every reason to be optimistic, after wins in Malaysia and Bahrain. Testing here went well and we hope to keep our momentum moving forward. However, our rivals have not been twiddling their thumbs either, so we can expect a tough fight which we will tackle as usual with maximum concentration at every stage of the weekend.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2007 Qualifying - 6th, 2007 Race - DNF

“I am very happy with my start to the season; the new car has been strong, the team has worked really well and we have got the results we deserved. But I am not getting carried away because I know we must continue to work hard to stay in this position and hopefully close the gap on the top three teams. We had a successful test in Barcelona last week with the new package so we should be in good shape this weekend, but the battle is so close we cannot afford any mistakes. I think we have proven we are leading the second group of cars at the moment so we should go to Spain expecting to qualify in the top 10 and finish in the points. It would be great to fight for the top six again but we'll see how it goes because we are not quite on the same level as the leading teams at the moment.”

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

“My performance in Bahrain was encouraging and I am sure I could have scored a point if I had not had the small gearbox problem. It was good to finish a race and fight in the top 10. I think we have improved since the start of the year and I hope my results continue to improve as well. I was disappointed not to make it to Q3 in Bahrain so that is my first target this weekend and then I want to challenge for points in the race. My two days testing last week were very positive and the car looked good with the new aero package so there's no reason not to be optimistic again. It's always difficult to judge in testing, especially when teams were using slick tyres and different fuel levels, but we seem to have made a good step. I have a good feeling for this weekend.”

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota’s senior general manager chassis
“We are satisfied with our start to the season, and the points scored by Jarno in Malaysia and Bahrain validate our pre-season expectations. But beyond that, it is pleasing to see both Jarno and Timo setting competitive lap times from the very start of the season and I believe this gives us good reason to be optimistic now we are returning to Europe. It's good to be racing in Europe again and Barcelona is usually a good test of how competitive your car really is, so it will be an interesting weekend. For the Spanish Grand Prix we will have a significant new aerodynamic package on the car. This is a major upgrade and all the most important aerodynamic devices on the car have been improved. We tested the new package at Barcelona last week and the results were in line with our expectations so we should see a performance increase. I expect us to build on our strong performances so far this season and hopefully score points with both cars.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2007 Qualifying - 2nd, 2007 Race - 3rd

“I think that once again it will be a very competitive race. All the teams and drivers know the track very well, so it is difficult for the driver to make a difference at this level. I hope that our hard work will pay us back and that our car will allow us to catch up with the other teams, although it will certainly not be easy. Qualifying once again will be essential, and we will have to be well placed to try and score the maximum points.

“I benefit here from amazing support and it is very motivating. Some people see this as added pressure for me, but it's not. Instead it gives me the determination to do even better. I hope to be in a position to give the Spanish people a beautiful show. And with two races in Spain this year, I am very lucky.”

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

“Barcelona is not one of my favourite circuits, but it is certainly one that I know very well as we spend so much time testing there throughout the year, and so there are unlikely to be any surprises during the Grand Prix. It's not a particularly difficult or challenging circuit, but you need to have good aerodynamic performance because there are a lot of medium-speed corners. This makes it difficult to follow other cars closely and overtaking is not easy. It will therefore be important to do my best in qualifying so that I don't get stuck in traffic and we can make the most of our strategy.

“I think that with the improvements that we have in Barcelona we should be able to take a step forward. We had some positive days here last week and there are lots of avenues that we are still exploring. But we have to remember that the upgrades to the car need to be understood, developed, and maximised - all this takes time and so we cannot expect instant results. But, if I was being optimistic, I think we can aim to get both cars into the top ten in qualifying and then aim to finish the race in the points.”

Bob Bell, Renault technical director
“During winter testing we did not look too bad in Barcelona and if this trend continues, combined with the upgrades we have to the car, then we should take a step forward. Barcelona is very much a circuit that separates the wheat from the chaff in terms of aerodynamic performance and we do recognise that we are deficient there in comparison to the front runners, but I still feel we can do a good job.”

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2007 Qualifying - 11th, 2007 Race - 6th

“I’m looking forward to this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix because we know the circuit well as we’ve done a lot of testing there in the past. The car performed well at Catalunya throughout winter testing, so it should run well in the race. We had a promising test there last week; I had two day’s preparation time with the car which should stand us in good stead for the race. The only difficulty with Barcelona is that track conditions are constantly changing so you’re frequently having to adjust your set-up. Malaysia is now firmly behind us and I’m hoping we’ll come away from next weekend with a positive result.”

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

“We have some aero updates on the car for Barcelona, which we spent last week testing, and they should bring us some gains performance-wise. Personally, I like the Circuit de Catalunya. I had a good result there when I raced in GP2 last year and I hope I can do well in my debut Spanish Grand Prix. My engineer, Xevi Pujolar, is from Spain, so it’s technically going to be one of our home races, so I’m hoping I can get him a good result!”

Sam Michael, Williams technical director
“Barcelona is a great test of aerodynamic efficiency, engine power and chassis balance. It tends to highlight a car’s strengths and weaknesses, except perhaps the brakes because braking loads in Barcelona are fairly minimal compared to other tracks because there are numerous high speed corners with high lateral corner loads on entry and exit.

“We have tested at Barcelona throughout the winter, and as recently as last week, during which time we’ve fine tuned set-up and brought some aerodynamic and mechanical developments to the car. Bridgestone will bring two tyres from the harder end of the compound range for this race and strategy tends to lean towards two stops because the high speed corners make a one stop option too difficult.

“With the cars demonstrating good reliability now, our target for Barcelona is to continue improving our performance and getting points in order to build upon our position in the constructors’ championship, but it will be a tough battle.”

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2007 Qualifying - 12th, 2007 Race - 10th

“Every driver and every F1 team knows the Circuit de Catalunya well as we use the track so often for testing in the winter months and throughout the season. The test which takes place in advance of the Spanish Grand Prix means that we are very well prepared for the race weekend and have a lot of data on the set-up and tyre requirements. However there are always variables in the weather, the wind conditions and the resulting grip levels so there is still a great deal of preparation work to do during the practice sessions to extract the maximum levels of performance from the car.

“We had a very successful four-day test at the Circuit de Catalunya and were able to work through a lot of test items. Our main focus was the mechanical and aerodynamic developments for the RA108 car at this race. We saw a significant lap time improvement with the new upgrades which is very pleasing, but as ever, we need to wait until the race weekend to determine how this will impact our position on the grid. I'm confident that we have continued to make good progress.”

Jenson Button, Honda
2007 Qualifying - 14th, 2007 Race - 12th

“Our performance over the first three races showed a steady rate of improvement which was encouraging for the whole team and has given us renewed confidence in the car. Although I was not able to complete much mileage at the test this week due to the weather, the team had three days evaluating the new upgrades, so I am confident that we are in good shape. The circuit here is very familiar so we will make the best use of our time on track to fine-tune the set-up of the car. We hope to be challenging for a top ten qualifying position again which would put us in position for a strong race.

“The key to a really quick lap (in Barcelona) is having a car with good downforce; you need to feel confident when you commit to the very high speed corners. Overtaking can be a real challenge here and one of the best opportunities is going into the first corner after the start. You can squeeze by there once the race has settled down but it is very difficult. The chicane can also be tricky as it is extremely slippery and so very slow. One little mistake could cost you a lot of time there.”

Ross Brawn, Honda team principal
“The team has made good progress at each race so far this season, gaining in confidence and performing better on each occasion. Our recent development push on the RA108 with a new aerodynamic package, suspension modifications and driveability improvements showed pleasing results during the four-day test this week. I expect these developments to add to our competitiveness and improve our points scoring potential at the Spanish Grand Prix and the races to follow.”

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

“The Circuit de Catalunya is a challenging track for the engineers and drivers. It changed a little bit in character prior to last year’s Grand Prix. One of the key factors at this circuit is achieving a good balance through the variety of corners. Turn Two is a big corner and it provides a good challenge from both a driving and set-up perspective. With the end of the circuit now being tightened up a fair amount we have got to get that balance so we will get good high-speed corner performance and traction coming out of the low speed corners. There are a range of different challenges and technically it is an interesting circuit.

“I feel we have a competitive package at the track; the car seems to work quite well. We have a range of new components coming on board for this race which we tested this week and had some positive results, but we are not alone in doing this! The Circuit de Catalunya is a great track; we can’t ever lose it from the calendar. It always sees competitive racing and there are so many enthusiastic fans there all the time which makes for a great atmosphere.”

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
2007 Qualifying - 8th, 2007 Race - 7th

“This circuit is one of probably the two most important test tracks we use, together with Jerez. It is a real performance tester; you need to have a really good aero performance in the car to go fast round here, which is why we always come here as it allows us to understand how well our aero package is performing. It also has some very heavy braking areas, so it is good for evaluating this and some good corners to understand the balance of the car. Also, the slower chicanes mean we can test how the car changes direction. It has a good range of challenges so you can test everything. Also, usually the weather is good here.

“I think Turn One is best (for overtaking) because you can drag the other car out of the new chicane that is quite slow, along the pit straight. Apart from that is it very difficult, you can probably think about overtaking into turn five, maybe into turn ten if you get a good run into turn nine, that is about it really.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren Formula One CEO
“The Spanish Grand Prix sees us entering the European season and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, along with all the other teams, will be in Barcelona with significant upgrade packages on the cars. The cars remain relatively consistent over the course of the fly away races and this race weekend is the first opportunity to understand how we have moved forward with performance and developed the MP4-23 in comparison with our primary competitors. We are confident that we have improved the performance of the car, but this week’s test was not an accurate indicator of performance, so we will need to wait for the race to establish how the MP4-23 will fare.

“The emphasis has been on the aerodynamic performance, developing downforce, balance and aerodynamic efficiency. In parallel we have developed the suspension systems and the chassis. We have come away from three races with no testing where inevitably we discovered vices that were not analysed before the start of the season. This period has provided an opportunity for the drivers and race engineers to focus on a bit of set-up work as well for this race.”

Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“The track at Barcelona with the long front straight and with long sweeping corners as well as tight bends is one of the most demanding of all circuits in terms of aerodynamic efficiency. It is also challenging for the engines. About 70 percent of a lap will be run under full throttle and after the new chicane before the start and finish straight, about 13 seconds will be run under full throttle. Barcelona is the circuit which all competitors know best, because it’s the test track all teams use the most, and they have a lot of data from there.

“It’s a rule that those who can win here are capable to do so at all the other Grand Prix circuits. The track is particularly demanding for a Formula One car’s aerodynamic efficiency. Therefore, many teams focus on the Circuit de Catalunya at Barcelona when they test, and therefore, they have more experience there than at any other circuit of the current Grand Prix calendar. Prior to the season, we completed here considerably more than 1,000 laps during the test days corresponding to more than 5,000 kilometres. Moreover, we tested from Monday to Thursday in the week prior to the race and completed another 1,600 kilometres on the Circuit de Catalunya.”

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 7th, 2007 Race - DNF

“The Spanish Grand Prix has its own special ambience because the stands are now regularly packed to the rafters. The fans ensure a brilliant atmosphere, which we as drivers pick up on to some extent as well.

“Although I have already clocked up hundreds of race and test laps on the Circuit de Catalunya, boredom just doesn't come into it. It has often been the case that a set-up determined during testing was no longer the right one for the race weekend. That could be due to the weather or to the condition of the track, which naturally accumulates much more rubber deposits over a grand prix weekend than during testing.

“Now the question everybody wants to hear the answer to is: how well are the new components, with which we've modified the BMW Sauber F1.08 since the initial overseas races, going to work? I'm also very keen to see whether we have made more progress with our new developments than the competition. At any rate, I'm confident that we will be just as strong as in Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain.”

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 5th, 2007 Race - 4th

“I think we will have a more predictable race than the first three overseas Grands Prix. The conditions this time round are completely different. All the teams know the Barcelona circuit like the back of their hands because we do a lot of testing here. That's why I expect the gaps between the teams to become a lot smaller than in the last races.

“Everyone will be coming to the season's first European grand prix on top form. I guess all the teams will be lining up with an improved car. But at the same time that means we also have to get the maximum out of the BMW Sauber F1.08. If we manage that, and since the latest test in Barcelona I am firmly convinced we will, I'll be racing right up at the front again. My goal is to achieve a good result to earn as many points as possible for myself and the team.”

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director
“It was a textbook start to the season for our BMW Sauber F1 Team. We're no longer the number three team, as last year, but over the first three races we have carved out our niche right up among the top three teams. The workforces in Munich and Hinwil are accordingly elated and fired up with incentive.

“We used the three-week break after the batch of overseas races for our intensive
preparation for the European opener in Spain. The race in Barcelona is almost like a second start to the season. For the first time in 2008, Formula One will be rolling up in Spain with everything in tow: trucks and hospitality facilities not only make a great impression; more importantly, they save a tremendous amount of work.

“The Circuit de Catalunya is one that makes wide-ranging demands and is frequently used for testing by the teams. It has often served as a yardstick for their general competitiveness. Here all the teams will be taking a step forward on the development front, us included. Afterwards there will be a fresh assessment of how things stand.”

Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber technical director
“I can't wait to see how things pan out in Barcelona because almost all the teams have been testing improvements to their cars here last week. Everyone has made progress, but the key question is, how much compared to the competition? That's why it's set to be a very interesting race and one that will also point the way ahead for the coming weeks and months. We've been pretty happy with our improvements, so we should be able to keep up with the front runners as before.

“Barcelona is a circuit the teams know back to front from the numerous tests that are carried out here. And yet it proves a challenge each time around, with the wind often playing a crucial role. It means the balance constantly has to be adjusted. The many medium-fast and high-speed corners demand a great deal of downforce, which means the tyres come in for some punishment. That's why we use the hardest compounds here.”