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Italian Grand Prix - selected preview quotes 08 Sep 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 7 September 2008 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Race Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 7 September 2008 Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday, 18 July 2008 (L to R): Norbert Haug (GER) Mercedes Sporting Director, Hiroshi Yasukawa (JPN) Bridgestone Director of Motorsport and Hirohide Hamashima (JPN) Head of Bridgestone Tyre Development.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Race Day, Valencia, Spain, Sunday, 24 August 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 5 September 2008

With the dust still settling on a thrilling and controversial Belgian Grand Prix, the teams head directly from the longest track on the calendar to the fastest - Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix, where speed is king and the cars reach more than 350 km/h. It presents a very different challenge to Spa, as the drivers and engineers explain…

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

"People say Monza is just about power and top speed - but it’s also a driver’s track, which is why I like it. It’s not as straightforward as it seems because you run with very low downforce, which means you rely heavily on the tyres and the car’s mechanical grip -but you’re also attacking the kerbs, which requires a softer set-up. You also need plenty of stability under braking and as much grip as possible for the corners. The key is to run the car as low to the track as possible without having it bottom out.

"If you’re trying to pass somebody, you have to stay as close as possible through the last corner. If you can get a good tow out of Parabolica, then you can slipstream down the straight and have a look up the inside at Turn One. That’s your best chance of making a move on someone. You can also try if you get a good exit from the first chicane and have look up the inside into the second chicane - but that’s not so easy."

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

"You really need a car that’s stable under braking. When we run such low downforce, the car becomes very light under braking, so you can’t push too hard; the car moves around a little bit more than normal. So the whole approach to driving the car becomes slightly different - you tend to be a touch more cautious and build up your speed as the weekend progresses. You also need to get the second chicane just right - it’s got big, high kerbs; if you can get the car to ride them just right, then you can make big gains in lap time.

"I enjoy this place, but although Monza is the fastest track on the calendar, not all of its corners are super-fast. Of course, the Ascari chicane and Parabolica are both high-speed, but the first corner is very tight and the Lesmos are both medium-speed corners. But yes, I like the circuit; balancing a Formula One car through the faster stuff is something I really enjoy; I was very competitive at Silverstone and Spa and I’m confident I’ll be strong this weekend."

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren Formula One CEO
"As the fastest circuit on the calendar, we uniquely prepare a car for Monza that is best-equipped to run in low-drag configuration. This essentially means the reduction or removal of a number of aerodynamic components that would ordinarily create downforce, and drag. This weekend, for example, you’ll see we’ve removed the nosebox winglets and are running a single-deck rear-wing. At Monza, you also need a car that can ride the kerbs well and remain stable under heavy braking - so it’s a case of balancing the car for that combination, rather than simply stripping everything off in the quest for maximum straightline speed. It’s a unique challenge.

"The truth is, both Lewis and Heikki have previously gone well at Monza; they both like the track and are looking forward to the race - and that certainly helps. On the engineering side, we came away from the recent Monza test very encouraged by the pace we showed. Of course, we’re under no illusions that Ferrari will be strong - and we expect them to be stronger there than they were relative to us last year - but we go to the event with high expectations."

Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“With average lap speeds of around 250 km/h and a top speed of approximately 340 km/h at the end of the start-and-finish straight, Monza is the Formula One circuit on the calendar on which the highest speeds are attained. In all, the cars reach speeds of over 320 km/h four times per lap. The start-finish straight requires more than 16 seconds of consecutive full throttle. We will start in Monza with the same engines we used in Spa last weekend. The combination of these two circuits is by far the highest strain for a Formula One engine.

“Of course it would be nice, if we could achieve a similar result like last year when we took a one-two victory. On the track in Monza we will have many strong competitors - even more than usual. That will not be a walk in the park, but the ultimate high-speed race in the park."

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2007 Qualifying - 5th, 2007 Race - 3rd

“Monza is the Mecca of Ferrari's tifosi and I think that there will be a lot of Finnish fans, too. It's the fastest track of the year and it's good to go there, knowing that I can count on a car, which runs how I like it. Last year I had a nasty accident on Saturday morning: I hit the wall and the impact was tremendous, which made it the most difficult weekend of the season. We had a very productive test session on this track before Spa. I think that the F2008 can be really competitive: after the qualifying we'll see if it was enough. We'll give it all to win, for the team and for the fans. This is Ferrari's home race and it would be fantastic to win the Italian Grand Prix for the first time. I've got nothing to lose, so I'll give it all, going flat out.”

Felipe Massa, Ferrari
2007 Qualifying - 3rd, 2007 Race - DNF

“Arriving in Monza as the winner of the last race is a boost and we also had a good test there the week before Spa. We did a lot of mileage which was important from the reliability point of view, especially on the engine front, which will be a key element for the coming races. We also did a lot of mileage running the low downforce Monza aero package. I think the results were generally okay and thanks to some changes on the suspension, we managed to improve the way the car works over the kerbs which is so important at this track. We will find out during qualifying on Saturday if we did a really good job on that front. That kind of circuit requires good mechanical grip when tackling the kerbs, but you also need a car that is good in terms of downforce to give you a good top speed. Unless both these elements are at their best, you have not done a good enough job. A good combination of these elements makes the car quicker and more consistent. Let's wait and see what happens and personally, I can't wait to be back on the race track after that unusual Sunday afternoon in Spa."

Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development
"Monza is an exciting and challenging race venue. There are high speed straights and teams use low levels of downforce. This places more emphasis on the tyres in the corners as there is less aerodynamic assistance for grip. We see quite high levels of wear on the left hand tyres because of the high speed corners, and the rear tyres have high traction demands on them too, so it is quite a severe circuit on tyres. The track surface also presents a challenge, as some of it is older and rougher whilst some of it has been resurfaced quite recently so is smoother. Last year with the soft and medium compound allocation we saw blistering occur here, in particular on the soft compound. With the hard and medium compound allocation blistering should be less of a factor for the weekend.

Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India
2007 Qualifying - 15th, 2007 Race - 12th

“Monza is one of my favourite events on the calendar, partly because it's my home race and the crowd gets behind any of the Italian drivers, but also because it's such a fantastic track. It might look easy, but you have to work hard to have a set-up that allows you the speed on the straights without compromising stability through the chicanes and the curves. Like Spa, it's a real drivers' track and a great challenge.

“We had a good test at Monza before Belgium and we have some chances to do well there. Although I'm disappointed with the ultimate result in in Belgium as my race was really over at the start when Nakajima spun in front of me on the first lap, there were some good points. When I was in clean air I could push and do similar lap times to the rest of the field and we managed to make up some time with the call to change to wets very early on.

“Now in Monza we have to continue to work hard, try to qualify well and have a clean first lap to be able to take advantage of any conditions ahead. I feel confident and it would be good to be able to have a strong result at home.”

Adrian Sutil, Force India
2007 Qualifying - 21st, 2007 Race - 19th

“I'm feeling very positive about Monza now following the result in Belgium. We worked hard throughout the weekend, first having some strong practice performances and then a good qualifying. For sure it's disappointing when you do what you think is a good lap and then you're only P18, but then again if you've done the best you can and there's been no mistakes, you have to accept it and do what you can in the race.

“We certainly did as well as we could have done on Sunday and I was happy with the performance. We had a good set up that allowed me to get past people on the straights, and I could really move through the field and had a great fight with Button.

“I think Honda are our closest rivals now, and I think this will be the case in Italy. We had a good test there last week and I think we have a good baseline set-up, we just need to work hard as we have done before and then take advantage of any chances that come our way.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and managing director
“Monza will be almost a year to the day when we entered into the final stages of buying the team and, as such, presents a good opportunity to review how far we have come. When people ask whether I can be satisfied with this progress, honestly I think we have to say yes and no. Yes, because compared to where we were last year, we're clearly more competitive. We are racing teams with far higher budgets than we have, and beating them on occasion. I have two strong, hungry drivers who have delivered, and I have a very solid basis to build on. No, because if someone says they are happy with being at the back they are clearly lying! I would have liked to be in Q2 by now, and have a few points on the board, but that is a measure of how tough F1 has got this year.

“This is the situation we are now in and we have to adapt to this. Monza will be hard for us, but just because it is hard, we cannot stop pushing. Before the end of the year I would really like to get at least one point. It may ultimately be out of our reach, but we can't ever lose sight of the aims.”

Colin Kolles, Force India team principal
“Monza will be the final race in Europe before we move to the flyaway races and it would be good to get a strong result to set us up for the final push of the year. As always this season, the field is so competitive - and also reliable - that to get points will be very challenging, but this will always be the aim. What we have proved is that we can race with other teams on merit and, if the opportunities are there, we can make the most of them. Like Spa, Monza can present some different conditions throughout the race and we have to be there fighting if anything happens.”

Mike Gascoyne, Force India's chief technical officer
“I think we can go to Monza in fairly good spirits. The team worked well over the last weekend and both drivers can be positive about the end result. Certainly Adrian drove an excellent race to catch the works Hondas and again in the closing stages on the dry tyres in the wet conditions. I think he has again showed how he has matured and can take very controlled risks, which is promising for races where we could get wet conditions such as Singapore, Fuji and Brazil.

“It was unfortunate Giancarlo's race was compromised at the start, but he too had a good end to the race, with a good call from him to go to the wets and being able to regain one of his lost laps. In these conditions his experience did help and enabled us to get two cars to the finish.

“Looking to Monza this weekend, we need to maintain this step in performance and take advantage of anything the race throws at us. We've had a positive test at the track and both drivers are motivated to do well in the last European race. Our target has got to be to have a strong qualifying and get two cars to the finish, again beating other teams on merit.”

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

“It's an outstanding, fast circuit and drivers always like to go fast! The feeling in the car is always a bit strange for the first few laps because we run the cars with very low downforce and so it feels very light and uncertain, and that makes the chicanes quite challenging. But it's an interesting circuit, and there is always a special atmosphere so I am looking forward to it. We drove in Monza three weeks ago and completed our programme without any problems, which means we are well prepared for this race. The aerodynamic performance will be the decisive factor in Monza and tyre evaluation will probably take up most of our technical programme on Friday.”

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

“There are some circuits that I really enjoy, such as Spa and Silverstone, and although Monza is not among my favourites, it's still an unusual circuit and an interesting challenge for the drivers. It's like no other track and so it's an enjoyable race on the calendar, particularly as the atmosphere there is always very special. I hope to do better than in Spa - that goes without saying! Qualifying will be important and I really hope to be fast enough to reach Q3 so we can approach this race calmly, with a more straightforward strategy to hopefully fight for some points. I want to help the team finish in fourth place in the constructors' championship so it's important to finish in the points."

Bob Bell, Renault technical director
“Like all the teams we will be running with a special low downforce package, which we evaluated in the pre-race test. Most of the developments are exclusively for Monza because it's such a unique race. I think it's probably fair to say that the R28 was more suited to Spa than Monza, but I still feel that we can go there and get a good result.”

Jenson Button, Honda
2007 Qualifying - 10th, 2007 Race - 8th

"I always look forward to racing at Monza and the Italian fans are really passionate about motor racing. Although you're so focused over the weekend on improving your car, you can still sense the atmosphere and excitement around the circuit. Monza also has a real history about it. I've walked around the old banking part of the track and have so much respect for the guys who used to race on there. Monza is very different from most of the circuits that we race on during the year. It's quick and you have to run such low downforce to get the straight-line speed that is needed to take advantage of the straights. Ascari is probably my favourite part of the track and you can have a lot of fun through there. Parabolica is also good, particularly in qualifying when you're trying to get the most out of the car and brake as late as possible whilst you are turning it. If you brake a little late, you're off into the gravel and probably the wall. But if you get it right and have a good qualifying lap, then it's an amazing buzz because you know that you've worked so hard for it. The first corner is always interesting with 20 cars slowing from 290 km/h (180mph) to 80 km/h (50mph) and fighting for position on a slippery circuit with cold tyres!"

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

"Monza is a very special racetrack and it has always been a real honour to race there and an even better feeling to win the Italian Grand Prix. The track holds some of my favourite racing memories from my victories in 2002 and 2004. As the quickest circuit on the calendar with long straights, engine power is very important to maximise your straight-line speed, and the car will be set up with the lowest drag and downforce levels possible. However you really need to have good stability under braking to able to ride the Monza kerbs effectively without having too much understeer. Good traction is important for exiting the Rettifilo and Roggia chicanes and you can overtake at both of these turns. It's more difficult to slipstream on the straights these days as it is so difficult to follow another car without losing out from the buffeting."

Ross Brawn, Honda team principal
"Monza is the only circuit on the calendar which requires such a low downforce set-up therefore we will use a significant number of unique aerodynamic parts for the RA108. The priority is to minimise drag to achieve the top speeds of 340 km/h on the long straights and therefore the rear wing and front wing are significantly smaller than usual. We will also run without our usual wings on the nosebox. The engine cover, bargeboard and other chassis devices have all been analysed for their aerodynamic efficiency and amended or reduced where required. The lap at Monza has a number of big braking areas so it can be very hard on the brakes. It is also quite bumpy, which combined with the low downforce, means that the suspension settings have to be right without compromising the car's ability to ride the kerbs."

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2007 Qualifying - 8th, 2007 Race - 6th

“We had a good test in Monza two weeks ago, both in terms of evaluating new parts and defining set-up for the Grand Prix. I am looking forward to racing at the Autodromo, not only because it is the quickest circuit on the calendar, but also because it has so much history. Monza is really fun to drive because of the super fast start-finish straight, the tight braking events at the end of the lap and also the kerbs which you have to ride as much as you can. The faster corners are quite difficult to drive because we run such little downforce at Monza, but that doesn’t diminish the experience of driving at one of the best circuits we visit! To top the weekend off, the atmosphere, the people and the food in Italy are all great, so I’m really looking forward to the weekend!”

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

“I tested in Monza just before the race in Spa, but prior that, it was exactly a year since I had driven on the circuit. So the test was quite busy to me, I had to get used to the track as much as the car, because in the low downforce specification, it has very different characteristics. Anyway, the test reminded that Monza is very exciting, very fast and a very technical track. The tricky bit is the kerbing, you have to be brave and take a lot of kerb, but while this makes the track quite distinctive, I really feel Monza is a circuit that suits me.”

Sam Michael, Williams technical director
“Monza has the highest top speeds of all the circuits we visit, with the cars topping
350 km/h on the main straight every lap. With only four actual corners and two chicanes, high power, low drag and kerb riding ability are all key to success on the Italian circuit. Kerb riding is a fundamental set-up requirement at Monza because the speed the car comes off the kerbs heavily influences the speed all the way down the following straight. The aerodynamic package for this track is always unique, and this year is no exception. The FW30 will have a modified bodywork and specially developed front and rear wings. Everything has been thoroughly validated at the Monza test a fortnight ago. Race strategy will be one or two stop for all teams. The pit lane loss is quite high, simply because while a car is going slowly in the pitlane, a competitor out on track at racing speed is travelling faster in relative terms than might be the case at other tracks.Bridgestone will take the medium and hard tyre compounds as the tyre temperatures as the car comes off the high speed Parabolica can be extreme.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2007 Qualifying - 9th, 2007 Race - 11th

"The Italian Grand Prix is my home race so I am naturally very excited to race in front of the Monza crowd again. It is always particularly enjoyable for me to race in my home country but it doesn't give me any extra motivation - I am already more motivated than ever this season! I hope I can give my Italian fans a result to enjoy but we will have to wait and see because all teams will have Monza-spec packages and we don't know yet how the competition will shape up. Having said that, we have adapted well to different tracks this season and I know the team have worked very hard to prepare for this race so I believe we can be competitive again. It was very frustrating not to score points in Belgium after such a fantastic start when I was fighting for third place going into turn one after starting 11th. I had a great chance but once again in Spa I was very unlucky."

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

"I have good memories of Monza from last season, when I finished on the podium twice in GP2 and won the sprint race, but I would prefer to forget Monza 2006 when I hurt my wrist. I certainly hope this year will give me more fun memories! I quite enjoy racing at Monza because it is an extremely fast track and as a racing driver you always like to drive fast. It was good to get experience of Monza with the TF108 during our test a couple of weeks ago. We have a totally different package for this race and we got a lot of information which should really help us make a positive start on Friday. My goal will be to score points and I am looking forward to the challenge."

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota’s senior general manager chassis
"Monza is unique nowadays in Formula One because it is a very high speed track. For that reason, we basically prepare a one-off package for this race aiming for very high aerodynamic efficiency on the long straights, which are very demanding for the engine. But the track is about more than just the straights, obviously, and the combination of high speeds and slow corners means it is one of the toughest tracks on brakes. To get strong performance you need strong top speed, good braking stability and the ability to ride the high kerbs. All these factors mean it is truly a one-off race and the unique characteristics really add to the atmosphere as well; it is a place where you can feel the history and passion. I love visiting Italy and after seeing encouraging results from our Monza package I am particularly looking forward to this weekend."

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

"High speed will be the number-one issue in Monza. Currently there's no other Formula One track where we break the 350 km/h mark. Another extreme factor is how hard we ride the kerbs in the chicanes. Speed and tradition are the hallmarks of this circuit. In other respects it is unfortunately a bit dated. The Italian fans always ensure there's a special atmosphere at this Grand Prix.

"What is crucial in terms of performance is a good aerodynamic package that doesn't generate much drag. Nowhere else does the car carry as little wing, and our team normally does a pretty good job of providing us with this special aero package. Testing in Monza was encouraging, and I'm looking forward to the Italian Grand Prix."

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 6th, 2007 Race - 5th

"Monza is one of the most challenging tracks for the cars, as on the calendar it is where we drive with the lowest downforce level and the highest top speeds. The key factors in Monza are low drag, in order to reach the highest speeds possible without losing too much downforce, and good braking stability. The track is unique because of some very long straights where we easily reach more than 300 kilometres per hour. There are some really famous corners such as Parabolica, Ascari or Lesmo, and they are faster than the first chicanes. But you have to approach them braking heavily.

"For me personally, Monza is very special as I achieved my first podium there in 2006 in only my third Formula One race. To mark this special point in my career I will again have a slightly different helmet design in Monza. As I grew up as a driver in Italy, I know a lot of people there and quite a lot of Italian fans will be cheering for me. I also expect plenty of Polish fans to be there. I am really looking forward to the weekend."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director
"Monza is the classic engine circuit. Since the switchover to V8 engines, the full-throttle percentage per lap has risen to 70 percent. In 2007, Robert recorded the highest top speed of all the drivers in the Royal Park when he hit 351.7 km/h. While Nick will be racing in Italy with the same engine as in Spa, Robert's car is scheduled to be fitted with a new unit.

"So far Monza has been a rewarding venue for our team. In 2006, Robert had his first podium in what was only his third grand prix, and last year Nick and Robert took a nine-point haul to secure our second-best result of the season. For this year's Italian Grand Prix too, we have set our sights just as high.

"The 2008 race in Italy again marks the close of the European season, which has been very successful for the BMW Sauber F1 Team. So far in 2008 we have earned a total of nine podium places and celebrated a one-two in Montreal. It means we've achieved our season's target and established ourselves as one of the top three teams."

Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber technical director
"I'm very much looking forward to the race in Monza as it is a special event every time. Monza is pure tradition and the only high-speed track left on the calendar. Because of the four long straights, you have to develop a special low-downforce aero package which enables high speeds on account of its low drag, and is only used in this one race.

"The challenge for the drivers and engineers is to find a mechanical set-up that guarantees good braking stability and allows for aggressive driving over the kerbs. That is absolutely essential to achieve good lap times. We were totally satisfied with our test in Monza, and we'll be heading for Italy in optimistic mood."

More to follow.