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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - team and driver preview quotes 28 Oct 2009

(L to R): Ross Brawn (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix Team Principal with Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 4 October 2009 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn Grand Prix.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 2 October 2009 Ross Brawn (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 17 October 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil,  Sunday, 18 October 2009 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil,  Sunday, 18 October 2009

They’ve undoubtedly read about it and studied a map of the track. Perhaps they've sampled it on a simulator in the factory or even visited the venue, but the drivers have yet to really experience Abu Dhabi’s newly-built Yas Marina Circuit. After hearing so much about it, however, they clearly can’t wait to get cracking. Here they reveal their preparations for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and explain why they think it could become a firm favourite in the future…

Jenson Button, Brawn GP
"It's a fantastic feeling to be going into the final race having achieved my ambition of winning the drivers' championship and with the team having wrapped up the constructors' championship in Brazil. We want to finish the season in style with a great result but we can be a little more relaxed in our approach to the weekend! I had a short break in the Gulf region after the Bahrain Grand Prix and went to have a look at the Yas Marina Circuit. Even back then, when the construction work was still underway, the facilities looked outstanding and the organisers have done a great job in creating a spectacular venue. It's always fun to try a new race track, particularly one which looks as unique as Yas Marina with the unusual pit-lane exit and the day/night race. I'm sure Abu Dhabi is going to host an exciting weekend and a great finale to the 2009 Formula One season."

Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP
"It's always a good challenge to race at a new venue and the Yas Marina Circuit looks extremely impressive from the reports that I have seen. The layout of the circuit seems both fun and challenging and it will be interesting to start the race in daylight and to finish in evening conditions. Our track walk on Thursday will be important to get an initial feel for the characteristics of the circuit and we will spend the first few laps on Friday getting to grips with the layout. From then on, it will be business as usual with our standard practice programme. The team has had a great season so far and we want to finish on a high with a strong performance this weekend."

Ross Brawn, Brawn GP team principal
"Brazil was a fantastic weekend and to have won the constructors' and the drivers' championships with Brawn GP is a very special achievement. I am incredibly proud of the whole team at Brawn GP and Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines. We've all had a few busy days since returning to the UK and it was great for both Jenson and I to get back to the factory and thank everyone in person for their contribution to our successes. At the same time, we have been looking ahead to the final race and ensuring that all our preparations are in place for Abu Dhabi which is an important weekend for the team as we look to secure second position in the drivers' championship with Rubens. The new Yas Marina Circuit looks extremely impressive and we're looking forward to getting out to Abu Dhabi and having our first look at the track. With the challenge of a new circuit, we are able to use data provided by the FIA to create a circuit map which can be used in our simulator at the factory. We went through this process for the new street circuits in Valencia and Singapore last year so it is a process that the team is familiar with. Knowing the circuit when they arrive helps the drivers to get into a rhythm quickly during the first practice sessions and allows us to check gear ratios and compare set-up items. We can also use the simulator to understand tyre behaviour. From this we get an understanding of the car balance and that allows us to determine our start set-up for the weekend."

Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development
"This will be the first ever race meeting at this circuit so it is very much a step into the unknown. Of course, we work very closely with the circuit and teams with simulations and evaluations of the layout, and we have been working with a sample of the track surface. We will also have some data from the GP2 Asia Series test which takes place the week before the Grand Prix. In terms of expected lateral forces we can say that the circuit is similar to Valencia. The track surface is similar to Barcelona or Fuji. Our ambient temperature predictions place Abu Dhabi as being similar to Bahrain. The track is new so very dark in colour, meaning it could get quite hot. We expect to see a lot of surface evolution.

"The circuit layout is a typical stop and go street course so there will be traction demands. As with any new surface we can expect the possibility of graining early in the weekend. We have brought the medium and soft compound Bridgestone Potenza tyres as they sit in the middle of our tyre range. It is difficult to know exactly what the temperatures will be, especially the track surface temperature with such a dark new surface."

Fernando Alonso, Renault
“I always enjoy the challenge of a new circuit and the track in Abu Dhabi looks very impressive. It will be a new experience for everyone so it’s important that we maximise all the sessions and learn as much as we can quickly to try and find an advantage. I think the facility looks amazing and will be great for the people of Abu Dhabi. We went there a few years ago for the street demo and saw how much enthusiasm the fans have for Formula One. I would love to finish the season and my Renault career with a great result. It will be an emotional race because I have enjoyed so many special memories with this team and I am leaving behind a lot of friends. Renault is one of the great teams in Formula One and I look forward to fighting with them on the track in the years ahead.”

Romain Grosjean, Renault
“It will be a new adventure for everyone and I'm very curious to see what it's like as there has been so much expectation for this track. The photos I've seen of the Marina look amazing and I'm sure it will be a great way to end the season. The layout looks like fun: it will be quick as there are some long straights and hopefully some overtaking opportunities. I think it will also feel like a street circuit with the big buildings and the yachts in the harbour. As it's a new track for all the drivers, things should be easier for me as we all have to learn the circuit. My aim is to try and match Fernando, qualify well and hopefully fight for points in the race.”

Bob Bell, Renault team principal
“I think all the teams enjoy visiting a new country and a new track always has a modern infrastructure with so much space available for the mechanics and engineers. It remains to be seen how good the circuit will be in terms of the action it produces, but from what I've seen so far it seems the organisers have done an excellent job. As a team we enjoy the challenge of a new track and we will be ready to exploit any advantage we can. It would be great to get Romain and Fernando through to Q3 in qualifying so that we have some reasonable starting positions for the race. We want to be challenging for points and even the podium, which is a realistic target considering the performance level we have already demonstrated this season.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
"It's been an up-and-down season for us with such a strong start followed by some disappointing races in Europe then a really competitive end to the year. As Abu Dhabi is a new track it's impossible to predict how we will perform but after the speed we showed in the last three races I am confident of finishing the year on a high. I was extremely frustrated to be eliminated by an accident in Brazil because we had looked very quick all weekend and I genuinely believe we had a fantastic chance of finishing on the podium. So I am confident for this weekend and I am really motivated to get another great result before the season ends. Abu Dhabi looks like another fantastic new venue and I am really interested to see what the track is like to drive so I can't wait for practice to begin on Friday."

Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota
"I am really looking forward to my second Grand Prix and I want to make the most of this unexpected chance. I didn't know the track in Brazil and that was a little bit of a disadvantage because almost all the other drivers had some experience of it. But that's not the case in Abu Dhabi; this is a new track for everyone so that should help me. I am also more familiar with the car now, as well as other procedures during a race weekend like pit stops and the two tyre compounds, so I expect to be more competitive in Abu Dhabi. I am sure the car will be strong and I will do everything I can to try to score my first points in Formula One. Of course it will be extremely difficult because the field is very strong and this is just my second Grand Prix but I will give my all."

John Howett, Toyota team president
"We are very much looking forward to the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which marks the end of an eventful and positive season for us. Even if we haven't yet achieved all our targets, we produced a very competitive car and when we made the most of its potential we were able to fight systematically for the podium. Having discussed the medical advice with Timo and his management, the team has decided to take no risk and to put Kamui in the car. He proved in very difficult circumstances in Brazil that he can compete in Formula One and we are looking forward to another gutsy performance. This track is again new to him but that is true for everyone, which should work in Kamui's favour, so we are expecting a strong display from both drivers."

Nico Rosberg, Williams
“I am really looking forward to going to Abu Dhabi. With the amount of time and effort that has gone into building it, I think it’s going to be a fantastic venue with stunning facilities and a great experience for Formula One. I’ve heard it’s a sell-out too so it should be a really exciting race weekend for the teams and the fans and a great way to end the year. Abu Dhabi is going to be a new experience for all of us so the simulator at Grove has been a real help and I’m pleased I had it at my disposal this week. There are some things like the bumps and kerbs that you can’t completely replicate, but braking, oversteer and understeer are all very similar. It’s definitely a big advantage having a sim like ours as I will be able to drive out of the pits on Friday and know the track pretty much straightaway. The one consideration I’ll be interested to see play out is the fact that we will start the race in daylight and then move into the night time.”

Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
“It’s really exciting to be going to a brand new circuit. The organisers certainly look like they’ve put a lot of thought into developing the track and the facilities. It all looks very impressive and the perfect place to end the championship. As we haven’t driven the circuit yet, it’s difficult to give an accurate breakdown of the track but our simulator has provided us with some really invaluable data. It looks like set-up will veer towards a medium to high downforce configuration to cope with the long straight (which will require good top speeds) and tight corners which we expect to see on a street circuit. Good grip levels for balance and to cope with the sand will also be crucial. One of the most interesting things for me is that we will drive under a hotel which I can’t wait to experience.”

Adrian Sutil, Force India
“Yas Marina looks like it will be a great facility - very luxurious and a great working environment for the team. However I don't think the track will be massively challenging. It has a long straight, but there are a lot of second gear corners as well, which might hurt us a little bit. The good thing is everyone is starting from the same platform, so it will be a little bit of a surprise when we arrive. When preparing for a new event, the first step is always to look at the track map and the conditions you can expect at the event. Is there anything that looks different or challenging in the corners, is there something that you need to prepare for physically? I'll speak to my engineers about what they expect in terms of set-up and then the next step is to put it all together in the simulator. This gives a head start as you can make a basic set-up from this and use as a starting point in practice. You also know what to expect when you get on track.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India
“We really want points - it's important for the team and for myself. We'll be giving 100 percent until the end, in practice, qualifying and the race. We have done some laps of Yas Marina in the simulator and it looks like a great facility. The track seems very interesting and could suit the VJM02 very well as there are a few long straights and a tricky middle section. It's also good to visit new venues so I'm looking forward to this race.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and team principal
“Brazil was a missed opportunity to score points. Adrian was in a prime position to get some decent points, perhaps even a podium, but it was not to be. But the Abu Dhabi aero configuration is roughly similar to Brazil and Valencia, and even though we can't expect rain, we can expect a reasonable level of performance in qualifying that should put us in a good position for the race. We could technically move up a position in the championship as we're just 13 points behind Renault, but it will be tough so we need to consolidate what we have already. Toro Rosso have been looking very strong in recent races so it's a matter of personal pride to keep them behind. Ninth place in the championship is one position higher than last year and we need that improvement to validate all the progress we've made this year. Having new events on the calendar certainly keeps the series fresh and opens the sport out to new markets. I hear the venue is absolutely fantastic as well, so it will set new standards for Formula One. This too is very important, for the sport to keep evolving and looking at making improvements to track facilities, spectator opportunities and the whole 'experience' of going to a race. For Force India for sure it will be an extra special event as there is a large number of ex-pat Indians, which always gives us that little more of a push.”

Dominic Harlow, Force India's chief engineer
“Abu Dhabi will be one of the most eagerly awaited new race debuts in some time. The track and facilities are immense and a very interesting weekend is in store. We expect it to be quite hot obviously, but the twilight timing to the sessions will mean track surface temperatures will not be as high as they could be. The lap includes a very long straight, over 1km, with three high energy brakings and predominantly slow, second or third gear, quite technical corners with a surprising amount of gradient change. On the reliability side cooling will be the main focus, and for performance finding the right downforce level and understanding the factors that will dictate race strategy. It looks like being a great season finale and we'll be pushing as hard as ever to finish with some more points.”

Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development
"This will be the first ever race meeting at this circuit so it is very much a step into the unknown. Of course, we work very closely with the circuit and teams with simulations and evaluations of the layout, and we have been working with a sample of the track surface. We will also have some data from the GP2 Asia Series test which takes place the week before the Grand Prix. In terms of expected lateral forces we can say that the circuit is similar to Valencia. The track surface is similar to Barcelona or Fuji. Our ambient temperature predictions place Abu Dhabi as being similar to Bahrain. The track is new so very dark in colour, meaning it could get quite hot. We expect to see a lot of surface evolution. The circuit layout is a typical stop and go street course so there will be traction demands. As with any new surface we can expect the possibility of graining early in the weekend. We have brought the medium and soft compound Bridgestone Potenza tyres as they sit in the middle of our tyre range. It is difficult to know exactly what the temperatures will be, especially the track surface temperature with such a dark new surface."

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
“The race in Abu Dhabi will be my last Grand Prix with Ferrari and as usual I will give it everything to gain the best possible result. We’ll try to conclude this difficult year with a good result, hoping that it will be enough to gain the third place in the constructors’ championship, McLaren took over in Brazil. It will be difficult, because the competition is very strong. Furthermore in Brazil the two titles have been assigned, so maybe there are certain drivers, who will risk a little bit more, as everything has been decided already. Our direct competitors are still improving their car, while we have been using the same car since the race in Hungary at the end of July. There are many expectations as far as the Yas Marina Circuit is concerned, but it’s difficult making any predictions, because we’re racing there for the first time. As far as we can see the organisers have done some great work and the circuit seems to me very interesting and challenging. Furthermore there will be a very special challenge, given the fact that we’ll start the race in sunlight, while it will end with artificial lights. This will definitely add some suspense.”

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
“I have not been to the Abu Dhabi circuit so far. As we do not have a simulator I only know the track from the Internet and from a couple of presentations. The track looks very interesting. The facilities and the buildings around the circuit especially seem to be outstanding. However, before having done the first laps on the track with a Formula One car, it is really difficult to judge the circuit itself. But of course I know this situation from the past. In 2008 both Valencia and Singapore were new on the calendar. Fortunately I consider myself a driver who does not need a lot of track time to be on a good pace straight away. I guess that a lot of cars will be out on the track on Friday in order to understand the track and to learn as much as possible. I am really looking forward to going there. It will be my last race for this team, but I hope very much to see them on the grid again next year.”

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
“I’m very pleased to be getting another taste of summer and will be flying out to Abu Dhabi a few days early with my family. I’m really excited about the new circuit. Everyone who’s been there already has described it as an incredible place. I think it’s always great to discover a new track. I haven’t found the lack of a simulator to be a disadvantage at other new circuits, and this way it’s even more exciting when you drive out of the garage for the first time. This will be a very special race for all of us in the team. So far I haven’t really had that feeling of saying goodbye. But that will change in Abu Dhabi for sure, and will probably be quite intense. I very much hope that the team is given a place on the grid for 2010 soon.”

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director
“We will travel to Abu Dhabi with mixed feelings. The eight points we collected in Brazil have allowed us to move up a place in the constructors’ championship, and we will be highly motivated once again at the final race of the season. We are looking forward to racing at the new Formula One venue and can’t wait to experience the atmosphere at the Marina Circuit.

“However, there will of course also be a fair amount of sadness within the team as we set off for Abu Dhabi. After all, this will be our 70th and final race with the BMW Sauber team."

Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering
“I always find it exciting to compete at a new venue. The circuit in Abu Dhabi has a whole series of predominantly slow and medium-speed corners, but also two very long straights. Since the track is also very wide, we can probably look forward to a lot of overtaking moves. Of course, we have carried out the usual simulations, but one significant unknown is how the tyres will respond on the new asphalt. We will only discover the answer to this question during the course of the weekend. The ambient temperatures are sure to play a major role. Although the race is not scheduled to start until 5.00 pm, we can still expect the outside air temperature to be well over 30 degrees Celsius. Brazil was the first race in which we’ve been able to fully exploit the potential of the car since the extensive package of modifications were introduced in Singapore, and we’re also expecting to have a strong race in Abu Dhabi. We’ll be pulling out all the stops to finish the season on a positive note.”

Mark Webber, Red Bull
“As usual, the F1 season has been pretty long, but it’s still always good to have the chance to drive the car again, particularly when we’re in our current form. The last race of the year will be very interesting to go to, as no-one’s raced there before and it’s another street circuit - it sounds fascinating. I think it will be a good finale to the season and a timely end to the championship. We’re all ready to start next year now, as the championship titles are decided. I’m expecting Red Bull Racing to be pretty strong in Abu Dhabi. We’ve been pretty strong since Singapore, so there’s no reason to suggest that we can’t be fighting towards the sharp end again, no question about it. As usual, qualifying will be very important on a street circuit and then we’ll see how the race goes from there. We’re looking to finish off on a high for the team. I’ve heard the Yas Marina Circuit has some nice undulations, which sounds good. It’s got a few fast sections to it and a slow section to finish off. I think it will be pretty dusty, but we’ll clean it up pretty quick; it’s always nice to go to a new track.”

David Coulthard, Red Bull team consultant
“Having had the opportunity to drive the circuit, what struck me is that it’s a two-stage track; the first half of the lap until corner nine is typical of the new type of track. There’s the fast section at the beginning from Turn One to the Turn Four tight hairpin with the grandstand literally overhead, giving great viewing for the spectators. The 1.2-kilometre back straight should give an opportunity for some slipstreaming and overtaking and then the back section of the circuit has a real street circuit feel to it, where you come along the section that takes you to the hotel and then passes underneath it, via a series of 90 degree right-handers and left-handers before opening out to the end of the lap and a medium speed corner on to the start-finish straight. The pit lane entry is very challenging, as is the exit, which is actually in a tunnel under the circuit and is going to make it particularly challenging for the drivers coming in and out of pit stops. There are great facilities and air-conditioned garages which will make working conditions in the heat a little bit easier and also having an evening race will obviously take some of the heat out of what can be a very hot venue. I think the twilight aspect of the race will be more of a visual treat for the spectators and the TV audience, but I think for the drivers it will be absolutely fine, as there is enough overhead lighting to make it blend seamlessly from day into night, no problem.”

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
“We’ve had a fantastic second half of the season, and it would be perfect to end the year with a win - it would send us into the winter fully motivated and pumped up for the 2010 season. All the signs point to Abu Dhabi being another strong track for us - there are plenty of slow corners leading onto long straights, where KERS will be very advantageous. Seeing as it’s likely to be the last race for KERS, it would be fantastic to send it off with a perfect result - that would be a very fitting farewell for all the engineers who have worked so hard to make the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes system the best in the business.”

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
“I had a very strong race in Brazil and I’m determined to rack up a points finish in Abu Dhabi to make sure we hold on to third position in the constructors’ championship. From what I’ve seen of the track, it looks pretty good - it’s got a couple of fast corners at the start of the lap, but then there’s a real low-speed, technical section towards the end. It still looks like it will be a tough track for overtaking, but the facilities look amazing - totally world-class - and I think the idea of a dusk race is very good for our sport. Singapore has set the standard very high with its night race, but Abu Dhabi looks like it will set new standards in Formula One. I can’t wait to get out there.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
“We may have just overhauled Ferrari in Brazil to move into third place in the constructors’ championship, but, being just one point ahead with just one race remaining, means that we go into the Abu Dhabi weekend fully focused on scoring the maximum possible points to consolidate that position. As usual, there has been no let-up from the team in its preparations. We head to Abu Dhabi not only extremely encouraged by the improved pace we showed in Brazil but also very optimistic that the final race of the season offers us another opportunity to challenge for victory. Everything I’ve seen and heard about the Abu Dhabi circuit speaks of the race organisers’ total passion and commitment to perfection. The track already looks to have eclipsed the facilities we have anywhere else in the world and I’m very optimistic that, like Singapore before it, this weekend’s race will set a new benchmark for Formula One and open up new opportunities for the sport in the Middle East and the rest of the world.”

Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President
“This exciting season is coming to its end with the very first race at the new track in Abu Dhabi. This circuit defines the new state-of-the-art Formula One racetracks, and I’m sure it will be a truly exciting and hard-fought race. After both world championships have been decided, every team that is in a position to do so will try to use the chance to win this prestigious final race of the season. Since Lewis’ first victory in Hungary in late July, McLaren has shown a clear upwards trend. Both Lewis and McLaren have achieved two wins and five podium finishes, resulting in more points than any team and any other driver in the last seven races. We try to continue in that direction and hopefully with a similar result to the last street race in Singapore, which Lewis won.”