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Bahrain Grand Prix - team and driver preview quotes 20 Apr 2009

Nicolas Todt (FRA) Driver Manager, Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari and Rob Smedley (GBR) Ferrari Race Engineer on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 19 April 2009 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari signs an autograph.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 18 April 2009 Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari General Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 27 March 2009 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 18 April 2009 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 19 April 2009

After the cooling rains of Malaysia and China, the drivers and teams are looking forward to testing their mettle in the heat and dust of Sakhir this weekend, at the Bahrain Grand Prix…

Felipe Massa, Ferrari
2008 Qualifying - 2nd, 2008 Race - 1st

“I have always gone well at the Sakhir circuit, winning for the last two years, so I hope this is a good sign. In more practical terms, we tested here during the winter and the car was not too bad to be honest and the tyres seemed to suit the package we have. I really do expect to be more competitive, especially if we have KERS, as it should be a significant advantage at this track. I hope that finally we can make life difficult for the other teams and fight for a very good result. I am very motivated, despite the difficult times until now. But change must come and hopefully that will start this weekend. It should be much hotter than we are used to here, but I don’t think that should be a problem to deal with.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2008 Qualifying - 4th, 2008 Race - 2nd

“This weekend we’re in Bahrain, where we had several tests during the winter. The temperatures should be much higher here compared to the test sessions. Ferrari has won the races in the last two years here at the Sakhir circuit, but honestly I don’t think it’s possible this time. If we manage to have a flawless weekend this time, we can gain points and maybe even a place on the podium.”

Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal
“We have endured a very difficult start to the season. We knew we would suffer in China and in all probability, we will be suffering again here this weekend. After that, it is to be hoped that we will make a step forward as from the Spanish Grand Prix, even allowing for the fact that we cannot expect those teams currently ahead of us to wait for us to catch up and they too will be developing their cars further. However, the most important point is that the entire team and everyone at Maranello, is working very hard to extricate itself from this situation as soon as possible. We have no points yet and so the gap to the leaders is a big one, but I want to make it very clear that we have absolutely not given up fighting for this year’s championship titles. And why should we, when theoretically there are still 252 points available this season per team. Development will be ongoing, as it is every year and this will continue whatever the results over the next few races. Even if the situation was worse than this, we still would not give up because this is absolutely not part of the Ferrari philosophy and, with the same group of people we have now, we have fought back from situations like this, from situations which the outside world saw as impossible. The same group of people have won three of the last four titles available over the past two years.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India
2008 Qualifying - 18th, 2008 Race - 12th

“I feel quite positive about Bahrain. We have some new parts coming through from the factory and I hope they will be an improvement in overall pace. We’ve still got some way to go to be able to race for points, but at least this will keep us competitive. As with China, we’ve got to focus on getting to the end and seeing where we are.”

Adrian Sutil, Force India
2008 Qualifying - 20th, 2008 Race - 19th

“The team should be proud of the race we had and the performance we showed in China. Of course I am disappointed we didn’t get the ultimate result, but you have to get over it as there is always the next race. For sure we deserved the points, but we’re not giving up as there are always other chances. We’ve refocused and are now looking forward to Bahrain, which is a race I enjoy - there’s something very different about racing in the desert. The goals for Bahrain are really going to be the same as for China. For sure I want to finish the job, but I think getting points here will be very difficult. I want to keep the reliability record we have shown so far this year - it’s my best start to a season since I came into F1 in 2007 and I want to maintain this finish rate. The new parts we have coming through for this race should keep us close to the others and I hope we will be able to have a good, competitive race, but we need to focus on our own performance and try to improve as much as possible so when we get to Europe we can really be fighting.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and team principal
“We are planning to introduce a significant aerodynamic upgrade for the Bahrain Grand Prix, including a new floor and an interim diffuser. Amongst other items, we also plan to use new auxiliary wings on the front wing and reprofiled sidepods to incorporate the amended rear end. We have been planning this upgrade since the debut of the VJM02 as part of our scheduled aerodynamic cycle and it will represent a good step forward for the team. Although we nevertheless expect other teams to have moved forward as well, we hope this will keep us racing with the rest of the field. As usual, we know points are going to be very difficult to achieve and we should not set this as a goal for Bahrain. Yes, Adrian had a very strong race in China and very nearly achieved our ultimate goal far earlier than anyone could have expected, but we should not look on the Chinese Grand Prix as indicative of our general form. Instead, we need to focus once more on reliability and consistency and look to be there if circumstances allow.”

Dominic Harlow, Force India chief race engineer
“Bahrain will be the third Tilke-built track in succession and, as such, will feature the familiar long straights followed by tight hairpin corners. As with Malaysia and China it will call for a compromise in set-up with the need for speed on the straights tempered by the necessary downforce levels for good traction through the corners. The KERS system could also play a part here more than we’ve seen anywhere else so far. We are bringing some upgrades in time for this event having brought a few things forward ahead of our return to Europe, allowing us to apply some further development in time for Spain. Of course what is unique about Bahrain is the desert location, and depending on the winds the dust that they carry can wreak havoc with grip levels and areas of the car that are not adequately protected.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2008 Qualifying - 10th, 2008 Race - 10th

“Bahrain is a challenging circuit and I have some good memories of my wins there in 2005 and 2006 with Renault. Because of the circuit's location, it can get quite dusty and the conditions change from lap to lap so you need to be careful, but there are still some good overtaking opportunities, especially into Turn One and Turn Four. It's one of the most demanding circuits on the brakes with lots of big braking zones and so we will look at the wear rates on Friday to make sure we don't have any problems in the race. Hopefully we can repeat the performance we showed in China so that we can reach Q3 and fight for points in the race. It's still an early stage in the year and already the team has made incredible progress, which gives me the belief that we can still fight for the championship. We will have more updates when we get back to Europe, but at this stage in the year it's important that we score as many points as possible at each race so we can be in the fight at the end of the season.”

Nelson Piquet, Renault
2008 Qualifying - 14th, 2008 Race - DNF

“If I'm honest it's not one of my favourite circuits although there are exciting parts of the lap such as Turns Five and Six. However, the location means that the track surface is always pretty dusty, especially off-line and so you can't afford to make a mistake and run wide without losing a lot of time. It's also one of the hotter races of the year so it's quite physically demanding, although it's dry heat rather than the humidity you get in Malaysia. I really need to make sure I qualify well so that I can pick a good strategy for the race. If we get the new parts on my car in time for this weekend then I think reaching Q3 will be possible, which will put me in a good position to score points in the race. The team is working hard to develop the car and I'm sure we will be more competitive in Bahrain where I will be ready to take any opportunity that comes my way.”

Bob Bell, Renault technical director
“I think we can be quite confident that we can repeat the sort of performance we showed in China during qualifying as we now have the basic pace in the car. And if we have a dry race, I'm confident that we can bring home the points from the race to match our qualifying performance. Nelson will have the new diffuser in time for Bahrain. It simply wasn't possible to make two in time for China last weekend. I think that we did a great job to get one out to China. We will consider the merits of KERS on a race by race because it's not a system that is categorically quicker at every track. It depends on the nature of the circuit and we will continue to assess it on a race by race basis.”

Jenson Button, Brawn GP
2008 Qualifying - 9th, 2008 Race - DNF

“Bahrain is always one of my favourite races on the calendar as I love the country and the circuit has some great fast flowing sections which really suit my driving style and allow you to push the car to its limits. It's a good circuit for overtaking, particularly at Turn One after the long straight where you brake very hard from over 300 km/h in seventh gear down to first gear. People tend to brake surprisingly early here so you can make up crucial ground if you are brave. Confidence under braking is the key to a quick lap. You have to believe in the car's performance and have full confidence that you can stop effectively."

Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP
2008 Qualifying - 12th, 2008 Race - 11th

"Bahrain is not a particularly quick track but it is an interesting one from a driver's perspective. From a technical point of view, braking and traction are crucial and you need good straightline speed to maximise the long straights so the strength of our Mercedes-Benz engine will prove a real advantage here. It can turn very windy, particularly in the afternoon, which causes sand to be blown onto the track affecting the grip levels. This can be a particular challenge in qualifying when everyone is trying to be out on track at the last minute when the circuit is cleanest. The last two race weekends have turned out to be really eventful with the weather affecting the outcome in Malaysia and China but hopefully we can expect a dry race here in Bahrain this weekend."

Ross Brawn, Brawn GP team principal
"As the first four Grands Prix take place over just a five-week period, it has been an intense and demanding start to the season for the Brawn GP team. Australia, Malaysia and China produced some fantastic racing and I am very pleased with how the team responded to the challenges that we have faced. This was particularly the case in China last weekend where the team and the drivers did an excellent job. Although we were not able to challenge for the victory in the dramatic and unexpectedly wet conditions, we consolidated our championship position with two strong points-scoring results. Looking ahead to the fourth race on the season in Bahrain this weekend, we are expecting a dry weekend which will allow us to really put the BGP001 through its paces and assess our performance. The track characteristics of the Bahrain International Circuit should suit our car and we do not expect any concerns from the high ambient and track temperatures."

Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development
"Bahrain is a technically interesting circuit. The layout means a lot of braking and a lot of accelerating out of low speed corners. Maximising traction out of the corners is the key to a good lap time, but if a car has less than ideal traction, additional unwanted heat can be created, and this will make matters more difficult for competitors. There is a lot of heavy braking here too, and it will be interesting to see how the different braking characteristics between the KERS and non-KERS cars affects lap times, and also the racing. Tyre management and minimising unnecessary tyre heat in what could be very hot conditions are very important considerations here. We have the medium and super soft tyres and we expect the medium tyre to be very durable. The super soft should present more of a challenge in terms of durability than the medium, however the data from the Bahrain pre-season tests show that this tyre can be managed well on this track if the correct set-up is found."

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2008 Qualifying - 3rd, 2008 Race - 13th

“I’m looking forward to Bahrain. It’s a circuit I enjoy and I think it should be good for us - the nature of the circuit, the long straights and the heavy braking zones mean it is a theoretically strong place for KERS. In fact, it’s got the highest brake-wear of the season so far, so it will be interesting to see how well KERS can be exploited around the lap. Most importantly, we seem to have a solid direction within the team - all our upgrades invariably bring a lap time improvement and our direction on set-up and strategy shows what a strong group we still are. I still think we are several races away from being truly competitive but a straightforward race at Bahrain would give us a very good opportunity to accurately assess where we sit among our rivals.”

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
2008 Qualifying - 5th, 2008 Race - 5th

“There’s a real mix of corners at the Bahrain circuit and the long straights followed by tighter corners mean it’s a good place for overtaking. It’s quite tricky to find the right set-up, it’s a medium downforce circuit so that always brings a compromise. And the changing wind conditions, the winds here can be quite strong, also make it harder to get the car working over the whole weekend. Still, it’s a circuit you have to attack to get a good time - I really enjoy the high-speed esses and uphill sweeps around the back of the circuit. I’m looking forward to another strong weekend and the opportunity to put some more points on the board.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
“The points we scored in China were encouraging because they showed that, even without a fully competitive car, we have lost none of our ability to attack over a race weekend and to maximize every opportunity that comes our way. Until our package reaches full competitiveness, that must remain our aim for the Bahrain weekend. Once again, we will introduce a series of upgrades to MP4-24 and remain optimistic that they will once again deliver a further performance improvement. Also, as the home of one of our primary shareholders, it is a particularly special race for everyone within the team and we are made to feel very welcome by our Bahraini hosts.”

Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport vice-president
“We are looking forward to the second back to back race this season after the first two grands prix within eight days in Melbourne and Sepang. This schedule with four races within five weeks, is a very tough challenge for everybody involved in Formula One. Our performance in dry conditions looked a step better in Shanghai than at the two races before and our aim is to continue in this direction. Anyway - we cannot expect miracles in Bahrain and everybody in the team is absolutely aware of the fact that we have to work day and night in order to come back to the top of the field. We lost already six points in Australia by our own faults and also in Malaysia we should have scored more than one point. In China we achieved for the first time what was achievable, but fifth and sixth places cannot be the target for the team starting with numbers 1 and 2 on their cars. After the first four flyaway races we have to deliver presentable progress in the next four races in Europe. However, it will be very challenging to move into the top three of the team ranking in such a short time.”

Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
2008 Qualifying - 16th, 2008 Race - 14th

“I didn’t have a great weekend in Bahrain last year and found it difficult to get used to the track. I’m more positive going there this year so hopefully it will be a different story. It’s a stop and go track where you need straight line speed, good breaks and traction to do well. Corners 9 and 10 are a bit tricky, you have to really use your breaks and there’s a lot of lateral loading.”

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2008 Qualifying - 8th, 2008 Race - 8th

“I first raced at Bahrain in 2004 in F3, then won the GP2 Championship there in 2005. In my first race for Williams, I started in 12th but took the nose off on the first corner. After I pitted for a new nose, I had a good race and in the end I made my way up to seventh which meant two points. I also got the fastest lap of the race. As I’ve always had good races there, I really enjoy going to Bahrain.

“It’s one of my favourite tracks. Last year the car went well there and we won’t have any issues with warming up the tyres. Downforce level is always really important there for the corners, but then there’s a compromise required so you can fight the other cars on the fast straights. We’re confident going to Bahrain that we can finally get a good result.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2008 Qualifying - 7th, 2008 Race - 6th

"I am looking forward to racing in Bahrain after the tests we had there over the winter. Bahrain was the first chance I had to really test the TF109 in dry conditions and I knew immediately we had a competitive package, which has proved to be the case now the season has started. In testing the car was strong in Bahrain so I have a good feeling for this weekend and I think we can be competitive. Weather and track conditions change from winter testing to the race weekend but it should still help us a bit to have set-up information from the new car at this track, and we have quite a bit of experience now with these two compounds of tyre. I will push as hard as I can, as always, and I know everyone in the team is really motivated so I hope for a smooth and successful weekend."

Timo Glock, Toyota
2008 Qualifying - 13th, 2008 Race - 9th

"The Bahrain Grand Prix is good fun and the track is unique. For car set-up you have to compromise between straightline speed and grip in the slower corners, which is quite a tricky balance to achieve. One issue we face particularly in Bahrain is the wind, which comes in across the desert and can change direction from lap to lap. This can make the car a bit unstable if it blows in the wrong direction but we know what to expect so we can be prepared. Last year I was pretty unlucky in Bahrain because I had to back off with a small technical issue when I was sure I would score my first points for the team. But this season has started in a much better way compared to 2008 and I am confident I can continue to show that good performance."

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota senior general manager, chassis
"We achieved a huge amount of laps in Bahrain during testing and this was very useful in terms of developing the TF109. It should also be useful for this weekend because we have some experience of set-up and slick tyres at this track with the new cars, so we should hit the ground running on Friday. We tested both tyre compounds when we were in Bahrain in February and they performed well in representative temperature conditions so we're not expecting any major problems in that area. Otherwise, Bahrain is quite tough on the brakes; we expect it to be harder on them than any other race this season."

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2008 Qualifying - 1st, 2008 Race - 3rd

"I am looking forward to going to Bahrain. Overall I really like the track, although it is not really challenging. The Bahrain International Circuit has a couple of long straights and three characteristically low-speed corners that require heavy braking. Wind can play an important role in Sakhir as it influences the balance of the car. Also, the wind blows sand onto parts of the track, which leads to changing grip conditions. Luckily we had the chance to test the F1.09 car in Bahrain in February, although weather conditions were unstable and windy then. Last year we performed quite well in Bahrain - after securing pole position in qualifying I managed to finish the race on the podium."

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2008 Qualifying - 6th, 2008 Race - 4th

"I enjoy driving in Bahrain. I like the modern complex and the circuit. The section from the fifth to the penultimate corner is particularly well designed. This time I'll be again arriving quite early to allow time for my fitness training. It will be interesting to see what the weather brings. Usually the climate in Bahrain has been very pleasant, but we've also had incredible heat, and during winter testing there was a huge sandstorm. In 2008 there was a concert by Akon after the race, which I also remember well."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director
"In Bahrain we aim to bring the first major overseas stint to a positive end. It also marks the end of the second set of back-to-back races within five weeks. We look back on the previous Bahrain Grand Prix with satisfaction: in 2008 Robert gained his first ever pole position with the BMW Sauber F1 Team, achieving another milestone. After our appearance in Shanghai we are now heading for another region that is important to BMW. For us as a manufacturer in the premium sector the Middle East is also a very significant market."

Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering
"The Bahrain circuit demands a compromise when it comes to aerodynamic set-up. On the one hand the many slow corners require a high level of downforce, while on the other the exceptional breadth of the track encourages the drivers to overtake, which means we can't leave maximum speed out of the equation. With the low-speed corners, traction and brake balance play a major role. Brake wear on this circuit is particularly high, especially in the turn after the start-finish straight and in turn 4. At night the wind regularly sweeps sand onto the track. Generally conditions improve as the day goes on, but tyre wear can nevertheless be fairly high on account of the sand. That is an important factor for the race strategy."

More to follow.