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Italian Grand Prix - team and driver preview quotes 10 Sep 2009

Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 27 August 2009 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, German Grand Prix, Race, Nurburgring, Germany, Sunday, 12 July 2009 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF109.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Budapest, Hungary, Friday, 24 July 2009 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Practice Day, Silverstone, England, Friday, 19 June 2009 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Preparations, Silverstone, England, Thursday, 18 June 2009

With top speeds reaching 350km/h, and home to Ferrari ‘superfans’, the Tifosi, Monza is one of the most thrilling Formula One venues on the calendar. Historic and quick, the drivers love it. Along with senior team members, they discuss their prospects...

Adrian Sutil, Force India
2008 Qualifying - 18th, 2008 Race - 19th

“I can't wait for Monza. Giancarlo had such a good weekend in Spa, with pole and then the podium, that it's really made me want to get in the car and do the same. For various reasons I didn't feel like I personally got the results in Spa I felt we could have so for sure I will want to go better in Italy. We've got a good car, I feel very confident in it and in the team and our top speeds have consistently been amongst the quickest in the field so I think we have a good shot at getting another good finish.

“Monza is one of those tracks that have so much history about it. Even coming into the circuit in the morning you see the old banking, the grandstands and think about how much racing has gone on here. The crowds are just incredible too. You can sometimes hear the crowd even over the engine so the atmosphere is always amazing. The track itself can be quite tricky to get right, particularly under braking into the chicanes, so everything about the event is interesting for me.

“Having a change (of team mate) mid-season isn't a problem for me - I've had this situation once before in 2007 - and I know Tonio very well now we've spent two years together in the same team. He's a good guy and we work well together, he's always been very open with information and he's done a great job in the testing and development. Together I think we can carry on the progress we've made so far and get some good results.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India
2008 Qualifying - N/A, 2008 Race - N/A

“I was hungry to be back in the race seat again as it was my aim for the future and it's happened in a good way - for Monza, my home race and this year. I think it will be a big test for me to show what I can do. It's a good opportunity for me to show what I can do after one and a half years of being a third driver.

“Of course I've kept myself fit and I've been trying to get closer to the team and get closer to the routine a race driver does, getting used to all the procedures of a race driver; so the starts, steering wheel, seat position, and so on. For sure I've been giving it more than 100 percent on the fitness side as I need to be ready and fit for Monza.

“There will be pressure but I am confident I will get back into it quickly. I am just one and a half years out of racing and in 2008 I did a lot of mileage with Force India as they gave me the chance to do more than 15 test days. I am also fully involved with the team in the development of the car. For sure it won't be easy but I think Monza is the best place to restart. It's smooth, really fast with lots of straights and not too many corners and I'm pretty confident that we will be straight away setting a good pace.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and team principal
“If you are quick in Spa generally you will go well in Monza so I would hope we would be again top of Q2 and in the hunt for points. I do think KERS will play a big part this time in Monza so, as Kimi showed in Spa, it may be difficult to run ahead or stay ahead of the KERS-equipped cars. That's not to say we won't give it a good shot though.

“We obviously have a new race driver pairing in Adrian and Tonio, but the two of them have been team-mates for the past one and a half years. They know each other well, they know how the team operates and they know the cars so we really should be able to pick up where we left off last weekend. I expect Tonio will take some time to get up to speed on Friday but I think he will be on it pretty much by qualifying. I am sure that's his goal as well.”

Dominic Harlow, Force India's chief engineer
“Monza is a great way to round off the European season. It's the oldest permanent Grand Prix circuit still in use, and the cars still run on the original road course main straight. The length of the straights means the teams run their lowest drag and downforce configurations, only about 70 percent of what is possible at a slower circuit. This in turn results in the highest top and average speeds and hence the shortest race time.

“Over 200mph is commonplace in Monza with cars approaching this velocity three times a lap. The track is hard on brakes with three chicanes interrupting the flow and the chicane kerbs are always taken very aggressively. From an engineering perspective it will be a challenge to optimise the cars for this unique environment without the traditional pre-race test. Of course you can't fail to be moved by the atmosphere and history of the place combined with the parkland setting at the end of summer.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari
2008 Qualifying - 12th, 2008 Race - DNF

“Having KERS should be good for us here, as well as the Monza-specification aero package. But before I can make the most of it, I need to get comfortable and confident in the car. I expect to do that in Friday’s first free practice session, before being more competitive in the second one. I have spent most of my time since the last race in Maranello, having meetings with the engineers, discussing our work programme and I have also done two to three hours a day in the static simulator, which has been useful, especially learning where everything is on the steering wheel. For me, it will be a new experience using the adjustable front flap, as I didn’t have that on my last car and of course, KERS will also be new. It might be as simple as pressing a button when you exit a corner, but I think it will take me a short while to get fully used to it.

“Of course, it would be a dream to win straight away on Sunday, but it’s not so easy stepping from one car to another. So I will be taking it step by step. My aim is to help Ferrari ensure third place in the constructors’ (championship) to be as close as possible to Kimi (Raikkonen), to score points and maybe get on the podium.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2008 Qualifying - 14th, 2008 Race - 9th

“It's one of the most important GPs of the year, because we race in front of our fans and it would be great to give them satisfaction. The success at Spa was very important for the team: I could see the guys in front of the podium and understood how much this victory meant for them, especially in such a difficult season. It was great for me to listen to the Finnish and the Italian national anthems after such a long time. And it would be excellent to repeat it until the end of the season. Racing in Monza in front of our fans with all the Prancing Horse flags in the wind is a fantastic feeling. I've never won a race in Italy, but I always liked racing at Monza. For me there's no extra pressure, but I know how much the team wants to have a great race here.

“The track is the fastest of the season and the KERS should help us just like in Spa. You need to use the kerbs well and this wasn't the strong point of our cars over the last years. We'll see what will happen as of Friday. We didn't do the usual test on the track so it's difficult to say because the cars haven't used this aerodynamic set up so far. I'll have a new team mate, Giancarlo Fisichella. I always got along very well with him. He's one of the most expert drivers and we will give our best to help Ferrari keep the third place in the constructors' championship. The performance levels changed from one race to the next this year. There are team like us who stopped developing the car and others making pressure, because there are still several goals to reach. It will be a difficult weekend, but I can promise the fans that we will give our best as usual.”

Jenson Button, Brawn GP
2008 Qualifying - 19th, 2008 Race - 15th

"Monza is a fantastic track and I love the passion that the Italian fans bring to the race weekend. The circuit is very different to most of the circuits that we race on as the car will be set up with the lowest levels of drag and downforce possible to take advantage of the long straights. It always takes a few laps to get used to and as we haven't tested at Monza this season, the practice sessions will be very important. Ascari is probably my favourite part of the track but also Parabolica where the challenge is to brake as late as possible, particularly in qualifying when you're on a quick lap. It's a circuit that should be reasonably good for our car if we get the handling right over the kerbs so we're feeling positive and excited about the challenge."

Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP
2008 Qualifying - 16th, 2008 Race - 17th

"There's something very special about Monza and I have always loved racing there throughout my career. The setting in the park, the sound of the Tifosi, the speed of the circuit and the memories from my victories with Ferrari in 2002 and 2004 all make Monza one of the most exciting races of the year. It's the quickest circuit on the calendar and our car has the potential to be strong there. The power of our Mercedes-Benz engine will be really important in maximising speed on the long straights and our car is quite good under braking which you need to be aggressive and ride the kerbs effectively. It's been a season full of surprises so it's impossible to predict what the weekend will bring but I hope that we can have a good one."

Ross Brawn, Brawn GP team principal
"Visiting Monza during the Italian Grand Prix is a very special experience and one not to be missed for motorsport fans. It's one of those classic venues where the grandstands are always packed and the atmosphere is electric throughout the weekend. From a technical point of view, Monza should be a track where our car will work well although we do expect the KERS cars to have a significant advantage. The BGP 001 is good on both brakes and traction which are important at Monza and we have the benefit of the Mercedes-Benz engine on this power-sensitive circuit. With no in-season testing this year, we have not had the opportunity to test at the circuit prior to the race weekend so it will be interesting to see how quickly everyone can adapt to the unusually low downforce configuration with limited running. The aerodynamic efficiency of the car is crucial so we have a specific package designed to minimise drag levels and achieve the high top speeds required. Good engineering can make a significant difference at Monza so we'll be working hard to get the car set up well to allow our drivers to be aggressive over the kerbs."

Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development
"Monza has very high speed straights so there will be a lot of forces through the tyres as they rotate at up to 50 times per second. This means the tyre rubber can get very hot, even with the cooling effect of the wind on the long straights. At the end of the pit straight there is a heavy braking zone, so drivers have to be careful not to lock their brakes here. Low-downforce car set-ups are used at Monza, so proportionally more reliance is made on mechanical grip.

"As we saw in Spa the allocation of the medium and the soft compound tyres has the potential to provide interesting results. The medium compound is the softest of our higher temperature working range tyres and the soft is the hardest of our lower temperature working range tyres. This means that their overall performance can be very similar, however their characteristics are different. In Spa we saw that different tyres suited different car characteristics, set-ups and driver preference, so maybe it will be the same situation in Monza, however it is a more severe circuit so good tyre management is likely to be a bigger factor."

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2008 Qualifying - 5th, 2008 Race - 14th

“For sure, it is in the top five tracks in the world. I have quite few Italian friends and some of them are coming to the race. In terms of our prospects, of course the drag levels are similar to Spa and we had a tough time there, so there is a bit of a question mark, but I know they have been working hard at the factory - since the end of first practice in Belgium in fact!”

Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
2008 Qualifying - 18th, 2008 Race - 12th

“It’s a track that stands out all on its own, exciting and challenging to drive, but remember that although it is low drag like Spa, the circuit has suited our car mechanically in the past few years, so I am pretty hopeful we will go better than in Belgium.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2008 Qualifying - 8th, 2008 Race - 4th

“We have a competitive car but we haven't been able to show the true potential so far. We saw how quick the car was at the Nurburgring, Budapest and Valencia, but for various reasons we haven't scored the points that we should have. However, I always look forward, try to stay positive and will approach the rest of the season believing that we can finish the year strongly. At least we know that we have a car that is fast enough to get close to the podium, which will be my aim this weekend in Monza.

“It's a special track and the fastest of the year so we run the car with a special low downforce package which means the car feels very strange and light because you miss a bit of grip in the corners. In the past we used to test at Monza before the race as you need a special set-up with the car, but obviously we can't do that now which means we have a lot of work to do on Friday to find a good balance. You need a car that has good straight-line speed, is stable under braking and can use the curbs in the chicanes.”

Romain Grosjean, Renault
2008 Qualifying - N/A, 2008 Race - N/A

“Monza's another classic track and I'm really looking forward to driving there. I've had good results there in the past and I know the track well so I can concentrate on finding a good balance with the car with low downforce. We will be using KERS this weekend so I will need to get used to that during free practice on Friday as I've not used it before, but it should give us an advantage, especially at the start of the race.

“My aim is to do better than I did in Spa so I need to make it through to at least Q2, get a good grid position and finish the race. At the moment I am still learning about Formula One and I will continue to use every opportunity and every lap to improve as a driver and help the team. I'm continuing to build a good relationship with my engineers, which of course plays an important role in getting the most from the car.”

Pat Symonds, Renault executive director of engineering
“The car should perform well there. We will use a totally different low downforce aero package, which has between 10 and 15 percent less downforce than the package we ran at Spa. Monza is very much about braking; traction; change of direction in chicanes and although it's a high-speed track there are no real high-speed corners. Overall I think that the R29 is performing well on all types of track and Monza should be no exception.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2008 Qualifying - 7th, 2008 Race - 13th

"It is always a great occasion for me to be racing in front of the Italian fans and I really love the atmosphere at Monza. Of course, this is a home race for me so I have a lot of supporters in the grandstands and I really enjoy competing in front of such passionate fans. It would mean a lot to me to achieve a strong result in this race and I will be doing everything I can to do that. It was very encouraging in Belgium to start on the front row and hopefully this is a sign that we are now able to get the full potential out of the car in qualifying. I was unlucky in the race but I enjoyed the chance to fight at the front and I hope to be able to do that again in Italy. Our car looked quite strong at Spa and there will be a few changes for this weekend too; I am sure the competition will be very tight but we have the chance to get back in the points. Monza would be the perfect place to return to form so I am ready for the challenge."

Timo Glock, Toyota
2008 Qualifying - 9th, 2008 Race - 11th

"Monza is all about speed but my memories of the track are of the rain last year because the whole weekend was wet. We got it right in qualifying and looked really strong for the race, but the conditions changed at the worst possible time so we missed the podium. The atmosphere is always incredible at Monza and it is a special experience to race there in front of such passionate fans. Every Formula One driver loves driving fast so Monza is obviously a fun place to race because it is all long straights broken up by chicanes, and the Lesmo corners are really exciting. Our car was competitive in Spa so it was a pity things didn't go well in the race, although it was a promising sign to see how well we qualified. Our target is again to be both in the top eight on Saturday because this gives us the best chance of getting the kind of result our car is capable of. I'm raring to go for this weekend and I'm determined to give the team a result to celebrate."

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota senior general manager chassis
"In the past we always prepared a complete specific aerodynamic package for Monza but it is a little different this year. Considering the reduced downforce levels, as well as their proximity on the calendar, we will use a similar package to Spa because these are now the only two tracks requiring significantly reduced drag compared to our baseline configuration. As Monza remains the most demanding in terms of top speed we will have updates to our front and rear wings and we expect to be competitive again. But Monza is different to Spa because of the chicanes, which generate greater braking energy and require good braking stability. We will have a heavy-duty brake configuration with improved cooling so that the excessive wear Jarno suffered in the race at Spa should not be repeated. Our package performed well in Belgium and we were unfortunate that other circumstances prevented us from fighting for the podium. But that's what racing is about and we will fight hard again this weekend."

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2008 Qualifying - 11th, 2008 Race - 3rd

"The Monza track is a very special one. As it is the quickest track on the calendar, the car's downforce level will be reduced even more compared to Spa-Francorchamps. Traditionally our cars are quite quick on low-downforce tracks and our performance was already good at Spa. I have a good feeling for Monza and I am looking forward to the race as I expect a lot of Italian fans to show up there."

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2008 Qualifying - 10th, 2008 Race - 5th

"The speed we had at Spa-Francorchamps with lower downforce gives us hope that we could do even better at Monza with even less downforce. However, the cars equipped with KERS will probably have a considerable advantage over the long straights of this high-speed circuit. I really like the atmosphere at the Italian Grand Prix. As well as all the Italians at the track, a lot of fans will also come over from Switzerland to support us."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director
"As the ultimate power circuit, Monza has always provided BMW with a very special challenge. One of our highlights at the track came during the era of the V10 engines in qualifying for the 2002 race, when a BMW engine broke through the 19,000 rpm barrier and the car set a new record average speed for F1 of 259.827 km/h on its way to pole position. Now, even more than before, the main priority lies in maximising reliability, as each driver is only permitted eight engines for the duration of the season. This is an issue at Monza in particular, even though the maximum engine speed is now limited to 18,000 rpm. This circuit commands the respect of drivers and engineers alike in many different ways.

"We are aiming to build on our good results from Spa-Francorchamps - where we were competing at the front of the field for the first time in a long while - in the final race in Europe. Our strong performance in Belgium gave the whole team an extra shot of motivation for the next races, and we are confident that we are getting back into the fast lane once again."

Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering
"The result at Spa-Francorchamps represented confirmation for the whole team. It was important for all involved to see that our huge efforts over the preceding weeks had paid off. Of course we want to take this upturn in form with us to Italy and post another strong result at Monza. This is the last genuine high-speed track left on the calendar. The four long straights mean that keeping the drag level low is crucial, so we run the cars with less downforce here than anywhere else during the season. This involves using a modified front wing and a new and extremely small rear wing. An additional challenge for the drivers and engineers is to give the cars a mechanical set-up which ensures good braking stability and allows the kerbs to be taken aggressively, as this is absolutely essential in setting a fast lap time here. I'm very much looking forward to the race, as there's always a very special atmosphere at Monza."

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2008 Qualifying - 15th, 2008 Race -7th

“Since we no longer test at Monza before the Santander Italian Grand Prix, it will take the drivers a bit of acclimatisation to get used to running in low downforce at this high-speed circuit. It’s a real challenge to get the set-up right because there’s never an ideal compromise between speed along the straight and through the corners. It’s never easy to keep the car on the track because it slides all the time: at most tracks, you feel like the downforce is sticking you to the track at high speeds - but not at Monza, it’s like you are skating across the surface. But it’s a fantastic circuit - our car has traditionally gone well there so I am looking forward to another competitive weekend.”

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
2008 Qualifying - 2nd, 2008 Race - 2nd

“I’ve scored points in the last four races and can see no reason why we shouldn’t be contenders for more points at Monza next weekend. I love the place: I’ve won there in GP2, finished in the points in both my Formula One outings and I think our car will be reasonably well suited to the circuit. Like every team, we’ll be running a special low-downforce aero package in Italy - but we’ll also have the benefit of using KERS along the straights, which should give us a greater advantage over a single lap, especially in qualifying, where it will be extremely valuable. It should be fun!”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
“Monza is a venue where the team has traditionally gone well and we love racing on a racetrack that’s so steeped in Formula One history. The unique high-speed nature of the track places unique demands on the cars and, like every team, we’ll arrive at the circuit with a bespoke high-speed aerodynamic package. It will be another interesting test for MP4-24 as we continue to develop the car - it will be useful to understand how it works in a low-downforce set-up. Of course, Monza is notable for being a power circuit, and, with KERS, we should see some incredible speeds - particularly during qualifying when the drivers will double-deploy KERS along the start/finish straight.”

Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President
“Together with Monaco, Monza is the most untypical Formula One track. But, whilst Monaco is a street course with the lowest average speeds, Monza is a high-speed circuit at more than 250km/h average whilst the top speed in the dry will probably exceed 350km/h this year. We have good memories of this special race in the ‘Royal Park’ and won two of the last four Grands Prix there. During the forthcoming race, we will possibly see the closest field in Formula one history. Spa has shown that the current Formula One is good for big surprises, and Monza will possibly underline this again. Our target is to continue our upward trend there. However, after Lewis’s win and second place at Budapest and Valencia, we have not been where we wanted to be even after Heikki managed to come home sixth from 15th on the grid. What remains positive: Although Lewis had an accident and therefore already retired on lap one which was not his own fault, no other team scored more points during the last four races than Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. In the remaining five races we will build on this with a healthy ambition - without seeing us being the favourites for Monza. There will be at least a handful of them which is first class for the sport.”