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Singapore Grand Prix - team and driver preview quotes 22 Sep 2009

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Race Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 30 August 2009 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Preparations, Monza, Italy, Thursday, 10 September 2009 Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, Friday, 11 September 2009 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn Grand Prix on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Race Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 30 August 2009 Ross Brawn (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, Friday, 11 September 2009

Last year's inaugural Singapore Grand Prix was anything but pedestrian and the floodlit night race was celebrated as a welcome addition to the Formula One calendar. Drivers and senior team members discuss their prospects for this year...

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2008 Qualifying - 15th, 2008 Race - 1st

“I like Singapore because it's quite challenging and there are some interesting corners like the high-speed chicane at Turn 10 where you have to carry a lot of speed and use the kerbs. Overtaking isn't easy in Singapore, but there are some opportunities. The car is working well at most circuits so I believe we are competitive enough to get close to the podium, which has to be my target this weekend. Last year I decided it was better to remain on a European schedule rather than adjusting to local time so I will do the same this year as it's the best way to manage my energy levels.”

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

“I enjoy street circuits and the track layout looks interesting. I saw the race on television last year and thought the cars looked great under the lights. This will be my first ever night race and I'm really looking forward to it. I've been doing a lot of work with my engineers and I've watched some videos to try and learn the track as much as I can before I arrive there. I already know the layout from studying the map, but it's only when you drive a lap and feel the grip that you start to understand the circuit. My aim is to put together a strong weekend to maximise practice, qualifying and the race. I will try and get close to Fernando in qualifying and hopefully race for some points.”

Bob Bell, Renault technical director
“The R29 doesn't have any specific weak points and delivers a similar level of performance with both high and low downforce. Its weakness is that it needs more overall performance in terms of grip through downforce and mechanical set-up. This weekend we will use a similar package to the one we used in Monaco, although we will incorporate the evolutions made since that race. Based on our experience last year, I would say that night racing has not caused too many difficulties for the team and the facilities and lighting in Singapore are excellent. We're effectively working nightshifts in Singapore, but as a team we remain on UK time so it works quite well. The team keeps to the same schedule as at any other race, except that everything is shifted a few hours later in the day.”

Jenson Button, Brawn GP
2008 Qualifying - 12th, 2008 Race - 9th

"Last year's Singapore Grand Prix was an amazing experience and it really was one of the highlights of the year. Driving under the lights was great fun and the visibility was pretty good although some corners such as turns one and five were a bit dark which made it more difficult to judge your braking distances. The Marina Bay street circuit is pretty challenging and although it has a stop-start layout which isn't usually my favourite type of circuit, I still enjoyed driving it. As last year, we will stay on European timing for the race weekend which means staying awake throughout the night and sleeping most of the day to ensure that we are alert and the body is ready to react in the right way for the evening timetable. I spent some time at the factory last week driving the circuit on our simulator which helps with the track layout, gears and downforce levels so we are well prepared and looking forward to arriving in Singapore and getting the weekend underway."

Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP
2008 Qualifying - 18th, 2008 Race - DNF

"The first Formula One night race in Singapore was very exciting last year and I'm really looking forward to returning this week. It's always good to have new challenges and racing under the lights for the first time certainly provided that. I really enjoyed the circuit as it felt like a proper street circuit should with public roads, bumps, barriers and passing some of the famous city landmarks. It's very narrow in places and you can feel quite enclosed particularly with the bright floodlights shining down. It's a very slow track so you need a high downforce aerodynamic configuration on the car and with so many corners, you have to maintain your concentration at all times. I've had a great time over the last month with two victories so we've got some good momentum behind us going into the final four races of the season. I can't wait to get back in the car and get on with the challenge."

Ross Brawn, Brawn GP team principal
"Formula One's first night race in Singapore last year was a fantastic occasion which was greatly enjoyed by the drivers, teams and fans. The spectacle of running on a barrier-lined street circuit under the floodlights really caught the imagination and provided a weekend that Formula One and the Singapore Grand Prix organisers should be very proud of. It's a venue which everyone at Brawn GP is looking forward to returning to this week. The team and our drivers performed extremely well in Monza to achieve a one-two finish at the last race and we will be hoping to carry that momentum through to Singapore. We have a significant aerodynamic upgrade for the BGP001 for this weekend which should bring another good step in performance for the final races of the season. The nature of the Marina Bay street circuit is tight, twisty and very narrow in places with many first and second gear corners resulting in low average speeds so we will be running the car in a high aerodynamic downforce configuration."

Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development
"Last year was the first time we ran at Singapore and we learnt a lot. It is a street course so we will see a lot of circuit surface evolution and improvement as the track is first cleaned by cars running, then racing rubber is laid, meaning better grip. This makes finding a good set-up difficult as the track condition is a moving target. There are the usual considerations for a venue which is not solely designed for motor racing. This means we bring the softest tyres from our range, both of which are lower temperature working range tyres. Last year we saw that the track was quite bumpy. This adds an additional requirement for the suspension set-up as an uneven surface can bounce the tyre out of contact with the track, which means less grip."

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2008 Qualifying - 3rd, 2008 Race - 15th

“I’m glad we’re going to Singapore. It’s a fantastic city, I like the food and I don’t mind that we race in the evening. Furthermore it’s another city circuit and the slower the circuits are this year the better we were. Just look at Valencia and Monaco - there’s no reason, why it shouldn’t be the same in Singapore. I still have a score to settle with this race. Last year, at the end of the race, I drove into a wall, when I was fighting for the fourth position against Glock. I really don’t like that memory. The first night race was great for all of us. Besides some parts of the run-off area the whole track is perfectly illuminated. There’s no difference to daylight. As on all tracks like this, overtaking is almost impossible. The KERS will be an advantage, but it won’t make the difference like it did in Spa or in Monza. If it’s true that the F60 is more competitive on slow tracks, then it’s also true that the other teams will show up with improvements; that’s why it will be more difficult for us. We have to try to use the package we have in the best way possible and we need to find the best set up. If we attain perfection, then we can fight for a place on the podium. This is our goal. We have gained a place on the podium five times in a row and as of the race at the Nurburgring I gained the same number of points as the leaders in the standings. Let’s hope we can proceed like this until the end of the season. It would be great keeping third place in the constructors’ championship, but it will be very difficult too. Over the last four Grands Prix we had only one car in the points, but now we also need the second car’s contribution. I’m sure that, thanks to his experience, Giancarlo can make it. I think that out of the four remaining races the one in Singapore will suit Ferrari the best. If we want to win we need to be more than perfect and need a little bit of luck. But after the win in Spa it would be fantastic to have this feeling once again.”

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2008 Qualifying - 8th, 2008 Race - 2nd

"The toughest thing about Singapore is the heat and the number of corners. There are 23, so there’s never an opportunity to relax. The circuit is challenging, but it’s a high downforce track which suits our car, so I’m hoping that we will have a better result there than we had in Monza. It is just a little more difficult because the visibility is generally comprised a little bit as it is darker, but you get used to it quite quickly and there are obviously masses of light. I think it would become really challenging if it rains though. The only thing that was a bit hard last year was seeing so little daylight as we stay on European time. It was a great weekend last year, I really enjoyed it. The atmosphere was just fantastic and the fact that it was a night race worked really well. The actual track was good fun to drive and a real challenge."

Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
2008 Qualifying - 10th, 2008 Race - 8th

"Singapore is a very technical track because of all the different elements you have to contend with. It’s a night race so you have to make sure you are accustomed to the different light; it’s a street circuit so it’s quite slippery at the start of the weekend; it has few run-off areas and minimal overtaking opportunities. It is also really bumpy, particularly between Turns Five and Seven. Combined with the high temperatures and humidity, it’s going to be a very challenging race for the drivers and the cars. Because of the number of low speed corners, it is a very high downforce circuit, but that is good for us as our car works well on this kind of track. Once you get used to the light and you’ve sorted out your visor, it really feels like normal. There were some corners where it was a little bit too dark last year, but I’m sure they will have sorted that out for this year. The whole event is great and this is one of my favourite trips of the year. The circuit is very challenging, the location is really glamorous, as Formula One should be, and it’s an interesting place to visit. I don’t tend to go out much over a race weekend, but last year I went out for a few nice dinners and hope to do the same this year."

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

“The track is quite challenging, with lots of corners and changes of direction but it's also quite fast, like a cross between Valencia and Monaco. I enjoy street racing and Singapore has that same feeling so I'm looking forward to it. Last year I didn't have such a great race but this year we are in a very different situation. My goal will be to be focussed from the start of the weekend, do some solid work in practice and qualify well as a good grid position is very important here. For sure it's then to get some more points. I feel we can definitely add to the total.”

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

“I don't think I'm yet at the pace where I was two years ago, when I was completely confident about the car. I think there is still a lot to come. It was a big shame for the team that we couldn't score points in Monza, but I feel happy because fortunately I saw that once the car is fast and competitive I can give a good performance and I can fight with the big guys in the World Championship. Singapore will be much tougher. We've been working in the simulator to get to know it better, but it will be a much tougher event. We'll have to see how the car is there because it's a completely different circuit, with really high downforce, so everything can change.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and team principal
“I'd hope in Singapore we could be again in Q3 and racing for points. We have a new upgrade coming, which features some modifications to the bodywork, the diffuser and the front wing. Every upgrade we've introduced so far this year has really given us a step forward so I am hopeful that we will be able to maintain our recent run of form. We do know however that it's going to be tough as Spa and Monza were low downforce tracks and Singapore demands higher levels but we've set the bar high now. We need to keep pushing until the end of the season. It would be very nice to perform well in any race where there's a large Indian population. That would go for Abu Dhabi as well for sure, and definitely Singapore.”

Dominic Harlow, Force India's chief engineer
“As the only F1 race to run almost all sessions at night Singapore is definitely one of the more demanding and spectacular circuits.The layout is anti-clockwise around the city's waterfront and, because it uses public roads, includes bumps, kerbs, man-hole covers and extreme cambers. It's subject to a lot of improvement and rubbering in, and is very tough for the drivers. The car's cooling system and brakes are worked very hard, and of course the ability to deal with the road undulations is important. There have been some changes to the circuit since last year's inaugural event, which could change the pit lane time loss and therefore race strategy. Getting a handle on this as well as setting up our car with some revised high downforce aerodynamic components will form part of our programme for the practice sessions.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2008 Qualifying - 11th, 2008 Race - DNF

"Singapore is a unique race for us as the only night race and it is quite an interesting experience. I hope we can be competitive there, especially as we have some improvements to the car. The team has pushed hard all season to introduce new parts and it's great to have upgrades even as the season is coming to a close. It's not possible to predict exactly how we will perform until we have driven the track again but I am optimistic we can be competitive again in Singapore. I was really unlucky last year when a technical problem prevented me finishing on the podium. It was a really tough race on a heavy fuel load, especially in hot conditions and over the bumps, so it was frustrating not to get a result. This year I am determined to make up for that. To be honest I would rather race in daylight because the light levels change around the track but a night race is good for the spectators and there was a nice atmosphere last year so I am looking forward to this weekend."

Timo Glock, Toyota
2008 Qualifying - 7th, 2008 Race - 4th

"I really enjoy racing at night because it is a great show for the fans and last year was just an unbelievable event. You need to get used to driving under lights but for me the visibility was fine, it's just a very strange thing is to be arriving at the track early in the afternoon and leaving again at 4am. I like the Singapore track; it is good fun to be driving past some famous buildings at night and the chicane at turn 10 is a nice challenge because you cannot afford to make any mistake. It's a typical street circuit and last year it was pretty bumpy which made it tough for the drivers, but they have worked on that. I had a great race there a year ago so I hope we can repeat that kind of result. It's hard to know what to expect considering we have some improvements on the car this weekend but I hope we will make a step forward. We are still pushing as hard as ever so I can't wait to get back on track."

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota senior general manager chassis
"Singapore last year was a complete success and I was very impressed. The place is fantastic and the new experience of a night race was a great one for everyone involved. It was an unforgettable event. The circuit itself is high downforce and the drivers play a key part because you have a lot of corners, 23, and it is extremely important for a driver to find the right rhythm without touching the barriers. Another factor to consider with Singapore is that it is extremely hard on brakes so we have to be careful in that sense. But the main characteristic we discovered last year was that the track was incredibly bumpy, which made it a priority to set-up the suspension to deal with the bumps. There has been some resurfacing so we will see if that reduces the problem. We will bring some upgrades to our car for this race and in fact Singapore will be the last package of improvements to the TF109. These will be validated on Friday and we expect them to help us make a step forward."

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2008 Qualifying - 2nd, 2008 Race - 3rd

“Last year’s inaugural Singapore Grand Prix was a real example of how to host a new Formula One race - fantastic facilities, slick organisation and a unique and interesting track that was not only fun and demanding but also really forced you to push to the limit and take a few risks to get the best from the car. I remember my race in Singapore last year was all about damage limitation - I was driving with one eye on the world championship and wasn’t going to take too many risks. I was happy to finish on the podium. This year, it’s very different - I know I’m out of the title hunt and I want to attack these last four races, pushing for as many victories as I can.”

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
2008 Qualifying - 5th, 2008 Race - 10th

“We really seem to have discovered the sweet-spot of this year’s car. I’ve had points finished in every race since the Nurburgring, and we’ve got some interesting new upgrades in the system that are planned for the Singapore race. Of course, racing at night is what really makes this event unique, but the lighting system is so fantastic that you tend to forget that you are even racing in the dark! Singapore is the sort of circuit that should suit our package - there are lots of slower corners and we’ll be able to use KERS to our advantage. Overall, the city is also a fantastic backdrop to what has already become one of the best circuits on the Formula One calendar.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
“Our pace in recent Grands Prix increasingly shows that we have developed MP4-24 into a pretty decent all-round competitor and we remain confident for the Singapore Grand Prix. For this race, we are introducing our last major upgrade package of the season before fully devoting our efforts and resources towards next year’s car. Last year’s event was a fantastic success and a testimony to what can be achieved in Formula One when you have vision, dedication and foresight. Everybody at McLaren is looking forward to these final four flyaway races, the climax to a thrilling, eventful and unexpected title battle and our own steadily improving fortunes. Singapore is a fantastic advertisement for Formula One - one that vividly reminds you what a fantastic sport we operate in. Let’s hope for some good, close racing.”

Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President
“Formula One will present some challenging weeks. After the end of the European season, four Grands Prix within six weeks will take place in Singapore, Suzuka, Sao Paulo and Abu Dhabi. As with last year’s inaugural race, Singapore will again be held at night. This street circuit has a total of 23 corners and six of them are slower than 100km/h. Our target is to continue our trend shown over the last five races.”

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2008 Qualifying - 4th, 2008 Race - 11th

"I am very much looking forward to the Singapore Grand Prix. Everybody knows I am a big fan of street circuits. The track is very challenging; especially the last sector is very twisty with a lot of corners. As the circuit is not a permanent track, the grip level is very poor at the beginning of the weekend but improves from day to day. Drivers and engineers have to anticipate how the track's grip level evolves set-up-wise and balance-wise. The team will bring quite a big update to Singapore. I hope our car will be more competitive and that we are able to surprise the competition with our pace. Last year the surface was very bumpy, maybe a little too bumpy at some places. Before the initial night session, there were lots of concerns among us drivers regarding visibility which did not prove right. Actually I was very surprised how well the light situation was managed."

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2008 Qualifying - 9th, 2008 Race - 6th

"I've been looking forward to the race in Singapore for many weeks because I know we have some modifications ready for the weekend. Our simulation work has been very promising and the car will look great. As I found out last year, it's practically impossible to overtake in Singapore. After a penalty I had to start from ninth on the grid rather than sixth and, although I had the speed, sixth at the finish was the best I could hope for. Grid position is equally as critical in Singapore as it is in Monaco. Last year the special nature of this GP and the atmosphere around it made the race weekend very much the highlight of the season for me. It was something new and genuinely exciting for everybody. And it was great to see the TV pictures and photos afterwards as well; the artificial light changed everything. It wasn't difficult for me to keep in tune with European time so that I would be in good shape for qualifying and the race - actually it was quite fun. It's a bit weird to find the whole team still out and about up to three in the morning to keep their body clocks ticking over, but also very entertaining."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director
"The first night race in the history of Formula One last year was a fascinating event and generated spectacular images and an electric atmosphere. Indeed, from an atmosphere point of view, I would say the Singapore Grand Prix is the highlight of the season. The whole feeling around the GP is unparalleled. Last year the tactic of not adjusting to local time but instead keeping our body clocks running to German time paid off. So we'll do the same thing again this time around. We are looking forward to the whole show and are aiming to go on the attack with our significantly revised car. The cause of our engine problems in qualifying at Monza was a quality issue with the valve gear, and this means we can't use either of the engines again. Both drivers ran their engines from Spa in Sunday's race at Monza, which leaves them with one more new engine each and several used ones for the remainder of the season. The key question will now be whether these will be enough. If not, we will be forced to use a ninth engine and take a ten-place grid penalty as a result."

Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering
"Singapore was a highlight in the truest sense of the word in 2008. It was the first ever Formula One night race and turned out to be an undeniably special event. The circuit has an unusually high corner count, so the drivers have no time to relax. Added to which, it was extremely bumpy in places. The organisers have taken this criticism seriously and partially resurfaced the track. The predominantly slow corners place severe demands, particularly on the cars' traction. Following the last major update in Valencia, we will arrive in Singapore with another far-reaching development package. From an aerodynamics point of view, this comprises a new front wing, more deeply undercut sidepods, a further developed double diffuser and a modified rear wing. Added to which, the car also has a totally new gearbox. So, all in all, we are expecting to take another step forward here."

More to follow.