Australia preview quotes - Ferrari, Force India, Williams & more 13 Mar 2012
After months of preparation and weeks of testing, it is almost time for the 12 teams and 24 drivers that make up the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship to show just what they can do. The Formula One fraternity looks ahead to this weekends season opener in Melbournes Albert Park
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
2011 Qualifying - 5th, 2011 Race - 4th
I always like coming to this city. The atmosphere is very special, and there is a sense of relaxation and of being laid back that you dont find so often elsewhere in the world. Australians seem to have found the recipe for the good life. Of course, they have problems like the rest of us and actually its hard for us to judge based on a visit that only lasts ten days a year, but thats the impression I have. Now I cant wait for this first race weekend to get underway. Sure, we will have to grit our teeth for the first few races, but first of all, we have to see exactly where we are in terms of being competitive and then give our all to bring home as many points as possible in this early stage of the championship. I know the fans always expect to hear me say that we can obtain such and such a result, but the truth is that we cannot say with certainty where we are. We must wait until Saturday evening at six, after qualifying and a bit longer still, until after this first run of races outside Europe. After so many kilometres of testing and retesting, finally theres a whiff of sport in the air. I miss the excitement of qualifying, the thrill of being on the start grid waiting for the lights to go out, the adrenalin rush of the charge to the first corner, in fact I miss everything that makes Formula One such an amazing sport.
Paul di Resta, Force India
2011 Qualifying - 14th, 2011 Race - 10th
The build-up to Melbourne has been a while coming, but at the same time it doesnt feel like theres been that much testing. In fact, compared to last year, there has been one less test, but its been a good winter for us in general. Its a great place to start the season and the fans always get behind the race, so it will be interesting to see how it feels second time around. After a good winter break Im just looking forward to getting back to the racing. I enjoy the circuit. Theres a good balance between high and low speed, plus its a mixture between a street circuit and a permanent track, and that makes it quite unusual. I think the final sector stands out for me as the most interesting because its quite tricky and easy to get it wrong. We were strong on street circuits last year, especially Singapore, so hopefully that will continue. All the teams around us look strong and have been consistent in testing, so we just have to wait and see. Also, I think almost every team will have some new parts on their cars so it really is too early to make any judgements. To begin with our goal is simply to try and pick up points at every race.
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
Theres a lot of excitement - thats the word I keep using to describe how Im feeling. And I think it will continue until the Sunday morning in Melbourne when I wake up knowing I will be racing again in a few hours. Thats when you feel the buzz and get the feeling of anticipation in your stomach. The testing has gone pretty well and its been crucial for helping me get prepared. But I know testing is very different to racing because you dont have the same pressures of a race weekend. I think the true test will be qualifying when you have to deliver right away and you only get one chance. My first race in Australia in 2010 was cut short - only half a lap, but apart from that I have good memories from Melbourne and Australia in general. Its one of those venues with a special atmosphere and the whole city seems so relaxed and friendly. Its definitely up there with races like Monaco and Singapore in terms of the atmosphere. Its a race where we arrive very early to adapt to the time zone, so I will get a chance to look around the city, do some jogging, cycling and visit places like St Kilda beach. If theres enough time I will try and explore the coast a bit.
Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal
After the long winter months I think we are all looking forward to the start of the new season. Our testing form has looked competitive, but its only when we get to the first race that we really get a feel for the pecking order and how well everyone has done over the winter. From our side there is no doubt that Andrew Green and his technical team have done an outstanding job to deliver a well-balanced car. I would even go as far as saying the VJM05 is the best engineered car we have produced and the detail of the design is beautiful. Its a car we believe can help us take another step forward. Driver-wise Im extremely excited by our line-up this year. Nico and Paul are both young and hungry, and will ensure we squeeze every last thousandth from the car. There will be some healthy in-house rivalry, too, which will be fascinating to watch, and I believe that we will get better results in the long run by having two drivers pushing each other on. As for Melbourne, its a city I enjoy visiting immensely and the track has produced some good races over the years. It was in Melbourne that Force India made its debut back in 2008 and its a good opportunity to reflect on how far we have come in the last five years. As for expectations, I remain cautious on making predictions, simply because there are so many unknowns. Our analysis suggests that we could see one of the closest grids in years, especially in the upper part of the midfield. Even so, our stated goal remains the same - to see Sahara Force India continue progressing and challenge the established teams that lie ahead of us.
Pastor Maldonado, Williams
2011 Qualifying - 15th, 2011 Race - DNF
Albert Park is a nice track. I really love that kind of street circuit, so I hope we will have a good weekend. I know the track this year and Im more confident with the team and the car, so that will also help. The whole team have been pushing so hard all winter to improve, and Ive also been pushing myself. Its exciting to get back racing and to see what speed everyone has when the weekend gets underway.
Bruno Senna, Williams
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
I am really looking forward to going to Australia. About a month after the last race of the season you are itching to get back racing, so four months later I really cant wait to get started. Getting into the car on Friday will be very exciting, and I hope we can be competitive from the very beginning. I know the Albert Park circuit, having driven there for HRT in 2010. Ive also had success, winning three of the four Formula Three races supporting the Australian Grand Prix in 2006, so I have good memories of the place. Pre-season testing was promising, but you never know exactly what everyone is doing. It is certainly very close, so it is going to be very tight this year.
Mark Gillan, Williams chief operations engineer
We have had a productive pre-season test programme, with the Williams-Renault FW34-RS27 completing 5,330kms, which is the most mileage of any of the new 2012 cars. During the three tests Pastor, Bruno and Valtteri drove exceptionally well and the two new drivers have integrated seamlessly into the team ahead of the new season, with weekly visits to the factory and simulator. The whole team has worked very hard over the winter to eradicate areas where we were weaker in 2011, in addition to integrating the new Renault Sport F1 engine, and are now looking forward to starting the season. The performance of the RSF1 engine has been as hoped; strong, flexible and with negligible performance degradation throughout its life. The weather in Melbourne can be variable, and going by the long range forecasts, this year appears to be no exception. As this is a street circuit, one tends to see a large track improvement through the weekend so we need to carefully monitor the evolution of the medium and soft Pirelli tyres. The track layout has above average corner speeds, and the race start fuel load is higher than most circuits, which leads to a relatively hard time on the braking system.
Remi Taffin, head of track operations for Williams engine supplier Renault Sport F1
For Renault Sport F1, seeing a Williams-Renault on track for the first time since 1997 was a good feeling, but it was even more satisfying to see that the FW34 is going in the right direction. As we started the process very early, the engine installation has been quite straightforward and the team and drivers have been able to use the full driveability and flexibility of the RS27 to conduct important performance testing so that when we arrive in Australia we already have a good platform. As always with a new engine-chassis partnership there have been a couple of small issues, but overall we achieved a very high mileage to validate both the engine and its installation into the chassis. Melbourne is a hard track to start with as it has a tricky combination of short straights, chicanes and a quick section at the back of the track which makes fuel consumption very high, but its also a good one to start with as it gives every engine facet a thorough workout. The partnership has started well and we want to watch it develop even further over the coming races.
Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
For the first race in Australia we want to have a good weekend without any major issues or mistakes. I dont know where were going to be on the grid - nobody knows. If you look at the lap times from testing everybody is very close to each other. We dont know what everyone was doing with fuel load and that makes a massive difference. Well have some idea after practice in Melbourne, then after qualifying everyone will know exactly where we are. I feel very happy with the team. Were still learning things, but everything is going smoothly and there are no problems at all, so its a good position to start the season. Australia is a nice place even though its a long way from Europe. The circuit itself is not the most difficult on the calendar. It was good to score a point on my first time at Albert Park, and the podiums and race win in 2007 obviously made me happy. The circuit hasnt changed at all so Im confident I know where it goes.
You need a car with good traction and everything from testing says that the E20 has good traction so that will help us. Strong turn-in and stable braking help too, and those areas also feel good with the car so we are well placed. The track can be a bit slippery at the beginning of the weekend and the Melbourne weather is not always very warm; the Melbourne weather can definitely be a bit tricky. This will be the first race so I dont know how well compare to the other teams. My engineers have been running simulations and looking at the test data so we have an idea of how the car should work at Albert Park, but we wont know for sure until we get out on track. Its very difficult to say before weve been out on track, but I think and hope well be reasonably strong.
Romain Grosjean, Lotus
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
Im looking forward to Australia and I feel very comfortable with the team. Its been fantastic throughout testing and were all working well together. Of course, we had a third less of pre-season testing than we expected - which was not quite the original plan! The small issue we had in the first Barcelona test can even be seen as a good experience. Everyone worked twice as hard to return to Barcelona the following week and show that we are strong for the season ahead, which I think we are. Ive only been to Australia once before when I was third driver for the team in 2009. The country is fantastic. I love Melbourne. I hope the track will suit me - it certainly looks great. The atmosphere is very special and it was one of my favourite Grands Prix to experience even when I wasnt driving, so what it must be like to drive it I cant imagine. The track is what it is - it will improve but that only helps you. You dont particularly feel it too much in the car, you just see it in better lap times. The grip level improves and better lap times come to you - and you soon get used to better lap times! What I saw from the onboard camera from previous years is the track looks good and it looks fun. I hope it will suit the E20.
Eric Boullier, Lotus team principal
It looks positive. At testing you never know what people are doing but from the Lotus F1 Team perspective our drivers were happy with the cars easiness to drive and overall performance. The E20 reacts well to driver input and engineer changes so the whole package is a decent basis for us to work from. Of course, we dont know where we are standing relative to the other teams. We certainly believe that this year the competition will be much closer and we hope were at the right end of that competition. We want to be seen and performing as one of the top teams in this highly competitive sport. For me this year will be monitored by the progress we make during the course of the season.
James Allison, Lotus technical director
We have the odd little tweaklet planned for Australia if you look closely. It is our target to challenge the top four and we believe we have a good shout at being able to do this. However, the precise order of the grid is notoriously hard to read from winter testing.
Alan Permane, Lotus trackside operations director
The weather can be blistering hot one day and freezing cold the next. There have been race weekends with 14 degrees Celsius during qualifying and 40 degrees Celsius during the race. It can change very quickly, and you have to set the car up to be able to cope with both. Normally at this time of year its in the mid-twenties and very pleasant, which causes no trouble at all, but you do have to keep one eye on the forecast as it can change rapidly. This affects not just engine temperatures and so on but also how you use the tyres. If theres a chance that the temperature may significantly rise or fall you have to have a compromise between qualifying and race setup.
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
2011 Qualifying - 1st, 2011 Race - 1st
Testing has been busy over the last few weeks and I think we have made a decent step with the car. You never really know where you are until we get to Melbourne and even then you dont really see what everyone has got until qualifying - so Im looking forward to getting started. Australia and Malaysia are different circuits so they are hard to compare. Australia is not a permanent race track, its quite bumpy and its tough for the car. Malaysia is smoother, as its a permanent race track with fast corners, but both are good tracks and Australia is one of the best places we go to. Its good to know were going racing again, I cant wait to get on the flight and get down under.
Mark Webber, Red Bull
2011 Qualifying - 3rd, 2011 Race - 5th
This will be my eleventh Australian GP and I cant wait to get started. The Grand Prix is one of the best sporting events that we have in Australia. Its great to see the support and Australian flags in the crowd. Ive incorporated more of an Australian theme into my helmet, which Ill be using for the whole year, not just in Australia. Its been an extremely intense few months for the whole team and its incredible when you count up how many sleep-deprived hours have gone in to preparing the car as best we can - from pit stops to reliability to driver comfort in the cockpit - you name it, weve always been looking to improve. Theres always a huge amount of interest in the first race; this year is no different and theres no better place to have it than Australia.
Jenson Button, McLaren
2011 Qualifying - 4th, 2011 Race - 6th
"My first Grand Prix was here way back in 2000 - it was just a buzz to be in Formula One: it was pretty intense, the whole weekend just flew past pretty quickly. I had pole here in 2006 - another good memory. But I think the two most significant memories for me were, in 2009, winning from pole for Brawn GP. It was a momentous race for the entire team and it felt so sweet to give them such a reward. And winning here in 2010 just an incredible day. Going early for the dry tyre, then almost losing the car at Turn Three, putting the others off following my example, and then finding a rhythm and having a fantastic car underneath me. That was my first win for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes - it was completely unexpected, but a really significant result for me personally. It is a special race - you step off the plane after a long, cold European winter and its usually very sunny and the people are incredibly welcoming. I think the circuit is a nice challenge too - its not a particularly technical track, but the surface is always rubbering in across the whole race weekend, and its a place that encourages nip-and-tuck racing. For a street track, its got a really good flow, you can really find a good rhythm - and its got some fast corners too, which is unusual for a road course.
"I think the new rules have definitely made it a more competitive place - its easier to pass here now than it ever was. And I think the potential of a second DRS zone will be a real benefit -last year, along the start line wasnt quite enough for overtaking - I think well get more benefit from a second zone. Finally, the walls around here are close enough to keep your mind focused. I cant remember a race here that wasnt eventful or surprising in some way - so its the perfect place to kick off the season. Im happy with our preparations. You always want more laps and more time in the car, but, unlike last year, weve had a very solid start to our pre-season. Its been very difficult to read pace over the winter because a lot of teams have been playing their cards close to their chests: I think its going to be extremely close, and I cant wait to find out where we sit in the pecking order.
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2011 Qualifying - 2nd, 2011 Race - 2nd
Melbourne is a city that has sport running through its veins - and the crowd lives and breathes it. Its a great place to start the season. For me, Melbourne means sunshine, smiling faces, a great paddock - a bit compact but very friendly, a great city with a really positive vibe - and a racetrack thats really made for racing. A place where you can really get the back-end of the car moving around quite nicely yet still feel like youre fully in control of the car. The track has got a nice flow to it - I love the fast sweepers behind the pits, its awesome when you get them right - and its a place where, the more you can attack, the faster you go. My kind of place! I actually feel more relaxed and ready for the new season than I think Ive ever done. Everything has gone smoothly with the car - which is more than we can say for last year! - and it just seems to be a responsive and reliable package. My final day in the car - with the aero package we plan to run next weekend - also felt good: the car was a useful step forward. Of course, we havent tested it in competition yet, but theres plenty to feel optimistic about. Its a bit weird to have driven the car for a whole month and still not done a really fast lap - I guess well really find the limit next Saturday. Obviously, this is always the time of year when youre feeling positive, but weve got plenty to look forward to. Im going to get off the plane in Australia with a big smile on my face.
I have a realistic aim: to score some useful points and use the race to kickstart our challenge for the world championship. That might sound like were aiming low - were not - but, at this time of year, its good to remember that its going to be a very long season. Theres no point putting all your eggs in one basket - Id love to win in Melbourne, sure, but there are 19 races afterwards, so itll be important to get some points on the board. As long as I can leave Australia feeling confident that we have a car thats able to fight for the title, then Ill feel happy. Its as simple as that.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
Ive never lost my enthusiasm, optimism or motivation for the start of each new Formula One season - and this year is no exception. As is often the case, you can complete thousands of kilometres of testing, analyse hundreds of thousands of lines of performance data and read pages of web and magazine editorial and still not have a clear idea of overall form going into the first race. I think thats an intrinsic and fascinating aspect of Formula One: the resetting of the bar at the end of each season and the relentless, and often invisible, quest to emerge on top at the start of a new year. I think Australia will be fascinating: the winters testing has been so finely balanced that its particularly difficult accurately to judge wholl be the quickest. And thats fantastic for Formula One fans across the globe. At Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, weve had an extremely productive winter - Ive never seen Jenson and Lewis looking so healthy, committed and prepared for a new season. Theres a real hunger within the whole organisation - Ive witnessed it in conversation with our heads of department, our engineers and our mechanics: we want to win more than ever and weve left no stone unturned in our quest for performance. Make no mistake, this will be a long, arduous and difficult campaign, and Im naturally reluctant to stick my neck out and make any predictions, but my greatest hope is that we go to Australia and put on a world-beating show to demonstrate to the world that Formula One is back, and back with a bang!
Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham
2011 Qualifying - 19th, 2011 Race - DNF
"After three pretty solid weeks of testing we're heading to Melbourne in good shape. We've clearly moved on from where we started in 2011, and are a long way ahead of where we were in 2010 but we're still all staying very realistic about what we can do this season. Apart from a few issues in the second test, which were all sorted out for T3, our reliability has been good, and both Vitaly and I put in laps that showed we are close to the pace we want to be. But as everyone knows the tests don't really tell you anything about where you are against everyone else, so we won't really know anything until Saturday in Melbourne. Whatever happens when we get there, I just want it all to start right now. I've had a great winter, worked hard and am heading into 2012 feeling fitter than ever. I've made a couple of changes off track that will help me focus even more on my job with the team and with the step forward we've taken with this year's car, I'm more keen than ever to get out on track and see how we've progressed again this year."
Vitaly Petrov, Caterham
2011 Qualifying - 6th, 2011 Race - 3rd
"Melbourne is obviously somewhere that will always be very special for me. Last year I scored my first F1 podium there and was given a really good welcome by all the Australian fans so I'm sure it will be the same again this year. I think it's pretty clear we won't be in a position to fight for a podium again but I think the goal will be to push the midfield teams as hard as we can and who knows what could happen.... Usually there are quite a few retirements in Australia, and there are a couple of areas of the track that don't leave any room for error, so I hope we're there at the end of the race and able to take advantage of whatever's happened ahead. It will also be a good weekend for me generally as I'm really enjoying life with my new team. It's still early days, but I've been given a great welcome by everyone and I'm starting to build a good relationship with my engineer, so i think we have a good year ahead of us, whatever happens. We spent quite a lot of time in Barcelona looking at how to fine tune the setups specifically for me, and while we do have more work to do in Australia we definitely made some real progress at the last test which puts me in as good a position as we could hope for when we get to Melbourne."
Mark Smith, Caterham technical director
"The Melbourne event poses the usual challenges of a race held on a circuit using public roads which are used once a year for the Grand Prix. This means that the circuit grip evolves significantly throughout the weekend and can therefore make it tricky to target the optimum balance in advance of the race. The tyres being used this year are the soft and medium compounds which we gained some useful insights into during pre-season testing, albeit in very different conditions on a different type of circuit. The ambient temperature in Melbourne can be expected to be somewhere between the high teens and the low twenties, so not that far off what we saw in Spain in February, but the nature of the circuit is different and places reasonably high demands on the brakes and consequently on entry stability. Equally, maximising traction out of the lower speed corners is generally an area of focus. Whilst the cars will have a high average speed at this circuit the aero setup will still be relatively high downforce. Overtaking here is difficult so KERS and DRS will be valuable tools and of course for Caterham F1 Team this will be the first opportunity to use KERS in a race environment. In terms of updates since pre season testing we will have a new front wing and bodywork cooling option available to us. The front wing is simply a logical step in aerodynamic development and has been an integral part of the aero package for a while, but will be introduced for the first time in Melbourne. The cooling option gives us more opportunity to optimise cooling requirements versus aerodynamic performance which is a further step forwards from the package we ran in Barcelona last week and gives us more options to work with at the first race."
Tony Fernandes, Caterham team principal
"Melbourne 2012 is a very important race for us and one I am possibly more excited about than any race we have participated in our two short years in F1. We shed the new team tag at the start of 2011, but for most of last season we were racing in what felt like no-mans-land. We were comfortably ahead of the two teams that made their debuts at the same time as us in 2010, and for a large part of last year we were what felt like inches away from the teams just ahead. Now it is time for us to take our place as a midfield team, and we have everything in place to do just that. If we do, and find ourselves racing teams like Williams, Toro Rosso and Sauber I think that will be an incredible achievement, from a starting point of an empty factory in September 2009 to racing teams who have decades on us in terms of establishment and development. If we are not quite there at the start of the season it will not be for lack of effort, and we will keep fighting all year to bridge the gap to what will be a very tightly packed group of teams just in front."
Narain Karthikeyan, HRT
2011 Qualifying - DNQ, 2011 Race - n/a
"Im feeling positive ahead of the Australian Grand Prix after having completed 10 laps with the new F112 last Monday. Of course this was only a first contact and we didnt push it to the limit but the important thing was to get the ball rolling. Its not ideal to miss testing but we must look forward now. The new management have done an incredible job putting everything together and well do the best we can to continue progressing. Were in the right direction. Last year we only managed to complete five laps in the third practice session and failed to qualify for the race, so Im looking to etch out that memory.
Pedro de la Rosa, HRT
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
"After a long winter of hard work, weve finally made it to Australia and are really looking forward to trying the car out and continue learning. We need to try and make the most of our time on Friday and Saturday morning to make it to qualifying and the race in the best possible conditions. We would have liked to have come with more mileage but I think its an achievement to have made it with a 100 percent new car and a practically new team. Our aim is to do things well, with seriousness and patience. Albert Park is a circuit I like a lot because there are many overtaking opportunities and hard-braking areas, besides various chicanes. Its a track where you have to drive aggressively and know how to ride over a lot of kerbs. The most important aspect of the car is braking, traction and its top speed, which is why the DRS will play an important role.
Luis Perez-Sala, HRT team principal
"It doesnt seem true but the first race of the season is already upon us. Weve spent three months working relentlessly, but the team and the car are ready for the great task ahead of us. We have done a lot of things since the last race of 2011 in Brazil and Im very proud of the entire team but, without a doubt, the hardest part comes now. We know where we are but also where we wish to be and with the team spirit and sacrifice that we have shown, Im convinced that we can achieve it.
Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber
2011 Qualifying - 9th, 2011 Race - DSQ
I am very much looking forward to what will be my third season in Formula One, and at the same time my third season with the Sauber F1 Team. We had promising pre-season testing with the C31 and the car feels pretty good. This, together with the experience I gained last year, makes me a lot more confident now. For me the main target is that we are more consistent this year. In 2010 we had a difficult first part of the season, and only recovered in the second half. In 2011 it was vice versa - we had a great start but struggled later in the season. If we can consistently display our best potential, we could score consistently. It must be like this. Personally I did a lot of training during the winter break and feel very fit now. Melbourne is a great place to start the season because the people there really like racing and Formula One. The city is very much alive and, as soon as you get there, the atmosphere tells you: Yes, here we go again, its time to start! I hope the weather will still be nice and warm during the Grand Prix weekend, as there the summer is almost over. The Albert Park Circuit itself has a very nice lay-out. The fact it isnt a permanent race track, and therefore very slippery at the beginning of the weekend, doesnt make the set up work for the first Grand Prix any easier, but to adapt to the improving grip level is a challenge for everyone.
Sergio Perez, Sauber
2011 Qualifying - 13th, 2011 Race - DSQ
I just cant wait to go racing again. My feelings ahead of this season are quite different to last year, when everything was entirely new to me. Now, with one season in Formula One under my belt, I feel physically and mentally capable of doing the job. One year of experience isnt that much, but even this will allow me to focus more on performance than I was able to last year. I got used to a variety of circumstances which come along when you are a Formula One driver. This goes for procedures and communication inside the team, but it also includes that I found a good personal life balance with all the travelling. My target for 2012 is to make the most of the car in every given situation and to fully establish myself in Formula One. We have made really good progress during testing and learnt a lot about the new car. Nevertheless, the track in Melbourne can still come up with surprises. Last year, for example, we would never have expected it was possible to get away with only one pit stop for the race distance because testing suggested higher tyre wear. So we will see how we manage the first Grand Prix and, although the track in Melbourne is a special one and not that representative, we will get a first indication of where we are with the C31 in terms of performance.
Peter Sauber, Sauber team principal
This coming season is the 20th for the Sauber F1 Team. Having said this, you might expect that the first race of a season would be routine by now. But this is by no means the case. I even have the feeling that this year the excitement is special. The winter tests left the impression that the competition could be tighter than ever before. Apparently the midfield teams have reduced the gap to the top teams. I am really pleased with the progress we made during testing and I think we are well prepared. We have to be because we have set ourselves quite high targets for 2012. We want to score points on a regular basis and significantly improve our position in the constructors championship. We are well aware that this sounds very ambitious, but this is what we are working on.
Giampaolo DallAra, Sauber head of track engineering
Following the three pre-season tests, everybody in the team is excited to start racing and keen to see where we really stand compared to our competitors. As a team we feel well prepared. Sergio is not a rookie anymore, and both drivers will continue to work with their race engineers from last year, which will enable us to start from a higher level. The Albert Park track features mostly stop start corners and changes of direction, so good traction and braking stability are needed. Since Albert Park is not a permanent race track it changes its grip level considerably during the weekend. This is something to consider when setting up the car, as well as the fact that this circuit tends to be harder on the rear tyres than the tracks where we have been testing prior to the season. Track temperature will also be important, but can vary quite significantly depending on the weather. Historically overtaking has been difficult in Melbourne, but this time there will be two DRS zones. With regard to tyres, Pirelli is supplying the medium and soft compound. Both versions are more aggressive compared to last year which will result in a higher number of pit stops. Technically we will basically use the same specification car which we were running during the last test in Barcelona with just some minor refinements. Looking at the results from the final test, we are confident we can have a strong start to the new season.
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes
2011 Qualifying - 11th, 2011 Race - DNF
"Finally, we can stop trying to read the tea-leaves from testing and actually go racing. Melbourne is a perfect location, and the ideal place to start the season. The city loves Formula One, the fans create a great atmosphere and obviously, as drivers, we feel that too. And because we've already got a buzz about what's to come, it just makes you want to get out there and start driving. During winter testing, we completed lots of miles and built up a really complete set of data, which should put us in a good position for the first race and to develop the car even further in the right direction. We're ready for the 2012 season to begin..."
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
2011 Qualifying - 7th, 2011 Race - DNF
"I'm really looking forward to the start of the new season in Australia next weekend. I had a perfect winter break with plenty of rest, a good training camp and a successful pre-season test programme where we were able to put a lot of mileage on our F1 W03 car. So we are really ready for the first race. I always love the atmosphere in Melbourne; it's a great city and the fans are fantastic. After all of the hard work, and all of the speculation, it will be really interesting to see where we are on Saturday afternoon after qualifying. Before heading to Australia, I will be in New Zealand for a bike training camp to help me adjust to the time difference and the climate 'Down Under'."
Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal
"The build-up to the start of a new season is always an exciting time, no matter how many times you have experienced it, and everyone at the team is looking forward to the action getting underway in Melbourne next week. We are well prepared, both at the factory and on track, as a result of our structured development and testing plan, and I am confident that we are in a good position. How this translates to our performance relative to the competition is, of course, the key question and it will be interesting to see how it all shapes out next weekend. My thanks to all of the team at Brackley and Brixworth for their hard work and dedication over the winter months and I hope we will be able to reward them with a strong season. Melbourne has always been one of the atmospheric races on the calendar, and certainly one of my favourite cities to visit, so I look forward to a good week ahead."
Norbert Haug, Vice-President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"It's only a little over 100 days since Formula One was in Brazil for the final race of the 2011 season, but now we are ready for the 2012 season to begin and to get back to what we love best: going motor racing. Starting the third season with our Silver Arrows works team, we think we are better prepared than the two years before, which indicates that our learning process is heading in the right direction. The Mercedes F1 W03 has run reliably since its first run on 16 February, completed 4,450 km during pre-season testing, and achieved an average daily testing mileage of 472 km: this equates to an average of more than one and a half Grand Prix distances during each of the nine test days. Nico and Michael are both excited about the new season and highly motivated, while our team members back at base in Brackley and Brixworth and on track are working extremely hard to deliver both performance and reliability at the opening race. The whole team has done a good job in both areas this winter. After testing, we know we have a solid basis to work from and a good platform for development. Understandably, there is much speculation about the pecking order of the new season, and finally we will get a first answer on Saturday afternoon during qualifying in Melbourne, when everybody has to put their cards on the table. Before the first race of this long season, I would like to thank all our team members who have worked so hard and with dedication during the past months, with our clear target which is making the next step in improving our performance compared to our competitors. We aim to show that we have taken this step forward as the first part of a continuous process of improvement."
Timo Glock, Marussia
2011 Qualifying - 21st, 2011 Race - NC
I couldnt wait to try the MR01 for the first time last Monday. Even though it wasnt in representative conditions, it has been a long wait to get my hands on a car that Im hoping will be a good step forward from the past two seasons. It has been a frustrating winter for sure, but you have two choices and the only thing to do was to focus on everything we could be doing off-track to make sure we were as prepared as possible for when we did run the car. Ive done a lot of work in the simulator and with the team in Banbury and in terms of my personal fitness I have been training harder than ever before. Melbourne will be a bit of a voyage into the unknown but we have nothing to lose and Im even more excited than usual to see how the car feels in Fridays first free practice. Albert Park is a great track and I love going there for the first race of the season. I would rather be going there with more preparation but we will do the best we can and see where we are.
Charles Pic, Marussia
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
Im ready to go racing now. I have been working very hard physically and with the team, and mentally I am prepared. It is true I would have preferred to have more track time before my first Grand Prix but I have been working on the simulator so we will do the best we can. Australia will be very special for sure and I will have a lot of support around me. Im looking forward to getting into the routine of a race weekend and continuing to build the relationship with my engineers. The team have been a great support for me so I know I can count on them. Its my first visit to Melbourne but I have heard very good things about the track and the city. Obviously I have driven Albert Park a few times in simulation now but I cant wait for the real thing.
John Booth, Marussia team principal
It has been a tough time for everyone but it is situations like this that really test the mettle of a team. The early years were always going to be tough for us but I have never had any doubts about the ability of our people to ride whatever storm comes our way. It is that faith rewarded that sees us heading out to Melbourne in a rather more orderly fashion than you might expect. The journey is just a breather of course and when we get there, we will no doubt face a challenging time building up to the race. We have not had the track time wed hoped for with the MR01 and therefore the time it takes to iron out the teething problems that are to be expected with a new car. We take some heart from a relatively straightforward roll-out during two days of promotional running last week but we have yet to run on the Pirelli P-Zero performance tyres and really glimpse the first signs of the potential of the package. Nonetheless, were heading in the right direction again and Id like to take this opportunity to thank every single member of our team, and our partners, for all their support and efforts. It is over to us now to do the best job possible in these first few races.
More to follow.
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