Exclusive Q&A - Midland's Christijan Albers 30 Jun 2006
Last years United States Grand Prix was a bonanza for the back of the grid, with the Jordan team (now Midland) on the podium and both the Minardis (now Toro Rosso) in the points. The first of those Minardis was driven by Christijan Albers and the Dutch drivers fifth position in Indianapolis remains, for the moment at least, the highlight of his Formula One career.
For this season Albers moved to Midland, but despite definite improvements at the team his chances of bettering that fifth place this year look slim. Nevertheless, Albers remains optimistic, insisting that he is determined to stay in Formula One racing and that moving towards the front of the grid will only be a matter of time
Q: Before entering Formula One racing you were a German Formula Three champion and in 2003 you were runner-up in the DTM Championship. Have your results in Formula One racing satisfied you or have your ambitions changed?
Christijan Albers: Of course, Im competing to win. But dont forget, in DTM I also had to prove myself for two years in an old car before I got the chance to show what I could do with top material. So, my ambitions havent shifted but I know Im now more than ready to make the next step.
Q: What convinced you to sign with Midland? Is the all the media speculation surrounding the team justified or not?
CA: There will always be rumours in Formula One, and that's something every team has to deal with, not just Midland. But from day one, I was impressed by the vision of (team boss) Collin Kolles and the things he was changing within the team. When judging Midland, dont forget where they are coming from. They had to settle a lot of old accounts, build new facilities, renew the Toyota deal, design a new car and re-brand the team in less than a year. So, considering all the work that had to be done, theyve really come a long way! Sure, it was a challenging decision to sign for a completely new team, but then again, I like challenges.
Q: One interview quoted you as saying that you would prefer to sign a provisional contract with a front-running team than a concrete contract with Midland
CA: Did I say that? Must have been before I got that expensive media-training! But as I said, as a driver, you know when youre ready for the next step. For me, that time is now. Thats what I want to show.
Q: Dutch media company Lost Boys continued to sponsor you after your move to Midland. There has been mounting speculation that they may buy the team - assuming that you would remain as a driver. Would this improve your situation?
CA: As I understand, it is not Lost Boys that is interested in investing in the team, but a group of investors headed by the founder of Lost Boys. I know they have well-outlined plans concerning the team with a clear vision for the future. This would mean another step forward, thereby creating a more ideal situation for any driver. But ultimately, my future will be determined by my talent and my perseverance alone.
Q: If Lost Boys do become the teams owner, what do you expect to happen in terms of development?
CA: You would have to ask them, but I suspect they would only be investing such amounts not only to survive in the short-term, but to make a long-term impact.
Q: If this deal fails where do you see yourself in 2007?
CA: Im determined to stay in Formula One. At this point in my career, I have already gained too much important experience and knowledge on technical feedback, circuits, etc. to just let it all slip away. But most of all, I dont feel I have been able to fully prove myself yet. In Formula Three, I raced a number of current top-team drivers. I showed that I could beat them then, and I know I can do it now. Theres only one way to get rid of that frustration.
Q: Assuming an opportunity like Indianapolis 2005 does not occur again this year - how likely do you think Midland are to score a point this year, considering the teams performance so far this season?
CA: Well, I think we need to have some luck, as well, to close the gap between our maximum performance and the points scoring positions. It would be great for the budget, but it would be even greater for the motivation of all those guys in the team that have been working so hard for it.
Q: Its safe to say that the Midland M16 is reliable. What improvements need to be made in order for the car to go faster and for you to be closer to points finishes?
CA: We need to keep improving the car in a number of areas, especially with respect to aero efficiency. The commitment is there and we are making progress, but so is the competition - that's why the development seems to be coming so slowly. But to be honest, Im quite happy with the progress we've made so far. In fact, the only thing I feel we should have done better was managing the high external expectations at the start of the season. But hey, youre never too old to learn!