Christian Klien on his new role, the 2008 season, and beyond 07 Feb 2008
Since making his debut for Jaguar in 2004, Christian Klien has been a Formula One regular. After leaving his test and reserve seat at Honda late last year, Klien has recently taken up a similar position with BMW Sauber. Here the Austrian, who celebrates his 25th birthday on Thursday, discusses his hopes for the coming season and beyond
Q: How did you secure this opportunity with the BMW Sauber F1 Team?
Christian Klien: I have been speaking with BMW for some time because it is clearly one of the top teams and determined to achieve its goal of winning in Formula One. We already had good relationships there, so while I was examining other options to race in F1 I was also seeing what we could do with BMW. Fortunately everything has worked out, and I am very proud to be joining the BMW Sauber F1 Team.
Q: Why do you think the BMW Sauber F1 Team chose you to be the official test and reserve driver?
CK: I think there are several reasons; most importantly the team needed an experienced driver to take on the role as reserve driver. They have faith that I'm ready to step in whenever this might become necessary. I am part of the new generation of drivers in F1, coming into it when I was 21 and racing for three years at Jaguar/Red Bull Racing before working with the Honda F1 Racing Team last season. So I think the combination of ability, experience and age worked well.
Q: What are your expectations about fulfilling this role at the BMW Sauber F1 Team?
CK: I expect to work closely with the team to try and get the best performance from the car, to help with its development and, of course, to remain race fit and ready to deputise for either driver should the need arise. I had to replace Jenson Button at Silverstone last season, although only for one session, but it showed me that you really do have to be prepared to drive at any time. That is one of the reasons I maintain a strict training regime.
Q: What do you think of the team's potential in 2008 and beyond?
CK: The team was the third strongest in 2007 and finished second in the world championship for constructors last season and fifth and sixth in the drivers series, so I think the BMW Sauber F1 Team has already shown its ability to compete at the front. The next step is going to be a difficult one - we want to win the first race in 2008. The competition between the top four teams will be as tough as ever this year, and I expect BMW to be the focal point of what promises to be another exciting year for all of the F1 fans around the world.
Q: You previously stated that your focus is on racing - has this changed?
CK: No, I am very clear about my determination to race, in F1, again. To achieve this, my move into a top manufacturer team as test and reserve driver is an excellent opportunity - I would say the very best opportunity other than racing for the BMW Sauber F1 Team. So I am going to make the most of this chance to work with their program.
Q: How is your relationship with Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica?
CK: I have raced against them and so of course I know them - in fact Robert and I have raced together in karting, Formula Renault and the Formula Three Euroseries. They are both very competitive drivers who enjoyed a strong 2007 season, so I expect we will work well together and concentrate on helping the engineers to understand the car and getting the best performance from it. I am certain we will make a good team.
Q: What will be your focus for 2008 and how do you intend to approach it?
CK: My focus is to give maximum support to the team both inside and out of the car. Testing is very limited these days, but that means every session is critical when developing the chassis and I will be using my experience fully in this respect.
Q: The BMW Sauber F1 Team is almost a 'local' Formula One team for you - how does that feel?
CK: Hinwil is about 100kilometres from my family's home in Hohenems, Austria, and about the same distance from my own home in Switzerland; so the team is really local to me, which is a first! I have always driven for British based teams in F1, so it will be nice to have the opportunity to drive to the factory and work with the team very closely. I will also be able to speak in German and English inside the team, which will also be good.
Q: What will be your first steps with the team?
CK: I have already met with the team management, but I will of course start to build the relationship with all the senior engineers in the race team, the test team and factory. I will be doing a seat-fitting with the team this week, and getting to know as many people as possible. I am also looking forward to driving the BMW Sauber F1.08 and helping with the pre-season development work. This is always an important time, so there is work to do!
Q: How many races will you attend in 2008?
CK: As Test and Reserve Driver I will attend all 18 Formula One Grands Prix in 2008, so it's going to be a busy year. I am very much looking forward to it, and to playing my part in helping to make this a successful year for the BMW Sauber F1 Team.