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Q&A with Renault’s Kubica and Petrov 31 Jan 2011

Robert Kubica (POL) Lotus Renault GP and team mate Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP (Left). Formula One Testing, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Monday 31 January 2011. Robert Kubica (POL) Lotus Renault GP with the new Lotus Renault GP R31. Formula One Testing, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Monday 31 January 2011. (L to R): Robert Kubica (POL) Lotus Renault GP; Gerard Lopez (FRA) Genii Capital; Eric Boullier (FRA) Lotus Renault GP Team Principal and Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP unveil the Lotus Renault GP R31. Formula One Testing, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Monday 31 January 2011. Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP with the new Lotus Renault GP R31. Formula One Testing, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Monday 31 January 2011. (L to R): Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP; Eric Boullier (FRA) Lotus Renault GP Team Principal; Gerard Lopez (FRA) Genii Capital and Robert Kubica (POL) Lotus Renault GP at the Lotus Renault GP R31 unveiling. Formula One Testing, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Monday 31 January 2011.

After the wraps came of the new Renault R31 in Valencia on Monday, driver Robert Kubica talked about his excitement for the coming season and revealed his thoughts on the new regulations. Team mate Vitaly Petrov, meanwhile, looked ahead to his second year of Formula One racing as he aims to build on his character-building 2010 rookie season...

Q: Robert, the new season is just over a month away. How excited are you about the challenge that awaits you?
Robert Kubica:
After a long winter break you always feel ready to jump back in the car and I’m really looking forward to this season. As well as my car having new colours, there are some big changes to the regulations, such as the removal of double diffusers, the introduction of adjustable rear wings and new Pirelli tyres. So there are a lot of new things to get used to before the first race, but we will do our best to be as ready as we can for the start of the season.

Q: This is your second season with this team. Does that make it easier to extract the maximum from yourself and the car?
RK:
Obviously when you join a team everything is new and you have to get to know the people and how they operate. So it’s good that we don’t have to worry about that this year because I know what to expect. That will make it easier to concentrate on extracting the maximum from the car and trying to improve performance.

Q: How different do you think the sport will be in 2011 as a result of all the rule changes?
RK:
I think it will be quite a bit different, but I wouldn’t say it will be more challenging because taking an F1 car to the limit is always a challenge. The drivers will definitely be busier with KERS and the adjustable rear wing, but it probably won’t be any more difficult than last year when we had to operate the F-duct. In fact, it will be good to have both hands back on the steering wheel for a change! We will certainly have to concentrate hard during the first few days of testing to understand the new systems, but I’m sure we will soon get used to them and everything will become automatic.

Q: Is the adjustable rear wing something that excites you as a driver?
RK:
I think it’s clear it will create the opportunity for more overtaking, which is good for Formula One and the show, but we need to be careful that it does not give too much advantage to the car behind. If we see overtaking on every lap of the race because the wing is giving too much advantage, then I don’t think this will be exciting. The other thing we have to think about is the gear ratios because it will be a big challenge to find the ideal settings, especially for sixth and seventh gears. Even if you find a good setting for qualifying, when you can use the wing as much as you want, you also need to find a good compromise for the race, when its use is restricted.

Q: How difficult will it be to get through the workload during winter testing to be ready for the first race?
RK:
It’s never easy because the number of days we have for testing is limited, but I think there is just enough time to be ready for Bahrain. It all depends on how well things go in the early tests and you have to hope there are no big surprises that cost you time on track. Also, with so many changes this year, the task facing us is bigger than in previous years and understanding KERS, the rear wing and the new tyres will need a lot of laps. In fact, learning about the tyres will be the most time-consuming of all because you need to run each compound in different conditions and with different fuel loads, and there is so much to discover. I have my fingers crossed for a good, smooth start to testing so that we can begin performance work as soon as possible.

Q: What are your hopes and expectations for the year ahead?
RK:
My aim, as always, is to deliver a good and consistent performance across the year. That is the goal for any driver. At the moment it’s difficult to know just how competitive our package will be, but the engineers have decided to go for an innovative design, which is good. Also, we had a strong season last year and we hope to move forward again this year and be closer to the front. That means we will have to race against teams like Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull, and we know this will not be easy, but we will be working hard to make sure we can be part of that fight.

Q: Vitaly, you’re entering your second season of Formula One as a Lotus Renault GP driver. How does it feel?
Vitaly Petrov:
I’m really proud to be here and I hope together we can achieve some great things. The team has shown a lot of faith in me and it’s my chance to show everybody that they were right to believe in me.

Q: Do you feel ready to deliver?
VP:
Everybody knows that 2010 was not that easy for me, but after a year in Formula One I feel more confident and ready to face the challenge of 2011. I know what I need to change, where I can improve and I’m determined to do well and fight hard for this team.

Q: You’re no longer a rookie and you’ve seen how Formula One works. Will that change your approach this season?
VP:
2010 was a long season and I learned a lot, so it’s natural that I will come back with more experience and as a better driver. I now understand how difficult Formula One is on every level and I know that even a small mistake can have a big impact on your weekend. My focus this year is to make sure I put everything together, maximise all the sessions and stay concentrated all weekend long.

Q: What do you think about the new rule changes that have been introduced this year?
VP:
I think it’s good for Formula One and I know that the team has been working for a long time to make sure we get the most from the new technology on the car. For me it will be more things to learn and adapt to because I’ve never used KERS before and the adjustable rear wing is new for everyone. But I think the biggest challenge is getting used to the new tyres and a big part of winter testing will be trying to understand them. I think this is the biggest task facing the team.

Q: What goals do you have in mind this season?
VP:
That’s always a very difficult question to answer, especially before the start of winter testing. And even when you start testing, it’s difficult to know who is really the strongest and how you compare. It’s only when we get to the first race in Bahrain that we will find out who has done the best job over the winter. So it’s difficult for me to set objectives until we know the facts.

Q: How have you prepared for the new season?
VP:
I went home to Russia for a holiday with my family and friends. It was a chance to simply relax and switch off for a while. Then, I started doing some training, things like football and even some cross-country skiing to maintain my fitness. At the start of January I moved to England and I’ve been spending a lot of time in Enstone with the team. I think this is important because it helps strengthen my relationships with the engineers, mechanics and the people around me. By living near the factory and being there during the week, I hope that I can be as prepared as possible for the new season.

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