Q&A with Renault's Nick Heidfeld & Vitaly Petrov 24 May 2011
An excellent strategy and some excellent driving saw Renaults Nick Heidfeld leave Spain a happy man, after he converted 24th on the grid into an eighth place finish. Heidfelds team mate Vitaly Petrov endured a much less successful Spanish race, slipping from sixth on the grid to 11th at the chequered flag. The German and the Russian reflect on the Barcelona event and consider their chances for this weekends Monaco race
Q: Nick, you performed strongly in Spain after starting the race at the very back of the grid?
Nick Heidfeld: Yes, I was satisfied with finishing eighth after starting last. I had to be determined and fight through the field with a number of overtaking manoeuvres so it was good fun for me behind the wheel - I enjoyed the race a lot. And similarly to Turkey, with one or two laps more I could have gained a couple of positions from the two Mercedes cars, but it was still a good result and gives me lots of confidence going into Monaco.
Q: Looking ahead to Monaco - how do you think the team can compete there?
NH: Monaco is a very different track from the Circuit de Catalunya. The circuit is not a dedicated race track which means it is used by public vehicles. It is more bumpy than a race track, but the surface is actually very smooth meaning it is very slippery. We will be using Pirellis softest tyres for this race, and this will be a key factor. It will be interesting to see how we can compete there, but in the past the car has been well-suited to the circuit and Im confident it will be the same this year.
Q: Talking about the tyres, which is a hot topic at the moment, how do you expect them to behave?
NH: Well, over the course of the weekend, the track surface has historically improved more than any other circuit on the F1 calendar. This time around it will be interesting to see by how much and in what way it improves because these Pirelli tyres work very differently from the Bridgestone tyres we used previously. I expect tyres will be a key factor in Monaco, as they have been at the other races too.
Q: Tell us more about the experience of the Monaco Grand Prix - its known to be quite a busy few days
NH: Well Monaco is one of my favourite circuits and it usually a really fun race. The schedule is unique as we run on Thursday (starting a day earlier than usual) but we do not drive at all on Friday. We then return to action on Saturday - with P3 and Qualifying - and the Race on Sunday. Even though I have competed here many times, it does feel different to the other races and a little strange when you are used to the normal race schedule. But, you have to remember Monaco is its own race - it is and will always remain unique.
Q: What elements of the Monaco race make it so special and memorable?
NH: Well, if I had to recommend a race for spectators to go to I would tell them to go to Monaco - it is such a special event. The location is fantastic and there is such an amazing atmosphere all around us, its a really crazy race. It is not the easiest circuit for the team to work at, as its such a small location, but it is an essential part of Formula One and it is a great spectacle for everyone involved.
Q: Vitaly, you had a difficult race in Barcelona at the weekend - what was your take on events there?
Vitaly Petrov: Yes, it was difficult and naturally I was disappointed that I could not take advantage of the strong position I secured for myself in qualifying. I could have had an even higher position going into the race, but in qualifying the middle sector of my last lap was weak. In the race itself, I did not drive so successfully in certain parts after I stopped, but what I did learn from the experience is that ideally we would like to have more new, fresh tyres. Tyre degradation was a real factor there, and I think it affected my drive on Sunday.
Q: What are going to be the key aspects to concentrate on in Monaco?
VP: Its a different type of race, a one-off. Qualifying will be very important. I feel we can qualify for the race very strongly and near to the front - this will be the key here, of that theres no doubt. If you dont qualify well, it makes it very difficult to move up a long way because there are not too many overtaking opportunities. Its a tight circuit and opportunities are at a premium so Saturday will be an absolutely crucial day for us.
Q: Do you feel driving at Monaco is something special?
VP: It is, it really is. Its an unusual race, different to the others because of the layout, the schedule over the weekend and how close spectators are to the action. It is a place where, as a driver, you really have to concentrate because it is a tight circuit. But, I have good memories there because I finished second there in GP2 back in 2009 so Im looking forward to coming back and trying to achieve some more success. What you also have to remember is that Monaco is a massive fixture not just in motorsport but in all sport. When people think of F1, they think of the Monaco race. For that very reason, we know this is the big one.
Q: How would you compare being an Formula One driver now compared to this time last year?
VP: Well, we have the KERS and Drag Reduction system (DRS) to deal with so there is considerably more for a driver to think about in the cockpit. At the moment, it is good having them (KERS and DRS) because it helps the overtaking considerably, so I think its a good thing. For me, this is not the main issue at the moment - the tyres are what we have to understand because these are affecting the outcomes of races.
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