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Russia preview quotes - Williams, Caterham, Sauber & more

09 Oct 2014

Less than a week after Suzuka, the teams and drivers head for Sochi - and the first Grand Prix to be held in Russia. Those involved in the 2014 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix discuss their prospects for the weekend ahead…

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel

"The track is unique as it is the only one on the F1 calendar to be located on an Olympic site. As for the circuit, there are definitely similarities to other tracks, perhaps the best comparison is Singapore. But unlike Singapore, the layout is more fluid, so it will be much faster. Some sectors remind me a bit of South Korea or Abu Dhabi. Generally, I think it has a very successful mix of corners with different characters, some of them will be very difficult, and that’s ultimately what we want as drivers. It will be quite slippery at the beginning of the weekend and I’m expecting a few driving errors, not only because the track is new for everyone, but also because the surface is still so green. So it will be a while until we feel comfortable on the track."

Daniel Ricciardo

"I think firstly, it’s always exciting to go a new venue, particularly a new circuit. As a driver it’s always nice to have something fresh and new and obviously Russia provides a new layout for us. I drove a few laps on the simulator already and I think it should be interesting. It’s always different in real life but I hope it can be a fun track. I don’t think we’ll know until we get there, but let’s hope it’s a good challenge for us."

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

"Russia is a key territory for Pirelli, along with all the major automotive companies in the world, so we are very much looking forward to Sochi and the first Russian Grand Prix, which is a significant milestone in the sport’s history. From a tyre perspective it should be an interesting challenge; we’ve got a wide variety of corners that should test every aspect of performance. As has been the case at every grand prix this year, we’re aiming for between two and three pit stops per race and the nomination we have made reflects this. In terms of overall tyre energy demands, Russia is somewhere in the middle, and measurements also indicate low-abrasion asphalt. Regarding the weather, initial forecasts suggest that conditions will be temperate. Going to a new circuit is always exciting and it’s only when we get there that we will have a complete idea of what to expect, so the work done in free practice will be particularly important for everyone."

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg

“It’s always fun to explore a new place and this will be my first visit to Russia. So far I’ve only seen a few photos of the paddock and the track layout so I will arrive there with a very open mind about what to expect. However, I do have high expectations because I know that the organisers have made a big effort to make the race a success.

“It’s hard to look at a track on paper and really get an understanding of how it will feel to drive. I prefer to go there and experience things before I make judgements and talk about track characteristics. So in that sense it’s too early for me to compare it with another circuit. What is clear is that there are some really quick sections and a lot of right-angled corners.

“It’s fun to learn a new track and I look forward to the first few laps of free practice. I would say that after about 10 laps you’ve done your learning and start to feel comfortable. After that, you can focus more on improving the car’s performance.”

Sergio Perez

“I’m really looking forward to the race in Sochi. It’s a country that will be totally new for me and so it’s exciting to go there for the first time. I will feel like a tourist looking around the city.

“The location of the track inside the Olympic park is very unusual. If I get the opportunity I will definitely explore a bit. From the photographs I’ve seen it looks to be a very impressive facility. There are some long straights, some tight corners, and I think it will feel like a street circuit because the walls are close to the track in a lot of areas.

“To prepare for a new track I normally walk the track and cycle it a few times. Normally you need about 10 laps before you can really start doing performance runs. Nobody knows the track so it will be the same situation for all of us. We all start from zero.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal

“Everybody at Sahara Force India continues to send support to Jules (Bianchi) and the Marussia team. We know Jules well having worked with him during 2012. His recovery is the main priority at the moment.”

“[Russia] is an important race for us and for the global expansion of the sport. Russia is an emerging market for Formula One and it's big enough and important enough for everyone in the sport to look forward to going there. These huge markets are the kinds of places that we should be concentrating on, which is why I continue to push for India to be back on the calendar as well. We need to embrace these huge audiences where there is great potential to increase the popularity of our sport.

“[In terms of fifth place in the constructors’ championship] we are hanging on in there and we know we face a big task in the final four races to maintain this advantage. We are certainly motivated and will do all we can to add performance to the car and score points. In Formula One, anything can happen – we’ve seen it over and over again – and with double points on offer in Abu Dhabi there is all to play for.”

Lotus

Romain Grosjean

“I’ve been driving the Sochi circuit on the simulator. It didn’t look very sexy from the outside but it actually seems to be really good fun. There’s a great mix of corners and some good high speed areas too. The setting looks to be pretty impressive with a new facility and one where there are mountains not far away as well as being right next to the Black Sea.

“For me, it’s also quite special to race at the site of and Olympic Games. I’m a huge fan of the Olympics and especially the Winter Olympics, because my grandfather competed in skiing events at the 1948 and 1952 events. Hopefully that will bring me some luck! It’s good to go to Russia as well. It’s such a big country. When you fly to Japan most of the time you seem to be just flying over Russia! I’ve been to Sochi once before in 2009 for a team event and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it.

“Even without a simulator you get a basic idea of the track pretty quickly. What the simulator does is let you speed up this process and make initial decisions about car set-up and so on. What the simulator can’t do for a new circuit is give a precise idea of the grip levels you will find as it’s a surface we’ve never raced on before. With any new surface, we’d expect the grip levels to change over the course of the weekend, so that will be part of the challenge. We all face the same challenge, but there is an element of how good the driver and team are at quickly getting a handle on the track. Hopefully Sochi is a circuit which suits our car. We won’t know the answer to that till we get there!”

Pastor Maldonado

“We’ve been preparing (for Sochi) on the simulator, where the track looks very interesting. It’s a long lap with some unusual corners. From the simulator work we should know more or less what the racing lines will be and when we arrive on Thursday we will double check as many things as we can. It’s good. I’m happy to go there. I’m happy every time Formula 1 opens the door to new countries. I saw some of the Winter Olympics but I’ve never been to Russia before, so it will be my first time.

“Everything is new and especially in terms of the surface there is no way for us to know how the track will develop during the weekend. In the past we saw situations like in Austin where the track was super slippery at the beginning and then session after session we were making improvements of two or three seconds. It’s vital to stay on top of everything because parts of the set-up that were working well might hold you back when you go five or six seconds a lap quicker. You can’t take anything for granted and it will be important to keep an open mind throughout the weekend.

“For me it will be an all-new experience, and one I’m looking forward to a lot. I’ve met many Russians and I know it’s a very big country which has changed a lot over the past decades so it will be very interesting to experience it for myself.”

Federico Gastaldi, Lotus deputy team principal

“What am I looking forward to about this weekend? Everything! It is a brand new adventure for F1 and an exciting one. F1 is a global spectacle and to be at the first race in Russia will be a great experience for us all. Most important will be to meet and engage with the fans and to ensure they take F1 to their hearts. We have a very good Russian Formula 1 driver in the sport with Daniil Kvyat and at Enstone we had the first ever Russian F1 driver - our friend Vitaly Petrov. It will be nice to see him again and to get his thoughts on how his fellow countrymen will embrace our sport more.

“We should be racing in the world’s biggest country. We have seen over the last 20 years or so, since the change from the Soviet Union, that the opportunities there are huge. The rapid expansion of the economy and the many big sporting events that are being held here over the next decade will make for great momentum in commercial opportunities. At Lotus F1 Team we are always investigating new markets and looking to expand the F1 experience for new audiences.”

Nick Chester, Lotus technical director

“We will of course only properly identify the challenges (of the new track) once we are actually in Sochi however we already have initial feedback from both Romain and Pastor who have been in the simulator. Turn 3 is a long and quite high speed corner that will present a good challenge. Braking down into Turn 13 will be very severe and you come out of the kink before you brake so it will be a difficult corner to get right. Overall, the whole track looks quite technical, so it certainly will be a challenging one for the drivers.

“It looks like a high downforce circuit as most corner speeds are between 80 and 140kph. I would say that setup will probably be similar to Singapore although there are a couple of straights that are longer in Sochi so downforce levels will be between Singapore and Suzuka.

“The main challenges really on these types of circuits are for the drivers. They will have to learn the track pretty rapidly to feel comfortable with its configuration and concentrate at all times during the lap. We all know the penalties of a short run-off when it’s a new track with uncertain grip levels.

“The information we have is that the weather can be quite unusual in Sochi as you have the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. We can expect mild temperatures of about 20°C during the day and 12°C at night, the average in that region in October. Early forecast indicates that there are reasonable chances of rain.”

McLaren

Jenson Button

“It’s always interesting to visit new circuits - it’s fun to get out and explore the contours of the track, the kerbs, the run-offs, the camber - all the things that you don’t really fully experience until you’re on-site and able to see the track for the very first time. That’ll be my priority on Thursday.

“From what I’ve seen of the place, it’s sort of a mix between the tracks we raced on in Valencia and Korea - plenty of long, fast straights hemmed in by concrete walls and high barriers, and a selection of medium-speed corners that seem to have been designed to test the abilities of a car.

“As with all these new venues, they only really begin to unlock themselves once you get out on the track for the first time. I’ve lost none of my enthusiasm for going to new places, so I’ll be keen to get out there on Friday morning and get a feel for the place.”

Kevin Magnussen

“The layout sort of looks a little bit like Abu Dhabi - it has the curving straights into very precise, tight corners, which will really require a lot from the car because it’ll be trying to snap away mid-turn. Like Yas Marina, it looks pretty flat, too.

“It’s hard to see a key place for overtaking - there are no particularly big stops or opportunities where you can really place your car up the inside. Turn 11, which is the right-hander at the end of the back straight, might be a good possibility. Turn 13 could be an option, too.

“A new track is always an interesting test. As a rookie, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to compare myself to the other drivers on more of an equal footing. It should be an interesting weekend.”

Eric Boullier, McLaren racing director

“The arrival of the Russian Grand Prix marks a significant moment in Formula 1’s ongoing expansion into new global territories. While that’s significant for the sport, it’s equally important that the event proves able to deliver sporting spectacle and excitement for the fans.

“In terms of facilities, the circuit looks first-class: the track threads its way around some of the architectural landmarks that were erected for this year’s Winter Olympics. It also feels a little bit like a street circuit - it features a plentiful array of 90-degree corners, many of which look likely to be taken at around the same speed.

“It’ll be interesting to measure the popularity of the race; McLaren has long participated at the Mobil 1-backed Moscow City Racing summer festival, which regularly sees huge crowds, and it would be nice if Sochi could replicate the appeal of that event.

“I hope it’s a successful weekend - for the sport and for McLaren.”

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne

"I've never been to Russia at all, so this is a trip I'm looking forward to, as I enjoy discovering new countries. The track looks interesting, with a hint of street circuit about it and that means it might suit our car. It will be a new experience for everyone, which means it is quite a challenge for the engineers, who will have a Friday morning set-up based on the work we have done in a simulator. So there's an element of guesswork, especially when it comes to what degradation we can expect from the Medium and Soft Pirellis. I enjoy learning a new track and usually after the first

session, we are up to speed and ready to move forward for the rest of the weekend."

Daniil Kvyat

"Time for my home race and the first ever Formula One Grand Prix in my home country. I am sure there will be a lot of attention on me, but I am ready for it and will enjoy it in a way, so really I will just do my usual job: the best I can. In fact, following the amazing news that I will be driving for Infiniti Red Bull Racing next year, doing the best I can for Scuderia Toro Rosso will be my priority this weekend and for the last three races after that. I don't get to go back to Russia very often, so I'm very excited to finally race in my home country in front of the Russian fans. I'm sure it's going to be a very big and exciting event. As for the Sochi track itself, from what I've seen on the simulator, I'd say it's a medium and slow speed corner venue, rather stop-and-go and with twisty sections. I would say it's a bit of a half street circuit, which makes it quite challenging. There are some power sections but not many, so it should suit our car quite well. A message for the fans? Come and support me and Scuderia Toro Rosso."

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton

"It's difficult to know what to say after a weekend like the one in Japan. As I crossed the line, obviously I was pleased to have finally won at Suzuka - but as soon as we got back to the pits and heard what happened to Jules it suddenly didn't seem relevant anymore. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. This weekend is a new experience for Formula One as we head to Russia for the first time. I like a challenge and a new circuit always provides that. Of course, we've run through plenty of laps on the simulator - but you never really know what it will be like until you get out there and feel your way into the track. I'm looking forward to seeing what it's really like and how our car performs there. It felt great in the race in Japan and I'm sure it will be strong again in Sochi, so I'm hoping to keep up this run of results that we've built in the last few races."

Nico Rosberg

"My first thoughts at the moment are always with Jules Bianchi and I really wish him, his family and his colleagues all the very best at this difficult time. The weekend in Japan brought a good result for the team but we came away from the race with only one thing on our minds - the well-being of our colleague Jules. Looking ahead to this weekend, it's exciting to be going to the first ever Russian Grand Prix. Formula One has never raced in Russia before, of course. But we did actually do a demo in Moscow a couple of years ago where I drove round the Kremlin, which was really cool. Everybody was really into it - all the Russian fans - so I think there will be a lot of people coming to watch us. It's a new circuit, so we've spent a lot of time in the simulator practising it to learn all the lines and the gears as best we can before going there, which will be important when we first hit the track. I'm looking forward to what I'm sure will be a great first year for Formula One in Russia."

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"I think the whole paddock left Japan feeling numb after what happened at the end of the race on Sunday. I know I speak on behalf of everyone at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart when I say our thoughts are with Jules and his loved ones. As we head to Russia for the first time, what should have been the excitement of exploring new territories for the sport has been overshadowed by the events of Suzuka. The new circuit in Sochi looks impressive and, if we think back to the Winter Olympics, I am sure we will see an event the country can be proud of, with many new fans turning out to see our sport's debut race in Russia."

Paddy Lowe, Mercedes team executive director (technical)

"First of all, both my thoughts and I'm sure those of the entire team are with Jules Bianchi, his family and our colleagues at Marussia. Suzuka may have seen a strong performance for us, but really that pales into insignificance in the wake of Sunday's events. We all hope for some positive news soon. Now, we head to the inaugural Russian Grand Prix which is an exciting prospect for the sport as a whole. Coming to a new circuit such as Sochi provides an interesting challenge for every team. Although we conduct extensive work in the simulator to prepare as best we can, the weekend will undoubtedly be a steep learning curve for everyone involved. Track evolution will be a big factor, as demonstrated most recently at another brand new venue in Austin two seasons ago. This is part of the challenge of Formula One - and one we all relish. It will be fascinating to see how the relative performance of both the cars and drivers evolve across the weekend and we could be set for a highly entertaining race. We certainly hope that this is the case and that we can put on a good show for the Russian fans at their first home Grand Prix."

Sauber

Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber team principal

"Everybody in our team is travelling to Sochi feeling very sombre, because we are all concerned about Jules Bianchi. We are still shocked about the events of last weekend, and it's simply not possible to just switch back to the day to day business. Everything we are currently doing seems to be unimportant. Our thoughts are with him and his family. We wish Jules all the best."

Caterham

Kamui Kobayashi

"It's always extremely exciting to race at a new circuit - I had a chance to do a few laps of this new Russian circuit in Sochi with the Codemasters 2014 F1 Game in Suzuka last week and, even though it was a video game, it seemed like an interesting circuit because of its mix of corners, some of them very tight, and high speed sections. I am looking forward to driving there in real life. It will be an interesting challenge for us all and we will do our best. Our thoughts are also with Jules and his family at this difficult time."

Marcus Ericsson

"First of all my thoughts are still with Jules and his family. It will be a weekend of mixed emotions, but it's going to be interesting here in Russia and a race I'm really looking forward to. This will be my first time racing in this country and at this newly-built track. It looks a bit like a street circuit because in a few areas the walls seem very close to the track - I like this type of circuit, street circuits seem to suit me: in Monaco I matched the team's best result and two races ago in Singapore I raced one of my best Grands Prix in F1, so I hope we can add this weekend to the list.

"I'm feeling much more confident this second half of the season and, together with the team, we are steadily improving race after race. We can be happy with the progress made and now we need to make sure we continue to build on the positives and get the most out of the weekend ahead."

Roberto Merhi

"I'm very much looking forward to my third FP1 outing with Caterham F1 Team this weekend in Sochi. I feel much more comfortable in the car and this gives me more and more confidence when I drive out of the garage each time. This is my second time in Russia this year, but my first time in Sochi - it's a country that definitely brings me good memories, as back in July I won the first Formula Renault 3.5 race of the weekend at the Moscow Raceway. The Sochi layout looks like a great one to drive - it will be interesting to see what it feels like to drive for the first time."

Manfredi Ravetto, team principal

"Everyone's thoughts and prayers at Caterham F1 Team continue to be with Jules and Marussia F1 Team, we hope he recovers well soon.

"We head to Russia after a very positive last three races, where we have made progress out on track, finishing ahead of our main rivals. The introduction of our latest package of updates, including the new front wing, has also performed better than our initial data suggested, so we are satisfied with this. I'd like to thank every single member of the team for their efforts in Japan - the team is working harder than ever and the results are showing out on track. We now have to continue like this and build on the positives of the last three race weekends.

"Kamui didn't have the best of luck at his home race, but at a new circuit like Sochi, where all drivers start the weekend on a level playing field as it's a new track, he could definitely make the difference. On the other hand, Marcus has had an exceptional second half of the season so far, upping up his game and his pace, and we look forward to see what he's capable of at this new Russian circuit that looks like it will suit him well.

"It's been a busy week with two back-to-back races as well as the event in Jerusalem where Nathanael Berthon drove a Caterham F1 Team car through the streets of the historic city. It's going to be an interesting weekend here in Russia, where we will challenge our rivals once again out on track - I look forward to it!"

Williams

Felipe Massa

“Russia is an exciting prospect, the track looks really nice. I’ve driven a few laps in the simulator and it’s a good circuit with some longer straights so the car should suit it. It wasn’t too hard to learn a new layout but driving it in the car is different to the simulator. I hope we can have a good race and put on a good show for the Russian fans.”

Valtteri Bottas

“Russia should be interesting. It’s new for everyone so we are all in the same position. There is a combination of medium speed corners and long straights, which could be good for our car. It’s always nice to have a new circuit on the calendar and I am looking forward to driving the track and learning more about the country.”

Rob Smedley, Williams head of vehicle performance

“An all new track for 2014 has meant a great deal of simulation has gone into the preparations for Russia. From the look of it we can relate the track to the Valencia street-circuit. There are a quite a few low speed corners, and tyre warm-up could be an issue as well as brake wear due to the deceleration for these corners. It’s a new frontier for Formula One and the team are looking forward to going there and putting on a good race.”