Latest News / Headline

Australia preview quotes - Lotus,Toro Rosso, Pirelli & more

11 Mar 2014

The long wait is almost over. After a hugely demanding pre-season, the teams and drivers are set to converge in Melbourne for the first race of the new 1.6-litre turbo engine era. Those involved in the 2014 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix discuss their prospects…

Jules Bianchi, Marussia

2013 Qualifying - 19th, 2013 Race - 15th

“I am very excited to be starting the new season finally. It has been a very interesting winter preparing for this and I can’t wait to see where we stand versus the competition. The car feels good to drive and, especially in Bahrain last week, we saw a little more of its true potential. There is a lot of work still to do to start getting the most from it, but I feel quite optimistic about our chances to improve this year. It has not been easy for a small team like ours as we do not have the same resources as the bigger teams, but I think we can be proud of the job that we have done in comparison and now I am looking forward to delivering some reward for that hard work. Our first objective for Melbourne is to enjoy a reliable race but I hope we can create some opportunity for ourselves along the way.”

Max Chilton, Marussia

2013 Qualifying - 20th, 2013 Race - 17th

“I didn’t think much could come close to the feeling I had making my Grand Prix debut last season, but I’m every bit as excited one year on as we head to Australia for the first round of the championship. There have been some very positive signs in testing, which lead us to believe that we can have a good season. Until we get though the first race it’s difficult to expand on that, but the performance is there and we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. Of course, it would be great if we could match last year’s fantastic reliability record, but that is likely to be a much bigger task this season. Personally, I’m ready to get my teeth into the races. I’m entering my second season so I have my own goals as a driver, but what matters most is working together as a team to rise to the challenge as this will be a tough but exciting year.”

John Booth, Marussia team principal

“Although we did not meet our mileage target in pre-season testing, the positive work we did achieve, particularly last week in Bahrain, has been extremely valuable in terms of validating our calculations for the MR03 and finalising our specification for Melbourne. We are in good shape, both in terms of the car and as a maturing racing operation, and we head to Australia with cautious optimism. The opening round in particular, but also the season per se, is such an unknown quantity that it would be futile to try to predict an outcome, so our focus will be solely on getting the most out of our package on its racing debut. We have had some positive indications for reliability, but the acid test will be our first full race, which is the primary target for next Sunday. The first few races are the ones where opportunity is likely to knock, so we will also be looking to ensure we are prepared for every eventuality. We are fortunate to have two very talented and motivated drivers, and we know they will be helping us to push every step of the way. In a season so full of unknowns, perhaps the only real certainty for the opening round is that the Australian Grand Prix always delivers spectacular racing and this year we are likely to see that taken to another level.”

Mattia Binotto, Ferrari engine and electronics deputy director

“The 2014 season has presented some incredibly demanding and fascinating challenges, with the introduction of a completely new power unit. Scuderia Ferrari has also had to deal with the extra responsibility of welcoming the Marussia F1 Team as a new addition to our customer teams. We like challenges and we are happy with the way the partnership has begun. We have found a team that is keen to grow and to prove that, with the new Ferrari power unit, is capable of making a substantial step forward in terms of its level of competitiveness. I feel the indications that came out of pre-season testing have been positive in this regard and I was pleased to see a sense of satisfaction in the Marussia garage at the performance they produced on the final day of Bahrain testing. It’s definitely a good omen for Melbourne, when things start to get serious.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India

2013 Qualifying - 11th, 2013 Race - DNF

“It’s been three races in Melbourne and I’ve still not completed a racing lap! They say bad luck comes in groups of three so hopefully attempt number four will work out better! The car has come a long way since Jerez. We made steps at each test and I think we made very good use of the time we had available. We signed off a lot of things during testing and I don’t think we’re in bad shape. There is always more you can do, but we’re pretty well prepared. I feel comfortable (in the car), but I think this feeling will grow stronger during the season. The cars are different compared to last year: the corner speeds are lower because there is less downforce and the engine behaviour is quite different. So it’s a new challenge and it’s difficult to tell just from testing how it will feel during a race weekend. It’s not easy (to set expectations). Testing only tells you so much, but I think we still have some performance in our pocket. I just hope we are competitive and can race for good points.”

Sergio Perez, Force India

2013 Qualifying - 15th, 2013 Race - 11th

“It’s the first race of the year so I’ve been looking forward to this moment for a long time. I hope we can have a great start of the season. The new rules are interesting and the cars are quite challenging. There is less downforce now, but there is a lot of torque from the engine so it’s quite a different feeling. You also have to think about managing the fuel load and we know that Melbourne is a circuit with high fuel consumption. There are more things to do in terms of managing the systems on the car so it’s more complicated than last year. The pre-season testing has given us enough time to get to know the new systems so I don't foresee any issue come the first race. I think we are feeling well prepared going into Melbourne. Testing has had its ups and downs, as always, but we ended the second Bahrain test in a good position. There are still areas we need to improve, but I think we have made a good start and we can build on that. It's always a good feeling to start with a new team. I had a full winter to get to know everyone and I’m feeling ready now. The team is very hungry and I hope we can achieve some great things this year.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal

“It’s never easy to make predictions and this year there are so many more unknowns than usual. I think we can arrive in Melbourne feeling happy about the work we’ve done over the winter. How that will translate to a race weekend is hard to say, but I think it’s important that an element of unpredictability has returned. There is plenty of interest around Formula One at the moment and that’s a good thing.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

2013 Qualifying - 3rd, 2013 Race - 5th

“The Australian Grand Prix is always an exciting race and the fans are fantastic. They love their motorsport, so it's an event that every driver looks forward to. I'm excited about the new season not just as a driver but as a fan. As a fan, you want to see overtaking throughout the field, you want to see different race winners, you want to see the championship go down to the wire... I hope that the changes for this year will make that happen. This is the year you need to watch Formula One! I think we're as ready as we can be for Melbourne and I'm more fired up than ever. With all the changes within the sport and the hard work that's been going on within the team, I believe this can be our year to really show what we're capable of. That's not to take anything away from our opposition, who will be incredibly tough to beat as always, but I feel like I'm equipped with the tools I need to succeed. I can't wait to get started.”

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes

2013 Qualifying - 6th, 2013 Race - DNF

“I always look forward to the season opener. Melbourne is a fantastic city and Australia is an exciting country all round. It's a great place to start the year and you can always have lots of fun here. The fans are incredibly friendly and laid-back but they are also very enthusiastic and mad about sport. The food is pretty great too! I always fly in a week in advance to get over the jet lag. This year, after completing the final test in Bahrain, I returned to the factory at Brackley for final preparations in the simulator and went straight on to Melbourne from there. Overall, I think our winter testing programme went better than expected. Having said that, the first Grand Prix is the first real opportunity to judge how well we have done against our competition. Pre-season doesn't tell the full story, especially this year with the new regulations. I'm really looking forward to getting the season underway and can't wait to be back in the car again.”

Toto Wolff, Mercedes team executive director

“The new regulations have been a massive challenge for everybody involved, and the team has been pushing flat out to get the car to where it is now as we approach the first race in Melbourne. While it is true that the quickest car with the quickest drivers will win, reliability will be a key factor. We want to bring both cars to the flag in the best possible position. We now face the ultimate reality check in the first race of this new era for Formula One. The feeling within the team is not one of nerves, however. It is more a sense of relief to finally be unleashing our cars in race conditions. Everybody now just wants to get out there and see where we stand. Expectations are high, both internally and externally. Although we're not quite where we want to be right now in terms of a complete package, I'm optimistic in that we've done everything possible to prepare for the challenges ahead. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised by the new cars: the noise, the speeds and ultimately the lap times. This is cutting-edge technology - and that's exactly what Formula One stands for.”

Adrian Sutil, Sauber

2013 Qualifying - 12th, 2013 Race - 7th

“Melbourne is always a great place for the first race of the season. I am looking forward to it. The city is beautiful and the track always good for a surprise. The weather plays a role there as well, as a bit of rain is likely. In addition, we have the new cars, which are still at a very early development stage. Everything is new. Driving in qualifying will be very different to the race, because the cars will have more power than in the race. Less downforce and more power will be a challenge for us drivers. Higher top speed and less grip on a street circuit like Melbourne will be exciting. Also the 100 kg of fuel will see nervous faces on the pit walls. We were able to gain experience regarding the fuel management during testing, but over a race distance everything has to come together flawlessly. It will be a lottery as to who will finish the race in front, and the excitement will be extremely high.”

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber

2013 Qualifying - 18th, 2013 Race - 13th

“It’s quite special to be back in Melbourne, as this is where I had my Formula One debut last year. Now we are returning to Albert Park, and it’s a new era for Formula One. This is an opportunity for everyone, and it’s my role to extract the most out of the tools I’m given by the team. It has been challenging to adapt to the new cars and rules, but now we come to the first race and everything has to settle down. The track is a bit bumpy, because it’s a street circuit, but I like the layout and enjoy driving there a lot. I like Australia, it’s a nice place, and I usually arrive a few days earlier to enjoy the city. The fans are also very enthusiastic every year - it’s a great event.”

Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Sauber head of track engineering

“Barely two months ago we started into a new era of Formula One. After 12 days of intense and challenging testing we come to the first race in Melbourne. On one side the team has done a very good job in terms of reliability and operations, on the other we are not yet happy about our performance level, and particularly with what we have achieved with our straight line speed. Our best efforts are in place to give our drivers the possibility to race where they deserve to be. On the strategy side, the power unit management is going to influence the tyre strategies, making it all more interesting. However, pre-season testing suggested that the tyre compounds will still play a major role when defining the strategy. For the first race Pirelli has allocated the medium and the soft compounds, and this appears to be a rather conservative approach.”

Marcus Ericsson, Caterham

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

“Honestly, I cannot wait for it all to start in Australia. It will be my first ever F1 race weekend as a race driver and I’m so excited about my debut season in F1 starting, and in Australia, a country with a lot of F1 history and seriously passionate fans, that’s just going to be cool. I’ve been working for this chance since I started racing, and now it’s finally coming true, thanks to all the people who’ve supported me, and to the team for giving me this chance.

“We’ve done everything we can to prepare, but, honestly, I don’t think you can ever prepare for what it’ll feel like in the car, sitting on the grid as the lights go out in my debut race - however, that feeling will go very quickly and I know I’m ready to race.

“The pre-season tests were tough, but at the end of them we’d got through most of what we planned, so there shouldn’t be too many surprises in Melbourne. By the end of the tests our reliability was best of the Renault teams and we ran through a race sim, including the formation lap procedure, starts and pit stops, so with the mileage we completed in both Bahrain tests, we’re as ready as we can be. I’ve also been back at the factory since leaving Bahrain and been driving the Melbourne track on the sim which means it’ll only take a lap or two for me to get up to speed when we’re there.

“Since the tests finished there’s been a lot of talk about what’ll happen in Australia, but until we’re actually on track it’s impossible to predict what might happen. We weren’t able to do full performance runs on either of the last two days - for me because it was my first ever lap on supersofts and I know how much more I will get out of them with more experience, and for Kamui (Kobayashi) because a clutch issue problem stopped him before he could have a go at supersoft runs - so I think the first time we’ll really see where we are on pace compared to the other teams will be in quali. What we do know is that in the race itself fuel and energy management strategies are going to be critical, so I’m glad we were able to work on them with Renault as much as we did in the tests. It might well be confusing for the fans, a bit watching driver manage tyres was for the first half of last year, but it will all be clear when the chequered flag falls.”

Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

“We start the season in Melbourne and I’m excited about getting back to racing F1 cars again! Last time I raced in Melbourne (in 2012 with Sauber) I was sixth and while I don’t think that’s a realistic target for us this year, I think the race will be very interesting. There could be reliability problems for lots of teams, us as well obviously, but by the end of the tests our reliability was ok, certainly better than a few other teams, and that could be very important on Sunday in Melbourne.

“Obviously for me this is my first race back, and I’m really pleased it’s with Caterham. I guarantee that they are working as hard as anyone else to have a good year in 2014 and I’ve been very impressed with how determined they are to succeed. They have a very good base to work from in Leafield, so there’s no reason we can’t have a good year, particularly with what we have planned to improve the car as the season goes on.

“We still don’t know exactly where we are on performance, partly because you never do in tests because you don’t know what everyone else is doing, but also because we didn’t really have a chance to do a proper quali sim in Bahrain. We have some new parts coming to Australia, including some revisions to the front wing, so we’ll be working on them on Friday and Saturday morning and know more about where we are when qualifying’s finished on Saturday.”

Felipe Massa, Williams

2013 Qualifying - 4th, 2013 Race - 4th

“I love Melbourne, it's a fantastic place and a really good atmosphere. The people there really love racing and Formula 1 and so are always really welcoming towards us. I like the track and it's quite a challenging circuit. I am really looking forward to racing there this year and having a good start to the season with Williams Martini Racing.”

Valtteri Bottas, Williams

2013 Qualifying - 16th, 2013 Race - 14th

“I am really looking forward to going to Melbourne. It's a very nice track with a great atmosphere. It's a new season and a new challenge, not just for me but for everyone. We will finally get to see where every team's performance is. The track improves a lot throughout the weekend because it's not a permanent race track which means that we have more grip each time we go out and so you have to make the right set-up changes for each session. I really enjoy the track and I can't wait to get racing again.”

Rod Nelson, Williams chief test and support engineer

“After our productive winter testing programme we now head off to Melbourne for the first race of the 2014 season. There's always a great anticipation when we arrive in Australia, largely as it will be the best measure so far of where we line up against the opposition. There are several characteristic features of the Albert Park circuit. It's a street track so we expect a large increase in grip through the weekend as the Pirelli rubber goes down, and as we often see at other temporary tracks it's also quite bumpy. There's a high probability of a safety car in the race - usually it's about 50 percent chance around here. The weather can also be quite changeable here as it's the end of the Australian summer, and with the circuit being less than 1 kilometre from the sea this can have a large effect. The race also starts late in the afternoon, so visibility can become an issue for the drivers as the sun goes down. All in all, it's a good place to kick the season off and we are very much looking forward to it.”

Jenson Button, McLaren

2013 Qualifying - 10th, 2013 Race - 9th

“I think this year’s Australian Grand Prix is going to be an absolutely fascinating sporting contest. Even with stable regulations, Melbourne is usually unpredictable. This year, I don’t think anybody knows quite what to expect - will we see more than half the field at the end of the race? Will we see good, close racing? Will the pecking order pan out as we expect? Those are all questions that we’ve yet to see answered, and part of what makes for such a fun weekend.

“The other element that I enjoy about this race is the atmosphere and vibe that you always get in Melbourne. It’s a beautiful city, a place I always love visiting - in fact, I get there early enough to settle my body-clock and to do some training ahead of the Grand Prix - and the fans at the circuit are always passionate, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. It’s a great place to start what will hopefully be a fantastic year.

“In terms of performance, while there’s plenty of potential within MP4-29, we still think it’ll take a little time to unlock that promise. It’s not quite where we’d like it to be, so I don’t think we go to Melbourne with a package that accurately reflects our progress with the car - it’ll take a little longer for that to become apparent. In general, this season is going to be all about continuous development. Our stated aim has always been to try and scoop up a useful haul of points from the opening races - by virtue of solid engineering and good reliability - and then to quickly refine and develop the package, and deliver further performance in due course. Nonetheless, I do think the potential is there: MP4-29 has given us what last year’s MP4-28 didn’t - namely, a reliable and predictable platform upon which we can build and develop. In every respect, this year’s car feels different to last year’s, and that makes me excited - which is exactly as things should be as you head off for the first race of the year.”

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren

2013 Qualifying - n/a 2013 Race - n/a

“Wow - it feels strange knowing that the next time I drive my car out of the garage, it will be for free practice at the Australian Grand Prix. It’s crazy to even think about racing in Melbourne - I’ve never been to Australia before, and the Grand Prix has always been something that I’ve watched very early in the morning on TV back in Europe. To not only be arriving in a new country, but also taking part in the Grand Prix is incredibly exciting. I think we head down under having had a solid winter - we know we have a lot of work left to do, but we have a good basis from which to go forward. We know where the car is strong, and where there’s more work left to do - and we’re addressing those areas. But I’ve said it all along: the car is driveable and predictable; it does what we ask it to do, which is a positive.

“Personally, it’ll be important for me to finish these early races in order to get some good mileage under my belt. Even though I’ve had a good winter, I’m under no illusions that I’m a still a rookie, and that I’m giving something away to the guys with more experience. However, the new regulations have made it more of an even playing field, so a couple of good practice sessions and some race distances will help enormously in getting me fully race-ready. There’s no substitute for being in the car - and there’s so much for me to still learn about driving a Formula One as close to the limit as possible while still focusing on tyre management, fuel-saving and the controls and switches we operate from the cockpit. But I’m really looking forward to being in a race - that’s why I’m here, and I can’t wait to get started!”

Eric Boullier, McLaren racing director

“The Australian Grand Prix will be a new start - both for Formula One and for me personally - I will feel proud arriving in the Melbourne paddock wearing McLaren team kit. McLaren is a team I’ve always hugely respected - ever since I watched Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost battling in those iconic red and white cars while I was still studying at home in France. To be part of the team means so much to me - but I know that we will not be judged on our past, incredible though it is, but on what we can achieve in the present.

“Our winter test preparations have been largely trouble-free: our aim with MP4-29 was to deliver a solid and reliable platform, which we can develop throughout the season. In terms of full performance, we’re not there yet, but there’s more to come: not least because there’s a hunger and belief that’s evident throughout the entire McLaren organisation. In fact, it’s been fascinating to observe and learn how this team operates: I can see so much potential here: the facilities are second-to-none, and the people are hugely motivated. We’re all restless to make progress.

“I think the relationship between Jenson and Kevin is very strong, too: they’ve developed a shared trust, and their feedback has closely tallied, so our engineers have really benefited from their common feedback. Each has their own set of challenges going into this first race weekend, but I believe both will cope admirably, and the whole team will be there to help and support them. They won’t go to Australia with the fastest car, but, as this team has always done, we will build, service and engineer it to the best of our considerable abilities - and then we will race it hard. Something this team has always done brilliantly.

“This weekend looks set to be exciting, unpredictable and nerve-wracking - all in equal measure! Whether we have a race of endless incident, a procession, or a spate of mechanical retirements, I think we all go into this new era with the ambition and commitment to make it a great success.”


Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

“This is the most radical rules shake-up of the modern Formula One era, so we’ve had to create a completely different set of tyres for the brand new dynamics presented by the 2014 cars. Pre-season testing has shown just what a big challenge these new rules are for everybody, but we have worked very hard throughout last year and the winter to come up with an entirely fresh range of tyres specifically designed for these latest-generation cars, featuring new compounds and constructions that actually cut down on degradation while maintaining the same level of performance. As a result, we’re still expecting between two to three pit stops per car in Melbourne, although we’ll be able to make some more exact predictions after we see the cars run in free practice. The first race of the season is always unpredictable but this will be the case more than ever in 2014.”

Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso

2013 Qualifying - 13th, 2013 Race - 12th

“I really like this track as it has a great layout and its location in a park makes it a great place to be. From a driving perspective, it is like a street circuit but with every type of corner, including some high speed turns. I have always felt quite comfortable at this circuit but have not gone so well there in the past, so I’m hoping that it will be different this year, although who knows what we can expect as the championship starts. But I like coming to Australia and this is definitely one of my top three races of the year. Australia in a few words? Faraway, hot, and a bit mysterious.”

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

“I have never driven the Albert Park circuit, but I’ve watched lots of the races there and seen the on-board footage, so I have a reasonable idea what to expect. The track is unusual and looks tricky. It will be my first time in Australia and I’m looking forward to that, especially as Daniel (Ricciardo) and his trainer Stuart are both from there and keep going on about how great it is. I hope to find time to visit the city. I’ll have to get a fridge magnet to add to my collection! As to how the race might go, it’s much too early to say, after just six days in the car in winter testing. This year, no one has any idea what to expect as you can tell from what happened in Jerez and Bahrain. It should be very interesting and I can’t wait to be on the grid for my first Grand Prix.”

Romain Grosjean, Lotus

2013 Qualifying - 8th, 2013 Race - 10th

“Albert Park is still one of my favourite Grand Prix circuits, so it will be good to get there and get the season started and there’s always a great atmosphere. It’s a fantastic track and the changing scenery as you drive through the park is incredible. Of course it’s a great country and I always enjoy visiting Australia. We know it can be a tricky circuit and the weather can make things pretty difficult too – two years ago we had lots of rain and even had to finish qualifying on Sunday morning! Hopefully the weather will be good this year – it’s been looking pretty hot recently. I guess you can say that everyone will be in the same position of not knowing what to expect, and with all the car changes I imagine there will be a few surprises! For us the weekend will be maximising the time on track, aiming to finish the race and getting the best result possible.”

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus

2013 Qualifying - 17th, 2013 Race - DNF

“(Australia is) a great country and Melbourne is a wonderful city. It’s just great. I always love races that are close to the city because you have more people coming and it really feels like you are involved and part of their life for the short time you are there. There are all the benefits of the city to appreciate and the fans really get behind the event. It’s maybe one of the best races of the year. To be honest I love the track. The main challenges are that the track surface changes a lot over the weekend, especially from free practice to qualifying. The drivers and engineers need to try to predict how the track is going to evolve, especially for qualifying as this is crucial for the final position on Sunday.”

Nick Chester, Lotus technical director

“To be blunt, we are starting further back than we would like to be. I think that the first two races of this season will be very challenging for us, however it also depends on the solutions that Renault Sport F1 will be able to bring to the table too. Overall, and for all teams, we will see much more reliance on the power units than we have seen in the past. Despite this initial challenge, I think that over time those gaps will get smaller and the chassis differences will start to come through, and I believe that the E22 will be a very strong proposition. The start of the season will certainly be interesting for everyone! Our target (for Australia) is to finish the race. As we have done so little mileage it is difficult to estimate where we will be at in terms of performance.”

More to follow.