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Australia preview quotes - Toro Rosso, McLaren, Mercedes and more

11 Mar 2015

Testing is complete and the wait is almost over. Next weekend the new Formula One season finally kicks off in Melbourne with the 2015 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix. Those involved look ahead to the eagerly-anticipated Albert Park event…
Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo
“I love going home and the fresh air really gives me that home feeling. I spend so much time now away from Australia that anywhere in Oz feels like home really. It’s the cars, the accent, the food and the weather. The whole [Melbourne] vibe and atmosphere is just amazing. It’s busy and there is always something going on. The track is fun. I’ve always liked street circuits. I think it’s a great and fast flowing circuit.

“Testing has been relatively good for us. We had a few reliability issues but we racked up a lot of miles and learned a lot. I still feel that we have a bit more to go. But there is no better place to do this than going racing. I’m ready to go.”

Daniil Kvyat
“There is always something special about the race in Australia. It’s my second race in Melbourne and I took a lot of great memories from the race last year. It’s a beautiful place. Good weather, good food and great atmosphere. It’s an interesting flowing track. It’s challenging and there is always something special about it.

“[Last year] was my first Formula One race and it all felt like a dream, because I didn’t know what to expect. It’s a memory that will never go away. I finished my first race in the points and became youngest-ever scorer, so it was very special for me.

“We did our best in the testing. I wouldn’t say it was the smoothest, but it was productive. Compared to last year we were definitely on another level. I’m sure that there will be very tight competition in Australia. We’ll do our best.”

Lotus

Romain Grosjean
“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, although as someone who loves their sleep, I still haven’t found the perfect strategy to counter jet-lag!

”We know it can be a tricky circuit; it’s not a permanent track so the surface and its layout gives us plenty to think about. We’re still quite early in our understanding of the E23 and how it works so we’ll be kept busy finding the correct set-up and getting everything working as we want it to. The weather can make things pretty difficult too - three years ago we had lots of rain and even had to finish qualifying on Sunday morning! Hopefully the weather will be good this year!

“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
“I’m very excited and I can’t wait to start racing again. We have a new car, it’s a new season, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been before, so we’re all eager to get back to action.

”I’m happy with what we’ve learnt this winter, and it’s a completely different situation from last year. We’re much stronger and better prepared for 2015. We’ve done more than 4,500km in testing so it’s interesting what we’ve learnt and we’ll be able to put everything into practice in Australia and with the development of the car.

”My feeling is this car is much better that last year’s car and not just in one area but with every aspect of the car. Obviously, it’s been good to work with the Mercedes power unit, but that’s just one part as the whole package is very promising and it looks to have good potential for the rest of the year.”

Federico Gastaldi, Lotus deputy team principal 
“We’re eager and excited. The Australian Grand Prix represents the start of a new era for us as we embark on a new journey with Mercedes as a partner. We’ve seen positive things through pre-season testing so we can’t wait to be tested in the heat of competition. We have a dedicated team at Enstone who have been working very hard to put the challenges of last year behind us and they’ve created an exciting new car in the E23 Hybrid. We have two race drivers who are very motivated to perform and a great set-up and infrastructure which has enjoyed considerable success in the past. We’re ready to be fighting for points at every turn. 

“Albert Park can be a difficult mistress as it’s a non-permanent race track and the Melbourne weather can always play tricks on you, but we want to run reliably and show strong pace across the weekend. If I see that and we open our points account I’ll consider that a good start to a new era for Enstone.”

Nick Chester, Lotus technical director
“We’re cautiously optimistic (heading to Albert Park). We have what looks to be a solid car, we’ve got the same power unit as the reigning champions - so we know its potential - and we’ve got every opportunity to start the season well.

“We know that the power unit is a big step forward. It has strong performance and response and it’s extremely reliable; we’ve only used one unit throughout testing. The chassis is also a step forward as the drivers can get a lot more from it and it’s easier to drive on the limit as well as being more predictable. We have a great platform from which to develop.

“There will be a few small changes [on the car since testing], but nothing drastic. There were new parts coming through testing and we know our preferred options for aero components after working on all the data generated. We expect to bring further new parts from Malaysia onwards.”

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg
"The first race of the season is always a special occasion: a race you really look forward to for a long time. You have a new car to push to the limit in race conditions for the first time, you are often working with new people in the team and it's the first occasion to spend a race weekend with them: there is always a lot to keep you excited in addition to the regular weekend activities. As a driver, the first race is very interesting - we are as curious as anybody to see where everyone really is compared to the others.

"I haven't been very lucky in Melbourne in the past, but I have very good memories from last year's race. We finished sixth in our first race with the VJM07 - and considering that I had never managed to finish more than one lap in Australia until then, that was a quite welcome development! It was a very good race and I hope we can have another one this year."

Sergio Perez
"The Australian Grand Prix is one of my favourite races because it's one of those events in which everything comes together: the excitement of a new season, a great track and a fantastic city. 

"Albert Park is a special circuit and it's great to get back to action on such a challenging track. Even though it is classified as a street circuit, it doesn't really feel like one - there are only a few corners in which you get close to the walls. Driving on it, it feels like a permanent track, although if you make a mistake you realise pretty quickly how close the walls really are!

"There are many difficult corners and it is not easy to get a perfect lap here: turn one, in particular, is very technical and difficult also because you can't really see the apex. It is a great feeling to get that corner right. In terms of set-up, you are mostly looking for front end grip and it is not easy to find the right balance for the car.

"Melbourne is the place where I had my first Formula One race. That's a great memory that will stay with me forever. It's my best memory from Melbourne so far, but I hope to refresh it with some new memories soon!"

Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal
"It's great to get back to the racing. Melbourne in March is the perfect place to begin the season and one of my favourite cities. It's also where the Force India story began eight years ago when we lined up on the starting grid of Albert Park for the very first time. Eight years and 131 races later, I feel very proud of the journey we've taken to establish our position in Formula One.

"We started our 2015 season in Mexico City six weeks ago when we launched our stunning new livery. I always thought the new colours would appeal to fans and I was very happy to see the VJM08 topping some polls on social media as the best looking car. The fans have spoken and they clearly have good taste!

"It's no secret that we have faced some delays and challenges over the winter, but we've put that behind us and can now focus on the racing. When the VJM08 appeared in Barcelona it ran reliably from the very first moment and didn't miss a beat during its 365 laps. To deliver such a solid performance out of the box was a fantastic achievement from everyone in the team and will stand us in good stead for the first race.

"As for our hopes in Melbourne, it's difficult to make a prediction. In terms of mileage we are clearly behind the other teams so there is some ground to make up. Equally, the performance work we could do in Barcelona was quite limited. Until we run in qualifying trim and race conditions it's hard to know where we are in terms of competitiveness. What I do know is that we will give it our best shot to come away with a result."

Williams

Valtteri Bottas
"A new season and the first time we see where everyone is competitively. The weekend will be interesting but also important as we have to be able to have a strong start and make sure we gain the most from the weekend, especially as other teams improve. You never know how other teams will progress throughout the season, so points here are key. I like Melbourne, the first race is really when the gloves come off so qualifying will be an exciting session."

Felipe Massa
"Being the first race, Australia is important and normally holds a few surprises. All of the hard work over the winter gets its first rewards here, but it can also show a sign of how much work is still to be done. It's important to start well and give yourself potentially a head start over your competitors. Australia is a tough track though and the rear stability is important. I also hope that I personally have a better start to the season than last year!"

Rob Smedley, Williams head of vehicle performance
"On the back of what has been a really good winter test where we met all of our objectives we are heading to Melbourne in a really positive frame of mind. Melbourne is always a really interesting race as there are so many unknowns. There are always a few surprises as the competitive pecking order is established. As it's a street circuit the grip will develop and improve throughout the weekend. The car starts off with a lot of understeer on the dirty circuit and later in the weekend the rear tyres can become the limitation. In the cooler conditions the front tyre graining can be an issue too so we need to have done our homework on both scenarios for the race. We have been testing at circuits that don't play fully to the strengths of the FW37 so we are looking forward to the first few races which should suit the FW37s characteristics more."

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director
“Our fifth season of Formula One gets underway in Australia: one of the most exciting races of the year as it’s the start of a new season held at a venue that is always extremely challenging, popular and unpredictable. Just like last year, we’ve nominated the medium and soft compounds, which cover the very wide range of usage conditions that are possible in Melbourne. The new rear structure increases traction and helps drivers get onto the power earlier: one of the factors that has led to faster lap times this year. As always at the start of the season, there are big question marks about the pecking order and relative performance of the cars. All we know for sure is that performance will inevitably increase still further during the course of the year, which will naturally have an effect on the interaction between the cars and the tyres. The behaviour of the tyres was in line with our expectations during pre-season testing, but of course you cannot really compare testing to real racing, with drivers pushing to the limit. That’s why this weekend in Melbourne is so eagerly anticipated by everyone.”

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton 
“At this point in the year you don't really know what to feel as a driver. You're impatient to get back to racing but, at the same time, you never know what a new season will bring. Testing gives you a basic idea of whether the car feels good or not but, beyond that, it's anyone's game to win. The team have been working incredibly hard through the winter and it was great to see everyone in the factory before I left for Melbourne. I'm so thankful for everything they do and I want to show that in the best way I can out on track. We had a great season last year as a team and, of course, we'd all love to repeat that. But the others won't stop chasing us. I'm sure the competition will be close and we should get exciting racing with plenty of battling for position - which is great because that's what I love doing and that's what the fans love watching. There are many good drivers out there and all of them want to win. You just have to want it more than they do. I feel fresh, I feel fit, I feel relaxed, I feel positive... I feel ready. I think as a driver you get stronger with every season, so I plan to be better than last year.” 

Nico Rosberg 
“2014 was a really incredible season for the team and I know everyone is pushing harder than ever to do it all again. Seeing everyone at the factory is a big motivation for me. This will be my sixth year with the team and we're getting stronger with every season. It's great to have a group of people working alongside you who are as passionate and driven as you are. It's up to us drivers to repay them for all their efforts and I'm determined to do them proud. We had a good winter but it's never straightforward. You always have challenges to overcome and there's nothing for certain, so we have to keep pushing. Personally, I have focussed on pushing myself even harder for the rematch with Lewis. In the end, it comes down to who can put the best season together overall and I have to make sure it's the other way around this time. Having said that, my team mate is just one of many strong competitors who I have to beat if I want to be World Champion, so I'm just focused on being the absolute best I can be. I now know the feeling of winning races and I intend to do a lot more of that - but I also know the feeling of not winning in the end and I don't intend to repeat that experience. It's a huge motivation for me and gives me even more determination for 2015.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“First of all, a thank you to everybody for the hard work through what proved to be, on the Power Unit side and on the chassis side, a hard winter - probably harder than anticipated. Last year, when there was a big change in the regulations, everybody knew what a huge challenge it would be to do a good job. But while the regulations didn't change a lot for this season, still the workload and the effort required over the winter was huge in terms of finding gains and improving the car overall. A lot of work has been done by the teams at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart to get us out of the blocks well and we had a solid start in testing. But, fundamentally, making predictions at this stage is like trying to read a crystal ball, which is not what we want to do. The bullet is out of the gun and eventually we are going to find out where we stand in Melbourne and in the races afterwards. But as of right now we haven't been racing and this is the only true test.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
“It felt like a very short winter! February in particular has been intense, with 12 days of track testing condensed into four weeks. However, we're all very much looking forward to getting to the first race and getting back to competing. The team is in good shape after the winter programme. So far the car looks to be a step forward in terms of speed and reliability compared to where we were this time last year, so we're hoping for a good result in Melbourne. Externally there is sure to be a certain level of expectation after testing - but racing is a very different matter. It's an unforgiving business. There is a huge amount of work to do and plenty to make sure you get right if you are to come away from a Grand Prix weekend with a strong result. We're not taking anything for granted. All of the preparations concerning the specification of the car, fixes to problems encountered over the winter, dusting off the rulebook to re-familiarise ourselves with the procedures we have to follow - these must all be spot on to ensure a successful start to the racing year. The drivers are certainly in good shape. Both are very enthusiastic and eager to let battle commence. Then there's Melbourne itself, which is an event the whole paddock enjoys. The atmosphere around the city is fantastic, with huge numbers of fans from Australia and all parts of the world. So we're looking forward to an exciting and, hopefully, successful weekend. This is the point at which the race crew departs to go out there and do the best job possible on behalf of the vast majority of the team left behind at the factories. A phenomenal effort has gone into designing this car - beginning as long as 12 months ago. So we hope to reward the hard work of everyone involved at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart and showcase their innovation and craftsmanship in the most fitting way by delivering on track."

McLaren

Jenson Button
“I’m so excited to be back in Melbourne. After the ups and downs of 2014, I feel that the challenge of 2015 is a completely new chapter in my career and I’m totally up for it. I also love Melbourne – it’s a fantastic city with great people and the atmosphere is always buzzing – Albert Park is the perfect place for the season-opener.

“While we know the city and the circuit well, what is more of an unknown is how we will fare in the MP4-30. McLaren-Honda has been working incredibly hard over the winter, and although we would of course have liked to cover more miles in Jerez and Barcelona, I can definitely see a difference in the car from the first day to the last. The team’s commitment to development and improvement, both in Woking and in Japan, is astonishing, and despite some tricky days in testing, we are seeing definitive progress. The car is a solid base which gives me optimism that we will get there, we just need patience.

“Melbourne is always a fascinating spectacle: nobody quite knows where they’ll be in comparison to their rivals, and even though the other teams are now in the second year of the turbo era, all of the development from last year has been done very much behind the scenes, so I don’t think anyone has quite shown their full hand yet. The race at Albert Park will be a huge learning curve for us, but I’ll be working flat-out with my engineers to get the car set up as best we can, and together, we’ll fight right until the last moment to get the most out of the weekend.

“Fernando not being able to race is a real shame and I hope he makes a speedy recovery so that he can get behind the wheel again very soon. It’s great to see Kevin back in the car though and I’ll know he’ll do a great job in Fernando’s absence, so I wish him well this weekend.”

Kevin Magnussen
"I’m really pleased to be behind the wheel with McLaren-Honda at Melbourne again. Of course, the reason I am here is an unusual one, but my job is to do the best job I can for the team while Fernando is out of the cockpit, and that's what I'll do.

“To be back in Melbourne is a fantastic feeling, especially as those memories of my podium here last year are incredibly special and something I’ll never forget. I loved racing on this circuit last year and I’m really looking forward to getting back out on track in Friday practice to continue the development of our car here. Although we had some challenges in Barcelona, overall the MP4-30 felt very positive and certainly different from last year’s car, in a good way. 

“Of course, we aren’t expecting to win here, but my focus is on setting up the car for race conditions and pushing our progress forward. I’ll be working hard with my engineers to give them as much valuable feedback as possible so that they can keep developing the car and improving our performance and reliability. 

“Although I didn’t expect to be sitting in the cockpit in Australia, I’ve spent the winter preparing as I would normally for a race season, so I feel fit and ready for the task ahead of me and to do the best I can for the team. It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to get more mileage under my belt in the MP4-30, and this will in turn benefit the team over the coming months as I work with the team back in Woking. The racing is sure to be unpredictable here at the start of the new season, and it’ll be really interesting to find out where we compare to the rest of the grid, but I’m definitely up for the challenge.”

Fernando Alonso
“Of course, I’m very disappointed not to be joining Jenson in Melbourne in the McLaren-Honda garage, but I understand the recommendations of the doctors and I’m already back in training and preparing for my first race in the MP4-30. I would like to thank everybody for their kind wishes and support and I’ll be giving everything to be back in the cockpit for Malaysia. I wish Kevin all the best for this weekend in Australia, and I know the car is in his safe hands!

“Even though we faced a lot of challenges in the tests, I am very encouraged by the feeling I got from the car, and I’m looking forward to going through all of the data from this weekend with the team to continue our push for development and improve our performance.” 

Eric Boullier, Racing director
“The Australian Grand Prix marks the culmination of a huge amount of hard work and dedication from 

everyone within McLaren-Honda. It’s been a relatively short winter for us and there have proven to be testing times, but I am confident that we are moving forwards, and the race in Melbourne is just the beginning of a huge development in performance throughout the season.

“It is obviously disappointing that we weren’t able to do as many kilometres in testing as we had hoped, but we are undeterred and working relentlessly to improve the reliability of the MP4-30, and ultimately, make progress in terms of our raw pace. Despite our difficulties, our package shows a lot of promise; we completed a lot of valuable system checks and set-up work during testing, and the data from Jenson’s 101 laps on the second day of the final test in Barcelona is very encouraging. 

“Of course, how this will translate to the Albert Park circuit, and especially relative to our competitors, is a difficult question, but there is complete focus, commitment and dedication from everyone in the team and we are very excited to debut the McLaren-Honda MP4-30 on track. I am confident in the progress we have made so far to get to this point, but we know there is a long road ahead in terms of our development and every kilometre will count.

“It’s a great feeling to be back in Melbourne; it’s a wonderful city and there is always a huge amount of excitement around at the start of the new season, for both the fans and the teams. Even more so this year, since this is the beginning of my second year at McLaren and the start of a new era with McLaren-Honda. We are ready for the challenge ahead of us, and cannot wait for the car to roll out of the garage this weekend for the first time at a Grand Prix; it will be a very poignant moment for the whole team.”

Yasuhisa Arai, Honda chief officer of motorsport
"I am truly excited to see how our season and the new era will begin. 

“The winter testing felt very short, and we did not have enough time to test how our newly developed power unit will fit the track. However, every day we gained essential feedback from the power unit, and it has been evolving ever since Jerez to Barcelona, and now to Melbourne.

“We look forward to testing ourselves on track, and seeing what we can achieve."

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz
“I have never been to Australia, so I am really looking forward to my first visit to the country and the city of Melbourne, because everyone has told me a lot of good things about it. I have never seen the track before, which is partly a street circuit, so, as a newcomer, I think it is likely to be tough. It will also be the biggest time change I have ever experienced, so I will be heading out there nice and early to deal with any potential jet lag. Overall, I am really excited about these new experiences, particularly the fact it will be my first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix.”

Max Verstappen
“I have been to Australia before, but never to Melbourne. I only visited Sydney when I was very young and from what I remember it’s a nice place to go. I remember seeing my father race of course and now I have driven the Albert Park track quite a few times on the simulator. I think it’s a nice track and naturally, I’m looking forward to taking part in my first race in F1. At the moment, I’m not too sure how I will feel, but when the lights go on I will definitely be very excited and when they go off, then it will be just like every other race I have driven before.”