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Bahrain preview quotes - Marussia, Mercedes, Force India & more

16 Apr 2015

Round four of the 2015 FIA Formula One World Championship sees the teams head swiftly west to the floodlights of the Bahrain International Circuit. Those involved give their thoughts on the weekend ahead...

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo

“It was the location of possibly my best qualifying lap ever, so I’ve got a few nice memories of Sakhir. Over one lap there’s nothing that really has the ‘wow’ factor, but for racing it’s a little better. Last year the race was one of the best. You can pass, and moving to an evening race spices things up a little. It kept you guessing with the tyres. Yeah, it’s a good track to race on. There’s some tricky corners. Turn 10 is a funny turning-turning-braking-braking that’s very technical, and when you get it right it feels good - but there’s nothing that feels sick [amazing].

“There’s a really good go-kart track next to the circuit. Last year after testing you could go down there and hang out with the guys working at the track and do a few laps - obviously in your race overalls and helmet trying to look as cool as possible. Pretty good.”

Daniil Kvyat

“[Racing at night] makes a difference. The temperature is a lot easier on you as a driver, the tarmac is not so hot. The lighting is very good, there’s no real issue with driving under lights. The track itself is what I would call a kind of ‘classic’ configuration. It’s got some flowing sections, some interesting corners. I enjoy it. It’s a good racing track. The facilities are great and it’s a good paddock.

“I had quite an unlucky race there last year but that doesn’t make it a bad track for me. I think if you’re fast and you’re winning then any track is a good one! If you hit the right lines, if you hit on the right set-up and the right approach to the weekend, you’re going to enjoy yourself.”

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson

"I am looking forward to the first night race of the season. It is always spectacular and good fun. Bahrain is a track I know very well from previous racing series, and I have been there quite often. The track has some long straights, slow-speed corners with hard braking zones, as well as high-speed corners with fast changes of direction. Overall the circuit is technical and drivingwise not an easy one. Another aspect which comes into play is the sand blowing onto the track. We need to keep an eye on that, as the circuit is usually quite dusty for the first sessions and then picks up more grip during the weekend. Especially with the strong package and after the good result in China, we need to build on that and continue to fight for points. I feel confident we will also be able to be competitive there. I am looking forward to another good race weekend."

Felipe Nasr 

"For the Bahrain Grand Prix we expect much warmer weather conditions than in China. It is a track which I am familiar with, as I have raced there often. It can be positive for us that the circuit has a few straights due to our high top speed. In Bahrain there are three facts which are important for a good lap time: Braking stability, traction, as well as a good balance for the car in the high-speed coners in sector two. I also expect we need to work on good tyre management, because that can be very tricky in those warm conditions. Although it is a race that starts in the evening, the surface stays quite warm. It is not my first night race, as I did one in Abu Dhabi during my GP2 Series season. I am looking forward to it, and I hope we can keep the momentum from China."

Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering

"With minimal room to debrief after the Chinese Grand Prix, the race team is on its way to Bahrain for the first night race of the season. The circuit is fairly different in terms of layout and the ambient temperatures will be appreciably warmer compared to the last race in Shanghai. Aerodynamic efficiency, strong braking and power output will play a major role, and  the Sauber F1 Team is aiming to further progress with upgrades on the Sauber C34-Ferrari, especially on the aerodynamic side. The same medium and soft compounds that were supplied for Melbourne and Shanghai will be available here. However, the more abrasive tarmac of the Bahrain circuit could open up some interesting strategy scenarios, which could add some extra excitement."

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

"We have the same tyre choice as we did in China for Bahrain, although there will obviously be a bit more temperature involved. However, with the race taking place in the evening, conditions won't be as aggressive as they were in Malaysia – or even Bahrain two years ago, when the race was still run during the day. A defining characteristic of Bahrain now is that tyre performance changes over the course of the weekend as we slowly edge towards afternoon sessions. Last year's Bahrain Grand Prix had a thrilling finish because of the safety car with 10 laps to go, leading to a great battle between the two Mercedes team mates. It's harder to know what to expect this year – apart from the fact that it's very unlikely to rain!"

Williams

Felipe Massa

"Bahrain is the first night race of the season and is a spectacular place to watch a race. I always have fond memories of tracks where I have won before and I have managed to step onto the top step of the podium twice in Bahrain. I hope our car can show its true pace and utilise its straight line speed on the long straights. The track and facilities are always excellent in Bahrain, which is an added bonus when going to any race."

Valtteri Bottas

"Last year was a good race in Bahrain. The circuit offers the opportunity to overtake but it doesn’t make it easy so the drivers fight for every position. The track surface is quite rough which has a huge effect on the tyres, so looking after them becomes a priority. This can lead to quicker cars being bunched up and we have to take every chance that is on offer to overtake. I really like the Middle East; the facilities are always fantastic so I am looking forward to heading back there."

Rob Smedley, head of vehicle performance

"After a milder weekend in China, we are back to a hot weekend in Bahrain. The circuit is fantastic with very high traction demand making it tough for the engineers to ensure the car is good in qualifying, but looks after its rear tyres in race conditions. The importance of controlling the temperatures in the rears is paramount. At the start of the weekend the track is quite dirty leading to increased tyre wear but this settles down and improves throughout the race. The fans come from all over the Middle East and really enjoy their motorsport, so we are looking forward to this years’ Bahrain Grand Prix."

Lotus

Romain Grosjean

“It’s a good track and I’m happy to go back there. I’m especially looking forward to being able to race in Bahrain at night with a fast and reliable car. It’s a really fun circuit and one I enjoy racing at. Two of the three times I’ve raced at the Bahrain International Circuit in Formula One I’ve been on the podium. It’s a good record and of course I’ll be pushing as hard as possible for the best result to get more points for myself and the team in 2015.

“On paper it is not the most amazing circuit, but when you drive it’s pretty cool. I like the long straights followed by the hairpins and then the twisty middle section with a lot of G-force which makes it exciting. It gives the driver plenty to do behind the wheel and it gives you quite a lot to do in the debrief as well. It’s always rewarding when you balance all the different demands on the car to get the lap as fast as possible.

“[Racing at night] means a later start, and the later schedule means a larger window for sleep which is always welcome! In terms of at the track, the daytime hot temperatures with a lot of sun made tyre degradation quite high. Temperatures are clearly lower at night which has an influence on tyre grip and degradation. Last time it was certainly an exciting event visually and I think people enjoyed it as a viewing experience on television as well as at the track where there was something more of a party feeling with the crowds.”

Pastor Maldonado

“Bahrain is a good circuit. I would say it is a ‘complete’ circuit because it has a mix of high, medium and low speed turns, plus good sequences of corners. It’s challenging over a lap and makes for an enjoyable race. The weather can get pretty hot, although this won’t be as much of a challenge as we’re racing at night now. The facilities for the teams are great and it’s one of the easiest circuits to work in as the paddock feels welcoming, there’s plenty of space for us yet it doesn’t feel like you’re at a massive venue like some tracks do.

“[As a night race] we now approach Bahrain a little differently technically in terms of tyre pressures and set-up. Otherwise we will treat it much like any other race and it’s similar in feel to Singapore and Abu Dhabi. At the end of the day it’s racing no matter what the time.”

Nick Chester, Technical Director

“We had a number of aero updates in China that worked pretty well and that we kept on the car throughout the weekend. There are a few more upgrades for Bahrain, however with the tight turnaround they will be reasonably small ones but still well worth fitting on the E23.

“I believe that we can fare quite well. We’ve seen in Melbourne, Sepang and Shanghai that the car has run pretty well at all those different tracks and we have had cars in Q3 in all those races. The E23 hasn’t shown any particular vices that mean that we’ll perform less well on certain circuits. I expect that we can be in a similar position to China in Bahrain this weekend.”

Federico Gastaldi, Deputy Team Principal

“Bahrain is a venue we do like visiting. The circuit provides a good challenge and it’s a track where we’ve performed well in the past. The paddock has a very social atmosphere and we always receive a very warm welcome from everyone involved with the Grand Prix. The weather is always very warm and since last year we’ve had the added pleasure of an evening race. We’re certainly very happy to visit.”

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz

“This track usually produces a good race and last year I remember it was one of the highlights of the season. Racing at night in a Formula One car will be an interesting challenge, something different, although I have competed in a GP3 night race in Abu Dhabi. The Sakhir track has got long straights that create quite a lot of overtaking opportunities. Then there’s a tight middle sector that also has some high speed corners, followed by a very challenging braking point at Turn 10 I think, where it’s very easy to lock up the front tyres. I’ve never been to Bahrain, so I don’t know what to expect from the country itself.”

Max Verstappen

“I have been to Bahrain and I’ve actually raced on the go-kart track next to the Formula One circuit. But my only ‘real’ experience of where we will be racing this weekend consists of one lap on a bicycle! The race is run partly at night which I’m sure will be an interesting experience for me, but in fact it’s not exactly something new as I have raced go-karts at night before. What I like about night races is that the track gets cooler, which means it’s faster, and this is always good!”

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg

“Bahrain is always an enjoyable weekend: I really like the paddock and the atmosphere around the venue is great. There's always a fairy-tale feel in the paddock and the facilities are fantastic, especially at night when all the lights turn on. It is also the place where I drove my first Formula One race, back in 2010, so I have some very good memories about this race - not least last year's race, which was very enjoyable to drive.

"The track is quite tricky to master, especially as the sand blowing on the track can make it really dusty, so grip doesn't always improve throughout the weekend. There are a few very nice corners, especially the double left-hander before the back straight: it's difficult to get it right and it is very easy to lock the inside front wheel. It's a very technical track with a few good overtaking opportunities, and at the same time it's a challenge from a mechanical point-of-view as well, taking a lot from your rear tyres and from your brakes.

"After a disappointing weekend in China, we want to be in a condition to make the most of any opportunities we may get in the race. We know where we stand in terms of performance and we know the work we have to do to get closer to the teams in front of us. In the last few years there have been some very eventful races in Bahrain, so hopefully we will be able to challenge for the points and come away with some rewards to close this first part of the season.”

Sergio Perez

“Returning to Bahrain brings back a lot of good memories. Last year's race had all you can ask from it: a lot of action, a great performance and of course finishing on the podium. It's a good track for me; I won there in GP2 and generally always had good races so I feel positive about going there.

"The track itself is a stop-and-go circuit with long straights, sharp braking zones followed by rapid acceleration: rear tyre degradation is quite high and I expect it to be one of the themes of this race. Grip is always a challenge with all the dust blowing on the track, and the surface evolves a lot during the weekend and the race itself. There are two DRS zones and a few good overtaking opportunities, especially in the first sector: this should make for some good racing.

"The last race in China was interesting for us, as we were able to be much more involved in battles against the other teams. As we keep learning about our car and its set-up, we are closing the gap to our rivals, which is really encouraging. There is still a long way to go but everyone is working hard for it and hopefully we will soon be able to mount a more consistent challenge for regular points."

Vijay Mallya, team principal

“As we get to the end of this first part of the season, it’s a good moment to reflect on the start of our campaign and the next steps ahead. I think it is fair to say that we are not yet where we want to be, but we are conscious of the effort everyone in the team is making to push us up the order. Work continues as we keep introducing upgrades ahead of a significant package coming during the European season.

"The memories of last year's Bahrain Grand Prix are still fresh in our minds: it was a great emotion to see our team on the podium. Both Sergio and Nico raced admirably there and hopefully this will spur them on to perform some magic once more. Traditionally, Bahrain is a circuit that suits our car, although year-to-year comparisons are not the most reliable way to predict form in Formula One.

"As we approach this last flyaway race in this first part of the season, we expect to continue closing the gap with the teams ahead of us. In terms of both single lap and race pace, we have been getting more performance into our car and we hope this trend will continue this week.”

McLaren

Fernando Alonso

“For me, China was a significant step forward for us and particularly for me as it’s the longest race distance I have done so far! Every lap we complete provides us with extremely valuable data, so to finish the race was a great improvement and proves the gains we have made in the reliability of our package. I had a lot of fun out there and our performance in the final stint was very positive.

“Now, we go to Bahrain, and our aim is to keep building on this momentum with reliability, and of course to keep pushing for gains in performance, as we have been doing every weekend. In Australia, Malaysia and China we have seen big improvements each weekend, and although these two races are back-to-back, we will arrive in Bahrain and begin working on set-up straight away to maximise our potential at this circuit.

“This will be a challenging track for our car, for sure, but our first aim is to finish the race and take away as much data as possible to prepare ourselves for Barcelona onwards. We are certainly seeing progress all the time and the car feels great to drive, so we have a good base to keep developing. I’m looking forward to seeing what this race brings and getting the most from the weekend in every session.”

Jenson Button

“China was a tricky race for us although we did see a lot of positives. There’s been a definite step forward at each race so far, although sadly this didn’t translate into the gains on track that we’d hoped for during the race, so we’re busy working out the reasons for that and will channel that into set up preparation for this weekend.

“The incident with Maldonado towards the end of the race in China was unfortunate and a simple misjudgement on my part as we braked into the corner. Nevertheless, until that point our battle was a lot of fun and it was very encouraging that we were able to take the fight to the Lotus in the corners, even though on the straights it was much more challenging.

“Bahrain is always a really great event for the fans and it’s a fun track to race on – I won there in 2009 and I enjoy driving there. Although our car isn’t suited so well to this track layout, we’ll still be pushing to continue our development as we look forward to the start of the European season and hopefully more gains in performance.”

Eric Boullier, racing director

“China actually showed some positives for us on many fronts, not least because we successfully got both cars to the end of the race for the first time this season. This has provided us with invaluable data and insight which we will carry through into the rest of the season and use to facilitate further performance improvements. Everyone at McLaren-Honda, in both companies, has been working tirelessly, and this was a significant achievement that we should all feel immensely proud of.

“Our focus now is maintaining our reliability and steadily progressing in terms of outright performance. Bahrain is a spectacular facility and a circuit that we love going to; it’s a special event for the team. As the race takes place under floodlights it’s fantastic for the fans and there’s always a very unique atmosphere. The circuit itself is very interesting and produces great racing on its fast corners, so we will be looking to race as hard as we can with our nearest competitors this weekend.

“It won’t be an easy track for our car given its high-speed nature, and since it takes place just one week after China, it proves tricky to bring any major developments to the car. Nevertheless, we have seen definite progress over each race weekend so far, and we expect it to be no different in Bahrain. The whole team is pushing very hard to build on our car’s performance and although this weekend will be challenging – finding the optimum set-up and balance in the car is crucial – we are looking forward to further developments once we finish this cycle of flyaways. We will give it our all in Bahrain, as always, and try to enjoy everything this impressive circuit has to offer.”

Yasuhisa Arai, chief officer of motorsport, Honda R&D Co Ltd

“It was positive that both cars finished in China and it shows our improvements in reliability, so we are focusing on maintaining this in Bahrain.

"As we know, the Bahrain Grand Prix is very hard on fuel and, with its many straights, it’s a very demanding circuit for the power units. Despite our short experience on track, we will combine the data gathered in the last three races to gain better positions in the race this weekend.”

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton 

"I was really buzzing after the result in China and I have to say a big thank you to the team for the amazing job they did all weekend. As always, though, my thoughts have been completely focused on the next race from the moment we left the circuit on Sunday. It's been a great start - but for me last season showed that you can never feel too comfortable and that's even more the case this time around with Ferrari right there with us. I don't actually have the best record in Bahrain compared to other circuits. Last year was my first win here and it was definitely one I'll remember after a great fight with Nico. That's what I love about racing and it's a special feeling to come out on top in a battle like that. I'm in a good place right now. The momentum is with me, so the target is to carry that on and hopefully repeat last year's performance."

Nico Rosberg

"China was a frustrating weekend for me and I'm glad we have another race right away to get straight back to work. The team has made a great start to the season and, with this incredible car they have built, I know I just need to find a little bit more in myself to get back to the top step. I've never won in Bahrain but I've taken the last two pole positions here and also set the fastest lap at this circuit on my Formula One debut, so I know I have the pace. Of course, everyone remembers the race last year and it would be great for the fans if we can put on another great show for them this time. If we can do that but with the two top steps in a different order it would be fantastic! It won't be so easy with the competition breathing down our necks. But that makes for even more exciting racing, so I'm looking forward to a great battle and I'm determined to come out on top."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport 

"After the wake-up call in Malaysia, it was satisfying to see how the team pulled together for the race in China. We did our homework, made improvements and scored a strong one-two finish. But China also confirmed that Ferrari will be a threat in all conditions this year, not just when it's very hot, and that we will have new challenges to face as a team, with another competitor who is much closer to our level of performance. We saw tensions between Nico and Lewis in the race and we tackled them directly on Sunday night to stop anything carrying over to this weekend. When you have intense competition, it's normal that it causes emotions to run high - and that's not something we want to change. But both drivers are now very focused on delivering maximum performance in Bahrain and our package should cope well with the demands of the circuit. We maintain our philosophy of letting the drivers race - but they both know that the number one priority for the team is to win for Mercedes-Benz."

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical) 

"We were very happy with the weekend in China. It was good to have such a smooth weekend in the garage and all credit to the team in Shanghai and back at the factories for the preparation that went into this race. Looking ahead to Bahrain, last year saw arguably the best race of the season at this circuit - something we very much hope to see once again. It was the first night race in Bahrain and the two battling Silver Arrows looked spectacular under the flood lights. This is an event where our paint shop team show off their great work to best effect! Qualifying and the race both take place in darkness, where track temperature is very similar to ambient, while practice takes place in far hotter track temperatures earlier in the day - presenting a particular challenge to optimize the car. The circuit is also hard on both fuel consumption and brakes, so it will be an interesting weekend and no doubt another tough contest on track with the team from Maranello."

Will Stevens

"Although a back to back race always presents a challenge for the team due to the quick turnaround, as a driver it is always amazing to be able to get back in the car so quickly. That's particularly the case after a good race for us in China. Now we're getting into a good rhythm, I'm really hungry for more so we can keep driving the team forward. Last season's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was my first taste of night racing and it was a fantastic experience, so I'm really excited about racing under the floodlights here and to the challenging conditions this track poses for the car and driver."

Roberto Merhi

"I'm very excited to be racing in Bahrain this weekend. The track looks amazing, particularly at night, and has a pretty interesting set of challenges for the car, due to the track conditions, the heat and the wind. It's good to be able to get back in the car so soon as we seem to have a good momentum building and it is important that we take advantage of that to keep driving our development programme forward. I can't wait to get started on Friday."

John Booth, team principal

After a good race in China last weekend, we head pretty much straight into the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend with the motivation to keep ticking off our objectives one step at a time. We always enjoy a night race as it certainly adds to the spectacle and provides an extra dimension for the TV audience. As usual, the heat, the wind and the sand will be challenging factors, but possibly more so for the practice sessions than the race, due to the later schedule. This track is also one of the most technically severe due to the long straights and the temperatures. We're looking forward to building on what we have achieved over the past couple of events and to more great racing."