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China preview quotes - Marussia, McLaren, Williams & more

08 Apr 2015

After the shock of Sepang, the F1 paddock heads east to China's stunning Shanghai International Circuit for round three of the 2015 FIA Formula One World Championship. Those involved discuss their hopes...

Lotus

Romain Grosjean

"Generally [Malaysia] was a good weekend with strong performance through the qualifying session, however in the race things didn't quite work out the way we wanted. There are still a lot of good positives we take to the next races and when it all comes together it's going to be very nice. Shanghai is always quite a particular race track so it's quite difficult to predict. It's often pretty cold and the front is the limitation of the car as you look to avoid understeer. I think we have a lot of tools at our disposal to try to make our car work well and I'm sure we'll have a good race."

Pastor Maldonado

"[Malaysia] was very good for the team that we are in a position to fight for points on a different track. It was very hot and in those conditions the car didn't look bad. During the race, even with the damage we had from the floor after the contact from Valtteri Bottas in the first corner, our pace was very consistent. We had a couple of small reliability issues but the team's working very hard on this, and we expect to have these resolved by China. I'm looking forward to getting out in action in Shanghai and hoping for a clean weekend when we should be able to get some points. I think we should be in a similar position to that we've been in for the first and second race, so fighting for the top ten in qualifying and then in the race. Let's see what the track conditions are like, the weather, how the car feels and how good a set-up we can get. I'm confident we should be fighting for good places."

Federico Gastaldi, Lotus deputy team principal

"The Chinese Grand Prix is an exciting event in a country which holds tremendous potential now and for the future. Looking at the automotive manufacture, China leads the way in terms of volume by a considerable degree so it's reasonable to expect that interest will continue to grow in the world's premier racing series. Certainly as a team we are receiving increased interest from China. We have a new development driver, Adderly Fong, who has Chinese heritage and we are also involved with a number of other initiatives with Chinese companies. China is obviously a huge market to explore commercially so it's very important for the business side of Formula 1 to be there. We've seen a growing fan base in China over the years and we have a lot of younger fans there which illustrates a great future for the sport.

"At the top of the [wish] list is, of course, points. We have the pace so we just need to be there in the correct position when the chequered flag falls. Both Pastor and Romain are operating at the top of their games so it's just a question of having a race without any issues or contact from other cars. We've had a couple of reliability issues which we're addressing so we expect to be out there and scoring very soon."

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson

"The track in Shanghai is a circuit I know from last year, but it is not an easy one with a mixture of high-speed and low-speed corners. Before some corners hard braking is required, so braking stability for the car is important. I believe the set-up of the car will be similar to the one we had in Malaysia, as the layout of the track has some related characteristics. The weather conditions will be different, as it is not as hot as in Sepang, which will also have an influence on the tyre management. I have a good feeling traveling to China, because we have a competitive car. We are looking forward to getting to Shanghai to continue improving as well as scoring points again. I am confident it is going to be a positive weekend for us."

Felipe Nasr

"Last year during the Chinese Grand Prix I had my first FP1 session with Williams. I have never raced on this circuit, but it is good that I have already got to know it. The track has a combination of high-speed and low-speed corners, which is quite demanding for the tyres and challenging to find a good balance for the car. Besides that, the circuit has a straight which is the longest on the whole race calendar. I believe this could be positive for us as we have a strong top speed. As the track has some low-speed corners, traction can be important as well. I am looking forward to a positive race weekend and to scoring points again."

Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering

"Despite two very opposite outcomes, the first two races of the season were a boost for the motivation of everybody in the Sauber F1 Team, and we are now heading to Shanghai with a lot confidence for being competitive again. The circuit has a very long straight, where a good top speed is important, and an interesting mix of low, medium and high speed corners. In addition, it has several technical sections where unique corners, such as turns one and 13, lead straight into further corners requiring a good car balance and precise driving. We'll be back to mild ambient temperatures, thus Pirelli has allocated the medium and soft compounds for the race. We are all looking forward to this race."

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo

"The paddock is enormous! You need to be an athlete just to get around. As for the track itself, I'd call it 'technical'. Turns One, Two and Three are all very long and technical. I don't think there's any other corner like it on the calendar. And it's very, very aggressive on the front tyres. You could drink a can of Red Bull driving down it [the long straight]. I've heard quite a few drivers saying it's pretty boring. Ha! If they think it's boring in a Formula One car, they should have tried coming here in Formula BMW. I drove here as a kid, all massive afro and enthusiasm and, trust me, it was the sort of straight where I'd definitely have been reaching for a book if I'd had one. [Tyre wear] is pretty extreme – but I'd still prefer it to the scenario with a tyre that takes three laps to come in. The fact it comes in straight away is awesome. In qualifying, you drive the out-lap like your grandma, desperately trying to not kill it before the flying lap starts."

Daniil Kvyat

"The start of the lap is always really tough and it's very easy to get wrong. The lap starts with a big test but the big thing is to find a good rhythm through it. That's the case everywhere there really. The long straight is good and the heavy braking zone at the end of that is interesting. It's a pretty good circuit, wide open, you can really push hard all the way through. I had a good race there last year and managed to get a points finish, so I'm happy to go back. We stayed close to the track last year, so it's not easy to get a good look around the centre of Shanghai. But we did get a chance to do a bit of sightseeing last year, it's an impressive city. It's a really interesting place, but absolutely huge, you drive through all these towns on the way in to the centre that are part of the city and they're huge."

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton

“Malaysia was a tough weekend. It always is with the heat – but with car problems on Friday, rain during qualifying on Saturday and a race which didn’t go to plan on Sunday, this one was particularly challenging. I think ultimately we made the best choices we could – but there is always room for improvement and we’ve been working hard to analyse everything for the next race in China. Shanghai is one of my favourite locations – simply because of the fans. I don’t know how, but from the moment we land at the airport they know we’re there. It really is amazing to see the support we get. The circuit itself is a different challenge to Albert Park and Sepang – but it’s one I really enjoy and it suits my driving style quite well. I won the race last year and have only finished outside of the podium places twice, so the target is definitely to build on that and get back to the front.”

Nico Rosberg

“The last race weekend was not great for me. I didn’t get my lap together in qualifying, then losing time in the pits made it a tough race to fight back and try to catch Lewis. We’ve definitely learned some lessons and it’s time to take that to the track in China. Shanghai is a great circuit for me. It’s where I got my first pole and my first win back in 2012 – my third season with the Silver Arrows. It’s not been a perfect start to my sixth year with the team and I’m determined to turn that around this weekend. Of course, my team-mate will have other ideas – and so will my compatriot in the red car, I’m sure. But this is a track that has always suited me well, so I’m aiming to put in a strong weekend.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“We left Malaysia with plenty to think about. It may have been a good result for the sport – but for us, it was a wake-up call. This is something you cannot afford to happen often and, although we had two cars on the podium, we have been looking very carefully at every area where we could have performed better. Our opposition has raised its game and we must now raise ours even further; as we have said since Melbourne, we expect a season-long battle for both World Championships and we must maximise every opportunity. China is the next chance to do that – a circuit which has been a good hunting ground for the team. Lewis has a great record here and for Nico, it’s where he made his first step into the winners circle. We have the weapons at our disposal – and we need to make the most of them this weekend.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

“As with every race, we’ve spent time analysing the weekend in Sepang to identify areas for improvement. The most significant weakness was our tyre management during long runs. Exceptionally high track temperatures – even by Malaysian standards – contributed to this, however it is essential to have a car which performs at all circuits and in all conditions, so there is work to be done on that front. China presents a different challenge. Temperatures can vary dramatically year-on-year, but are generally quite low. It’s also a front-limited circuit – the opposite of Sepang – with a good mix of corners and a long straight, so it will be interesting to see how the different cars perform at yet another circuit characteristic for this new season. It is now clearer than ever that there is serious competition for this World Championship, so we will continue to work flat out for performance gains. We have a range of new aerodynamic developments for Shanghai and are targeting an improved performance from Malasyia.”

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg

“Shanghai is a cool place. I always stay in the centre of the city and you can feel the buzz of the place. There is so much happening and everybody is very busy all the time.

“The track has a mix of everything – low, medium and high-speed corners, so it’s quite similar to Sepang with a big emphasis on aero performance. The quick corners are tough on the tyres and high degradation is a big factor in this race. The never-ending turn one also takes the life out of the tyres, especially the front left.

“It's a fun track to drive and a challenge to get right. I’m not going there with any big expectations, but we’ve got to believe we can fight for some points. It wasn’t possible in Malaysia, but we certainly put up a good fight and will keep working hard. I think our performance level will be similar this weekend.”

Sergio Perez

“I’m looking forward to this weekend and getting back in the car. The first two races have not been the easiest for me, but as a team we’ve been fighting hard and doing all that we can to find more performance. We have lots of areas to improve, but it’s a long season and it feels like we are moving in the right direction.

“Shanghai has never been the luckiest circuit for me. It was only last year that I scored my first points there. It’s a track that I enjoy because of the unusual characteristics. Turn one is a real challenge, especially in qualifying because you need to carry so much speed into the corner, but it’s easy to run wide and lose a lot of time.

“The long back straight is also interesting because you get a lot of drag races. It’s where horsepower and top speed are important. Sometimes you see three cars wide and lots over overtaking into the hairpin. It’s definitely the best passing opportunity of the lap.”

Vijay Mallya, Team Principal

“The first two races of the season have seen varying fortunes for Sahara Force India. After scoring points in Australia, it was more of a challenge in Malaysia where Nico and Sergio showed their fighting spirit and enjoyed plenty of TV airtime as a result. Both weekends were valuable learning opportunities for us as we work hard to improve the VJM08.

"Everyone in the team deserves credit for the strong reliability of the VJM08, but there is a long way to go on the development path. We know the areas we need to improve and I’ve been impressed with the attitude of the team. The morale is strong and we will keep fighting hard to score as many points as we can in these early races.

“The upcoming weekend in China will be an interesting one. We will try and take some steps forward, based on what we have learned in Malaysia, and we will go to Shanghai targeting points. Formula One put on a very good show in Sepang so let’s hope for more close racing this weekend.”

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, motorsport director

“The weather tends to be quite unpredictable in China, although generally we can expect to see temperatures that are significantly cooler than those we experienced in Malaysia. Last year we had reasonably stable weather conditions in China whereas in previous years it has been more up and down – so this throws in a very interesting variable. The front-left tyre is the most stressed in Shanghai, while the traction demands of the circuit also give a lot of work to the rear tyres. Although we haven’t actually yet seen a very hot Chinese Grand Prix during our time in Formula One, if you look at the weather history there is potential for this to happen as well. This would make things very difficult for the tyres – Shanghai is a big, open circuit and if you add in heat, it creates a lot of energy – but we’ve seen from Malaysia that these tyres will rise to the challenge. As Shanghai is a large circuit there’s plenty of opportunity for overtaking and big on-track battles. Strategy-wise, we’d normally expect a two-stop race.”

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz

“China is a circuit that I don’t know at all, in a country that I don’t know very well, so I am looking forward to enjoying a new experience. It’s a very special and unusual circuit according to what the team engineers tell me. Normally, with the Pirelli tyres, the rear end of the car is the most difficult to deal with, but in Shanghai it’s the front axle that requires the most careful attention as you can have some front graining. That means it could be similar to conditions we encountered during winter testing. The track looks challenging, with really long corners taken at high speed, which is something I am looking forward to. 

When I was a kid, I didn’t like Chinese food, but now I am acquiring a taste for it, so I’m looking forward to experiencing the real thing!”

Max Verstappen

“I’ve been to China a few times already, although I have never been to Shanghai or the circuit there. The track looks nice, especially the long right hander first corner, it seems pretty cool. It’s always exciting to go to a new circuit, so I’m really looking forward to the weekend and meeting some new Chinese fans.”

McLaren

Fernando Alonso

“I have lots of positive memories of racing in China - I’ve won there twice, and I really enjoy the track. Like Sepang, it’s got a real mix of corners and some interesting fast stuff around the back of the circuit. Despite those similarities, however, I don’t think our car package will be as well suited here as it was in Malaysia, especially if the weather is as cold and windy as it usually is in early springtime in Shanghai.

“Nonetheless, the steps we took between Australia and Malaysia were extremely impressive: it was a great feeling to be able to mix it with other cars and drivers, and I hope we can do more of the same in China this weekend. 

“That sort of progress really gives the whole team belief and confidence in the path we’re taking, so I hope we can keep moving forwards every time we take to the track.”

Jenson Button

“It’s a pity we didn’t finish the race in Malaysia. We’d made solid progress up until that point in the weekend, and it would have been a fantastic boost to get a car home in amongst some of the cars in the midfield pack. Still, it’s a target to aim for in China, and I hope we can build upon our pace and performance in Malaysia.

“However, China’s two long straights - each preceded by slow- to medium-speed corners - will place extra emphasis on the power-unit. And there is a feeling that the expected cooler weather will make it harder to generate tyre temperature - which could mean that any progress we make doesn’t necessarily translate to a laptime benefit.

“But there is definitely progress being made, and it’s great to be able to play a role in helping move the whole team forwards. It’ll be fascinating to see how much change we can effect over the forthcoming races.”

Eric Boullier, racing director

“We came away from the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend feeling optimistic about our state of development and the improvements we’d made relative to our closest rivals. However, we don’t take anything for granted, and are fully aware that the next two races probably won’t show quite the same rate of improvement as we witnessed at Sepang. 

“That’s a natural consequence of the fact that, first, the performance gains we’re finding aren’t linear in fashion - some will be for performance, some for efficiency, and others for reliability; and, second, because the different tracks subtly colour and shade pace in ways that can be hard to read, particularly from the outside looking in.

“Nonetheless, we’re pushing hard on every front to improve our competitiveness, and our aim is to bring continuous developments to both chassis and power unit to every race, at a rate that enables us to catch and pass the teams ahead of us.”

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

“We felt positive heading into last month’s Malaysian Grand Prix, as we’d managed to introduce a successful update to the power unit in the weeks between the first and second rounds of the championship.

“It was therefore disappointing to see both cars retire at Sepang - Fernando with an ERS cooling issue, and Jenson with a turbo problem.

“In the next two races we’ll face Shanghai’s two long, full-throttle straights and the high fuel consumption of Bahrain - both will be new challenges for our power unit.

“At Honda, we’ll work to balance both good energy management and positive reliability in an aim to be more competitive in these upcoming races.”

Williams

Felipe Massa

"China is a similar track to Barcelona where we have conducted most of our pre-season testing, so we have a lot of data that can assist us in setting up the car. The track is harsh on the front tyres, often resulting in graining. It’s a good circuit, and you will always see overtaking there due to the long straight, which has the added DRS effect as well."

Valtteri Bottas

"China is a good fun circuit to drive. The long and high speed corners give it a good character, plus it has a very long back straight which aids overtaking and makes the races more interesting. There is a lot of support for the Finns in China which is great to see and they are passionate about Formula One too."

Rob Smedley

"On the back of a very hot race in Malaysia, we head to China where we are expecting considerably different conditions. It is often a struggle to get the temperature in to the tyres for qualifying, and you then have to manage front left tyre degradation in the race. That struggle will be even tougher this year with the improved rear Pirelli construction. It’s a challenging circuit, with a tough left hander before one of the longest straights on the calendar. The turn 1, 2, 3 complex is also very interesting and offers a good technical challenge. There are two different techniques here for a quick qualifying lap and a quick race lap, so we will work through these early in the weekend to be prepared. We have a few upgrades coming to the FW37 that we are expecting to deliver an increase in performance. There is always a high probability of rain, so we will also need to be prepared for this possible curveball."

Marussia

Will Stevens

"There were some positive signs at Sepang with the running I was able to achieve, so I'm looking forward to building on that here in China. It's been good to have the data from Roberto's race there for the team to work with and I'm hoping that we can start to get into a good rhythm from this weekend. It's always good to tackle a circuit I've never raced at before and this one has some nice challenges for both car and driver, so it will be good to experience those and to start getting to grips with the car a little more."

Roberto Merhi

"I was very pleased to complete my first F1 race in Malaysia two weeks ago and I'm really looking forward to the next one here in China. The challenge of getting to know a new track is very exciting for me, especially one that places a lot of demands on the driver, as is the case here at Shanghai. In particular, Turn 1 is a pretty exciting start to the lap which is a real test of skill and the section from turns 7-10 looks really interesting because it's quite fast and flowing. I can't wait to get started on Friday."

John Booth, team principal

"After the fierce heat and humidity of Malaysia two weeks ago, the cool conditions here in Shanghai are quite a shock to the system. It's always good to come to China though, especially to a circuit as impressive as this one. Thanks to our first full race distance at Sepang, we've been able to use the data gathered there to get our 2015 development programme underway and we're looking forward to applying what we have learned from that in the field this weekend."