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Spain preview quotes - Toro Rosso, Marussia, Mercedes & more

07 May 2015

After a three-week break following the season-opening flyaway Grands Prix, the F1 paddock comes to Europe next weekend for round five, the Formula 1 Gran Premio de Espana Pirelli 2015 in Barcelona. Those involved look ahead to what is always a special race on the calendar…

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo

“I think most F1 drivers would say we’ve all done too many laps around here, but don’t get me wrong, it’s a great circuit. It’s fun to drive. The first two sectors have a really good flow to them, which is pretty cool. The last sector is a bit more about tyre management on the modern layout but the rest is exhilarating.

“We have a great atmosphere for the race. The circuit cuts into the hillside so there’s lots of good viewing areas and, so long as Alonso’s on track, it’s pretty crazy. That’s great for all of us, not just Fernando. It’s going to be good with three Spanish drivers in this year’s race. There’ll be a real buzz. The race itself? I think it’s one where DRS is a big plus point. In the past, because everyone knew the track and their setup so well, races tended to be a bit stale. I think the DRS means that you don’t get dull races any more. You can still defend though - it’s a good track for that - but in a way that’s going to make the race exciting for spectators.

“Barcelona’s really, really cool: lots of atmosphere, really good vibe. I’m also not entirely unaware of the fact it has some pretty good beaches and, as everyone is probably tired of hearing, I’m always happiest when we’ve got sand and water nearby. It’s also a great city for food. Obviously I eat carefully but I’m not one of those drivers who completely ignores the local cuisine. The restaurants in Barcelona are definitely a highlight and I’m a big fan of eating out here.”

Daniil Kvyat

“Obviously the teams and drivers know the track very well simply through testing. We’re there in pre-season and all the drivers do a lot of miles there. However, just because we do a lot of testing there it doesn’t mean the track is any less challenging for a driver. There’s a reason it’s used so much and that’s because it’s got a great variety of corners and a lot of different challenges. For a driver it’s a tough track, quite technical but if you get everything right then it’s really enjoyable.

“I know Barcelona well and really like being in Spain. I lived there for three months when I was racing in Formula Renault 2.0 as my team at the time was based there. Because I speak Italian it was easy for me to pick up some Spanish and that makes the experience of being there a bit better. I have a lot of friends there and try to hang out a bit when I’m there.”

Lotus

Romain Grosjean

"Barcelona means the start of the European season. That means we see quite a lot more updates on the cars, which can make everything interesting. We’ve had a couple of weeks since Bahrain and it’s only a short flight from Enstone to the circuit so there’s been a decent amount of time for some more developments to the car. The fans have a great spirit in Barcelona, which is a beautiful city full of culture that I really enjoy. It’s a circuit we’ve seen pretty often in your career so I know it well, and I have some good memories from the past. It was our best circuit last year, and I also finished fourth back in 2012 as well as setting the fastest lap. It is a circuit everyone knows backwards, so as a team we go to Barcelona intent on getting much more performance from the car.

"In terms of performance we have achieved a one hundred percent record in reaching Q3 which is a very good result. We could have done more in the first two races had we not had a few issues but I think that we got everything right from China onwards. It’s very good to be in the top ten in qualifying and then play with the strategy in the race. I’m happy with the points we have scored these last couple of races, let’s now get more at every race and continue to improve."

Pastor Maldonado

"Overall Catalunya is tough for the cars, drivers and teams because everyone knows the track so well and you have to fight for every thousandth of a second. It’s very special – mostly because we see a lot of Venezuelan support there, also because it’s the first race back in Europe, and of course, because it’s nice to have won there. Hopefully we’ll see a good result there for the team and some points for me! A top ten in qualifying will be our first focus and then it’ll be a very tough race in terms of tyre management, with a lot of pit stops and strategy."

Federico Gastaldi, deputy team principal

"We all love Barcelona and the surrounding countryside. Spain and the Spanish people are wonderful and I have a lot of friends as well as family there. In terms of a racing challenge, it’s a fascinating event as it’s where every team should be operating at their maximum potential at this time of the season as the circuit is so well known to us all. There are no excuses if you can’t get your car set-up or working well at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya! We’ve been working hard on improving the E23 and how we use it, whether through the progress made in our technical debriefs, or the parts being fabricated here in Enstone. There’s potential for some things which could open some eyes in Barcelona and then at the next race in Monaco too. It’s fair to say it’s busy times at Enstone."

Nick Chester, technical director

"It will be an interesting weekend as many teams will bring decent upgrades to the first European race of the season and we are working on bringing a reasonably significant package in terms of bodywork upgrades ourselves. There’s a certain amount of anticipation to see what everyone turns up with. In terms of our expectations, there’s nothing to say that we shouldn’t have another strong race in Barcelona, just as we did in China and Bahrain."

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

“Spain is obviously one of the more familiar venues that we go to, as there has already been plenty of data gathered during testing. One of the things we have noticed so far is that this year Barcelona will once again be a front-limited circuit, from a tyre perspective. Last year, the increase in traction and torque from the cars meant that for the first time the race became a rear-limited event, with the useful life of the rear tyres dictating the pit stop strategy. Thanks to the improvements we made to the rear tyre construction for this year, we’re back to Barcelona being a front-limited circuit again. However, we do not expect this to mean that there will necessarily be more pit stops this year: last year the majority of competitors used a two-stop strategy and that will probably be the case again. The biggest unknown factor will be the weather: in the past we have seen some very hot weather in Barcelona, but it isn’t always guaranteed. The start of the European season traditionally means that many teams bring important upgrades, and it will be very interesting to see how these interact with our 2015 tyres.”

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg

“The Barcelona race is one of the best weekends on the calendar. The locals are passionate and there’s always a big crowd on race day, so the atmosphere is great. I always stay in the city centre and I really like the place - plus the food is really good: I love paella.

“We all know the Barcelona track really well. You have to think about how to approach a lap because it’s important to look after your tyres. If you take too much out of them in the first sector, you end up paying the price in the final one, so finding the right balance is the key. The first two sectors are fairly straightforward and they are the quickest sections of the track, while the final part of the lap is more technical and low speed.

“As a whole, there is a nice mix of different corners which makes this a very interesting circuit. Overtaking has always been difficult there, even with the introduction of the slow chicane at the end of the lap. The final corner is still fairly quick and it's difficult to follow another car closely. You have to lift to avoid running wide, and that usually takes away the opportunity for overtaking into turn one.”

Sergio Perez

“It's nice to get to Barcelona following a good result in Bahrain. The last race was definitely a bit of a confidence boost for everyone and we will try to keep up this momentum in Spain. At the same time we expect a more challenging weekend because the characteristics of the circuit are very different to Bahrain with a lot more high-speed corners.

“The weekend in Barcelona is always enjoyable. The city and the people remind me a lot of Mexico, and I really like the Spanish food. The fans also make this race special and I always feel a lot of support from the grandstands.

“As a track, Barcelona is a demanding place to drive a Formula One car, with both fast and slow sections. It’s a big test of the aero package - similar to somewhere like Sepang. Overtaking is never easy because it’s difficult to get really close to another car, so good track position really pays off. The DRS zones have made it a bit easier to overtake, but you still need to be quite a bit faster than the cars you are racing.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India Team Principal

“It’s fair to say that we’ve had mixed fortunes during the opening four races. On the positive side, we’ve scored points in half the races and I’ve been impressed by the fighting spirit of the team. On the other hand, we know the VJM08 is not where we want it to be and that we need to work hard to unlock more of its potential.

“It’s still early days in the season, but it’s worth noting how closely-matched the midfield teams remain. There are times when we see up to ten cars within half a second of each other, which means that any improvements we can bring to the car will have a big impact on our results.

“Our pace has been improving with each race, but we will need to wait a little longer before we can make a big step. I’m optimistic about the updates we have planned and we are working hard to get them to the track as soon as possible. The priority over the next few races is to stay in touch with the teams around us. As it stands, fourth place in the championship is just 12 points ahead of us, so we need to keep fighting hard and picking up points when we can.”

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson

“It is nice coming back to Barcelona, a track we know quite well from testing. The track is quite demanding for the tyres, especially for the left front tyre and mainly because of turn three, which is a long, right-hand bend. Normally with the warmer temperatures in Barcelona, I assume the tyre degradation will be quite high. Thus, it will be crucial to find a set-up on which we are able to set good lap times, as well as having good tyre management. These are two facts we need to focus on during the weekend building up to the race.”

Felipe Nasr

“I am looking forward to our first race in Europe. I know the track in Barcelona quite well from many of the series I have raced in. It is a technical track, which requires a good downforce due to its high-speed corners, as well as strong traction because of its slow-speed corners in the last sector. These are the two main factors for a good lap time. We have to maximise everything we have and take every opportunity to fight again for points.”

Raffaele Marciello, Sauber test and reserve driver

“Overall, it will be a busy weekend for me. Besides my duties in the GP2 Series, I will be back in the Sauber C34-Ferrari on Friday for FP1. I am really looking forward to it. I enjoy driving on this track, as it consists of fast as well as slow-speed corners. It is important being consistent over a lap, because if you push too much in the first sector, which has some fast corners, the last sector with slow-speed corners could be challenging as the tyres could overheat. My favorite part of the track is the left-right-right combination, turns seven, eight and nine in sector two, which is quite fast. In general I like high-speed corners, and also turn three is nice to drive. After the race weekend, I will have the opportunity to drive the Sauber C34-Ferrari on the second day of in-season testing in Barcelona. I am looking forward to testing the car for one whole day during which I am able to collect some mileage.”

Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Sauber Head of Track Engineering

“After an encouraging pre-season campaign at the Circuit de Catalunya, we head back there with some solid race achievements and aerodynamic upgrades. The first European race is known for a number of teams introducing improvements to their cars, therefore it will be important for us to keep up momentum and fight for points. We are aware that the conditions will be fairly different to how they were two months ago, and, therefore, some set-up adjustments will be needed to get the medium and hard tyres to work at their best in warmer temperatures. After the race, the team will stay in Spain for the first two days of in-season testing, when Marcus and Raffaele will work through an intense programme mainly featuring aerodynamics, the braking system and the rear suspension.”

McLaren

Fernando Alonso

“I’m incredibly happy to be heading back to Europe, to my home country and racing in front of the loyal Spanish fans. We’ve taken some useful steps forward during the flyaway races and I’m looking forward to getting back in the car after the three-week break and continuing our push.

“We are seeing improvements race by race, and I want to ensure that we maintain this consistency throughout this weekend. It will be very difficult, as other teams will also have been working hard to develop their cars too, but I’m hopeful that the start of the European season will be positive for us and allow us to carry momentum into the next few races.

“I really enjoy driving on this circuit - it’s high-speed and really tests the balance of the car, so we’ll be working to get that right as soon as we get out on track. There’s a huge amount of positivity in the team and all of us are working hard for better results in each race. Although we won’t be fighting for victory in Barcelona, I know I can count on the support of the fans to bring even more motivation during the whole weekend, which will be very special.”

Jenson Button

“Coming into Europe after four flyaways and a three-week break is always an exciting feeling. It’s like the second phase of the season is beginning and, especially after my difficult weekend in Bahrain, I’m raring to get back out there and see how our car fares around this track.

“The Circuit de Catalunya is a great place to kick off the European season and a fun circuit to race on, with long straights, high-speed corners and tricky chicanes that require you to get the most out of the car throughout the whole lap. It really challenges the car and you need good balance and aerodynamic downforce to get the best consistency, and, ultimately, performance.

“It’s difficult to overtake there, so we’ll be working on our qualifying performance from the outset to try and push us up the pecking order. We’ve made good strides over the past few races, and that effort has continued right through the break between Bahrain and Spain, so I’m excited to see where we are and work with my engineers to keep pushing the boundaries of our previous performances at every opportunity. The key to all of this, though, is reliability, and that’s the most important element if we are to really push our package to its limits from Spain onwards.”

Eric Boullier, Racing director, McLaren-Honda

“We’re certainly going into the beginning of the European leg of the season with a positive frame of mind. Of course, we can never be satisfied with our results until we’re fighting for regular victories. However, I’m very pleased with our progress and the efforts of the entire team - both within McLaren and Honda - and we go to Spain hopeful that we can make further progress there.

“During the three-week break between Bahrain and Spain, we’ve been working very productively on every front to bring improvements to the car. We know that one fix or upgrade won’t provide a significant upturn in performance, so we’re united in our continued efforts to bring further gains to both chassis and power unit, in terms of both reliability and outright performance, step by step.

“The Circuit de Catalunya is a great test of man and machine, and proving the balance of the MP4-30 will be crucial to enable us to get closer to our rivals. Qualifying is also key, given that this is a circuit on which it’s relatively difficult to overtake. For our drivers, it’s an important race for Fernando in front of his home fans, and for Jenson we will be focusing on maximising his time on track following his disappointing weekend in Bahrain. The paddock - complete with the addition of the teams’ motorhomes and hospitality units for the European season - will be buzzing, and we look forward to the great atmosphere in and around the grandstands.”

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

"The short break before the Spanish GP has been good for Honda, to calmly reflect on what has happened in the first four races, to analyse what we have done well or not so well, and to make preparations ahead of the European races.

“We hope that Spain will see another incremental step forward for Honda, in which we’ve prepared updates on the power unit to help with driveability and reliability. And like us, McLaren has had a productive two weeks and will be bringing more updates to test at the track and we’ll see how the car will run together as one.

“We’re confident that every step we take together as a team is in the right direction, and hopefully this weekend will once again prove our continuing progress."

Williams

Felipe Massa

“We’ve completed two weeks of testing in Barcelona over the winter so we know how our car can perform around the circuit and are probably more prepared for this race than any other race on the calendar. It’s a nice track with a lot of fans in the grandstands and a great city on the doorstep. We have shown in the first few races that we have a good car and a few upgrades will be appearing in Spain that we need to make the most of if we are going to close the gap to the cars in front. It’s good to be back in Europe and I hope we can start this part of the season with a strong result.”

Valtteri Bottas

“Barcelona is a track everyone knows really well as we’ve done plenty of laps there this season in testing. It’s one of those tracks where if you are good in qualifying you can have a good race as overtaking isn’t that easy. I’m confident that we will have a good chance to fight for a strong position. We will be bringing some upgrades for the car as well, so it will be interesting to see if they work as expected. I imagine most teams will be bringing something new to the race and would have made good use of the three week gap and the circuit's relative closeness to each team's factory. Being in Europe also eliminates the jet lag we experience so we can get a bit more training in before the race. I’m really looking forward to starting the European season.”

Rob Smedley

“We're heading into the European season after a reasonably successful campaign that has put us a solid third position in the championship. Our aim now is to keep moving forward and close the gap to the teams in front. Barcelona is a good measure of everyone’s upgrade packages and shows how well teams have developed their cars. The circuit is an excellent test of a Formula One car with Turn 3 offering a long, high speed test and sector three always being demanding on the car as it exposes its performance levels. We are heading into the weekend with a lot of confidence but there will be a lot of work to do leading up to qualifying as we learn about the new updated package.”

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton

"Bahrain was a tough race so to come away with the win was a great feeling and it's amazing the start we've had this year. Next up it's Barcelona, which is a great place to start the European phase of the season. The weather is always good and the circuit is a real test of every aspect of the car, which is why we go testing there. It's a great city, too. The architecture is stunning and it's a young, vibrant place so I always enjoy the weekend. Racing there is tough - it's usually hot and the circuit is incredibly physical. But the support I have in Spain is growing every time we go and, having tasted success there for the first time last year, I want to do it in even better style this time."

Nico Rosberg

"The race in Bahrain was definitely the most enjoyable of the season for me so far. It was a really good fight out there and it gave me the chance to show what I can do in a close battle. Although we had a problem at the end, the car felt fantastic and I could really push hard to get my positions back. I'm feeling really fired up for the next races knowing I have all the tools available to me for a strong performance. It's felt like a long break and I can't wait to get back out there in Barcelona. It's the first race in Europe at a track which every driver knows well, so it should make for an exciting weekend. The circuit itself really tests every element of the car - especially the aero - so it will be interesting to see how each team has developed since we last came here in the winter and also to see who has brought the most upgrades since the last race. I know our guys have been working mega hard at the factory, so let's see what we've got!"

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport 

"After the first part of the season, the last weeks gave us the chance to judge our performance so far - and look at what we need to do to build our advantage in the next weeks and months. We scored more points in the first four races of 2015 than in 2014 and enjoyed better reliability; the team is in a very strong position. The difference is the competitive situation: in 2014, we had a lead of over 100 points in the constructors' championship; this year, it's 52 points and we are in a close battle at every race weekend. But that's what Formula 1 is all about: accepting the challenge of performing at your best for every lap of every race weekend, and always pushing yourself to be even better. Every single team member in Brackley and Brixworth knows that we can't afford to take our foot off the gas so we are pushing hard with developments to the car and the power unit for the coming races. Barcelona is traditionally the first race for big upgrades, so we will be interested to see how we perform relative to the competition. One area where we can be totally confident is our driver line-up: Lewis is in the zone right now, probably driving as well as he has ever done, and Nico showed his teeth in Bahrain with some forceful overtaking and a strong, aggressive race. We're expecting more of the same in Spain."

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical) 

"It feels like a long but well-needed break since Bahrain, having barely had more than a week's gap between events since the pre-season programme began. This has given us time to reflect, regroup and pick up on what we've learned in the first part of the year. We now head to the first European race, which is traditionally seen as the first major upgrade point of the season. But in practice, recent years have seen car upgrades become more of a constant and relentless campaign throughout the year. We may see a little more than usual after the three-week gap, however, so it will be interesting to see what each team brings to the table. Barcelona is one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar, testing both chassis and power unit, and it's often said that if you're quick here, you'll be quick anywhere. We looked strong during winter testing - but time has passed, teams will have developed their cars significantly in the subsequent weeks and we'll now see much warmer temperatures, so we don't know how we'll look until we get there. That's part of the excitement of Formula One! We'll have a lot of work to do on Friday to get the most out of the car and see where we stand for the weekend."

Marussia

Will Stevens

"It's been a long break from the car, so I'm really looking forward to racing again and to getting back to some more familiar circuits. The long haul races were all new tracks for me and while it's good to have that challenge, the European circuits are all places I've raced at many times before. That kind of consistency is important at a time when we are able to start looking forward a little more and what we can do to develop during the remainder of the season."

Roberto Merhi

"A home race is always exciting, so to be racing in front of the Spanish fans in a Formula 1 car for the first time is something very special for me. It's a circuit I know really well, of course, and I love the high-speed nature of the track. The crowd at the Circuit de Barcelona are also very passionate so the atmosphere is pretty electric. I hope we can have a strong race and continue our run of two-car finishes there for them."

John Booth, team principal

"It feels good to be heading to Barcelona for the start of the European rounds and the home from home that the trucks and motorhomes provide. The first few races enabled us to gather plenty of information and we have now started to roll this back into the development cycle. We will be running the first of those steps on the cars this weekend in the form of a small aerodynamic upgrade. There is still a great deal of work to do beyond that to try to raise our performance level, however given our starting point, we are pleased to be making steps forward in line with our clear plan. It will be a nice weekend for Roberto, who will be competing in Formula 1 in front of his home crowd for the first time, which I know will be a very special feeling for him."

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz

"Being Spanish, the Spanish Grand Prix will always be the highlight of the year and the most special race of the season for me. I will have family and friends around and obviously, my first Formula 1 race on home soil will be something I will never forget. Barcelona is a track that we know very well, as we completed two of the three pre-season tests there, even though the track temperature will be much higher so the car balance will change completely. It will be challenging to see how much of a change there is between winter testing and May, but I'm really looking forward to the weekend ahead and it would be really nice to achieve a good result in front of my home crowd."

Max Verstappen

"This will be the first track on the calendar where I have some experience of driving a Formula 1 car, after the two winter test sessions. It is very physical, quite tough on your body, so as the temperature rises it will be challenging. I always enjoy here and generally, I am looking forward to racing again in Europe."