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Austria preview quotes - Marussia, Mercedes, McLaren & more

18 Jun 2015

Formula One racing's return to Austria after an 11-year hiatus last season proved to be a huge success. No surprise then that teams, drivers and fans alike are itching to go back for the 2015 event...

Marussia

Will Stevens

“I’ve had a couple of good performances at the Red Bull Ring in Formula Renault. It’s a great track and very different to the Canadian experience two weeks ago, but there are a few similarities between the two circuits, including the long straights and high speed corners. It’s quite a fast, flowing track and really fun to drive, with the last sector being my favourite. With no Germany on the calendar this year, this race is one of the big camping events for the fans. Although Montreal is a pretty fantastic atmosphere, there’s something very special about these races as you see the spectators bedding down for the weekend in the fields next to the circuit and loving every minute of it, rain or shine.”

Roberto Merhi

“It was disappointing to have to retire from my first Canadian Grand Prix, and for the team to experience its first DNF of the season. Hopefully we’ll be back to our usual impressive level of reliability for this race, as the more mileage for the car and the drivers, the better it is for our long-term development. I had a good weekend until then and things are really starting to come my way. I really like this next track and I’ve even won a couple of times here, so I’m hoping I can pick up where I left off in Montreal in terms of my own progress. It’s a fast and fun circuit to drive, with a few tricky spots, such as the last couple of corners of the lap, which can be difficult to get right. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

John Booth, Team Principal

“Austria marks the start of ‘sector 2’ of the season, with a run of five consecutive European races leading us up to a slightly longer flyaway phase. Although the circuit characteristics vary from racetrack to racetrack, this does afford a period of relative consistency, particularly in terms of our trackside operation and the home from home that our race trucks provide. Over the past few races we seem to have taken a small step forward in terms of our relative performance and maximising the potential of our current package. At the same time, we suffered our first retirement of the season in Canada, so our focus will be on ensuring we resume our run of two car finishes, as we had been one of the most reliable teams up until then. The work we are doing in terms of set-up and aerodynamic configuration is also an important part of our development programme and although the results may not be evident on the outside, internally this work is key to rebuilding and developing our technical capabilities to ensure a strong future.”

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton

“It was a great feeling to finally get back on top in Canada and add to the great memories I have there. Now, though, it's time to move on and put things right at a circuit I had a tough introduction to last year - Austria. Although I struggled in qualifying, starting down in ninth, it was actually a great race fighting back through the field. I think I was about fourth or fifth by the end of the first lap and then just kept chipping away to claw my way back to the podium, which was really good fun. Of course, I'll be working hard to have a clearer shot at the win on Sunday. Whatever happens, though, you can be sure the atmosphere will be incredible. Last year the grandstands were absolutely packed and the fans were just insane, so I'm looking forward to putting on a show for them.”

Nico Rosberg

“Canada was really lost for me on the Saturday. Not getting everything together in qualifying hurt my chances big time - but I had the pace and that's a big positive to take forward and go maximum attack in Austria. My first race at this track last year couldn't have been much better. Of course, we didn't have the ideal start in qualifying - but we nailed it on Sunday and it was great to get the win. I'm sure we'll have some tough competition here once again with Williams and probably some others too. But it's a circuit I really enjoy driving and the crowds are unbelievable, so I'm looking forward to getting back out there and having a good battle. Of course, it's a home race for Niki and Toto, too, so we'll need to be on our best form for this one!”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“Coming away with another top result in Canada, it would be easy to sit back and think we've got everything under control. But in reality, this is never the case. Not only did that race require a careful balancing act from the pit wall and from the drivers, but we also saw that there is more to come from our competitors - even if maybe it wasn't clear from the result. There must be more to come from ourselves if we are to continue this good form. Austria will provide a tough test. We had a challenging weekend there last year and fully expect another close competition this time around. The battle is far from over.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

“Spielberg is a great circuit - fast and flowing with relatively few corners but some spectacular elevation changes. Last year was, of course, the first Austrian Grand Prix for many years and the crowds were fantastic, creating a really good atmosphere. On track, however, we didn't have our best performance of the season there last time out - despite coming away with a one-two finish. It was a difficult result to achieve - requiring some tight strategy calls to beat the Williams cars. Like Montreal, it's a circuit where the Power Unit will come to the fore. Pirelli have also nominated the soft and supersoft compounds for the third consecutive race which, combined with a very smooth track surface, will create some challenges. After two quite unique circuits in Monaco and Canada, it will be interesting to see how the field stands at a more 'normal' venue.”

McLaren

Fernando Alonso

“Montreal was a difficult race for the whole team – we expected it to be tough because of the nature of the circuit, but obviously a double retirement was especially disappointing. But, of course, just because a weekend doesn’t go to plan, it doesn’t mean we give up.

“We’re still seeing great progress every weekend, and we hope Austria will be the same. Our most important focus is reliability, so that we can get the most time on track in order to make the biggest improvements we can. This is a very physical circuit with four long, fast straights and heavy braking in the corners, so it’ll be challenging for our package, but it’s a really interesting track to race on.

“Spielberg is a beautiful location for a Grand Prix and going back there last year after an 11-year break was a great experience. It’s still the great circuit it was, and there are quite a few overtaking opportunities which make it even more enjoyable. We’ve already put the last race behind us and I’m keen to get out there, race hard with our nearest competitors, and hopefully have some fun.”

Jenson Button

“Over the past few days we’ve bounced back from Montreal and we’re already looking firmly ahead at the next challenge. As a team, we’re measured ultimately on where we finish on a Sunday afternoon, which doesn’t take into account the progress we’ve made behind the scenes, or in practice and qualifying in the build-up to the race, so it can sometimes be difficult to see the positives after a tough grand prix.

“However, it’s important that we don’t forget how far we’ve come. Yes, both cars retiring from the race was not at all the result we’ve been working so hard for, but we are focused on the progress we’re still making and the improvements that we’ve already made up to this point. There’s still a huge amount of belief within the team, and we’re continuing to push for development in every area back in Woking and Sakura.

“Last year’s Austrian Grand Prix was a huge success, and for the few of us drivers that raced here pre-2003, it’s definitely considered one of those ‘mini-classics’: not so complex in terms of its configuration, but fun to drive. On paper, Austria won’t suit the characteristics of our car, but I’m looking forward to enjoying some good racing there and pushing to make more progress in every session.”

Eric Boullier, Racing director

“We can’t deny that retiring both cars in Montreal was a bitter blow, but, undeterred, we quickly shifted our attention to Austria. What’s important to remember is that, despite the disappointment of the last race, we’re always learning and improving, so we mustn’t be too disheartened, and instead we must keep our focus firmly on the road ahead.

“Reliability has been a key issue during our development push, particularly on Fernando’s car. It’s a crucial element of a race weekend that we need to improve in order to continue making progress. We’re getting there, but, like some other teams, we’re now getting to the stage of the season where faults and failures could result in penalties. But those are the rules, and they’re the same for everyone.

“Performance-wise, we expect the Austrian Grand Prix to be another tricky weekend, as it features heavy braking from high speeds and similar stop-start characteristics to Montreal.

“However, before we can even think about performance, we need to work even harder from the very beginning of our race programmes on Wednesday, to ensure all our processes, hardware and software configurations, and our entire approach to the weekend, are flawless, so as to give ourselves the best possible opportunity to get both cars to the chequered flag. In addition, as I say, we may have to consider strategically implementing updates with the aim of improving reliability and performance.

“Speaking more generally about the Austrian Grand Prix, last but not least, Spielberg is a fantastic circuit, immaculately organised and surrounded by stunning scenery, and the incredible fan support makes it even more special. Formula 1’s return to Austria in 2014 was a resounding success for the region as well as the sport, so we can be sure of a fantastic atmosphere and exciting racing this time around too.”

Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer – chief officer of motorsport

"Austria's Red Bull Ring is another power circuit with long straights similar to Canada, which means that it will be tough on the power units. We know that our results in Canada were disappointing, so we are now working hard to analyse, correct and mitigate issues going into Austria.

“The high altitude of the track will also affect the power unit performance, and the vehicle as a whole will require good aerodynamics and downforce. The new ERS system improvements made in Canada have been made to counteract this, and will be adjusted to the new aero and chassis updates planned for Austria.

“We will push forward to be stronger as a team."

Williams

Valtteri Bottas

“Austria is a beautiful country and the Grand Prix is packed with racing fans. The atmosphere is going to be great again I’m sure! It’s great to be going back to Austria. Last year, as a team we had strong qualifying with a front-row lockout, and in the race I achieved my first Formula One podium. The track, with its long straights and a mixture of slow and high speed corners requires good straight line speed and strong aero efficiency from the car. With the upgrades we are bringing here, we are expecting another strong weekend.”

Felipe Massa

“The circuit in Austria is a great track, very fast and really enjoyable to drive. Our car is normally suited to this track and I will never forget my pole position last year. Hopefully this year we can have a repeat or at least something similar, as we are looking to build on the momentum we have following Canada.”

Rob Smedley, Head of vehicle performance

“We are coming out of a race where we’ve shown great pace and good tyre management so going into Austria we can be confident of aiming for the front again. It’s a circuit that is very rewarding for power and drag and we know that our car is strong in these areas, so we’re confident. It’s a great little track out in the countryside, you get a lot of fans there who are big fans of Formula 1 which is always nice. Third is looking even more solid but we can’t take anything for granted and it isn’t just about third. We want to push on and try to close up to Ferrari. It’s a circuit where we can make points on them and that is our target.”

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz

“Austria is the home race for our big Red Bull family. I raced there back in my Formula 3 days but I imagine it will feel rather different in a Formula 1 car. From what I heard, last year’s return to this circuit turned into a great Grand Prix weekend for everyone, especially the crowds that came to watch and also in terms of the organisation. So I’m looking forward to going there and the track layout should suit us better than the last one in Canada.”

Max Verstappen

“I have always enjoyed driving at this track, especially in the Formula 3 car, which I tested and raced here so I know it quite well. It’s a very nice track in a beautiful location, even if the long straights might not suit us that well. There are some tight corners at the end of the fast sections, which means it can be hard on the brakes. It’s a bit of an old-school track, which is the type of circuit I like, so I’m looking forward to going there. Everyone in the team will be keen to get the best result possible at what is the home track for Red Bull.”

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg

"Finishing in the points in Canada was an important result for me. I had a great feeling with the car and everything came together nicely. I think we have a good opportunity for another strong result in Austria. I had never raced on this track before last year - not even in the junior formulas - so it was a new experience for me. It's a fun track and it flows nicely, but there are a few corners that can catch you out, so it's not easy to get a good lap together. It's one of those tracks that looks easier on paper because it's actually quite technical in many areas.

"Austria is a great place to race: the track is in a beautiful setting in the mountains and there's a very relaxed atmosphere. Without the German Grand Prix this year, I expect a lot of German fans to come to Austria this year so there should be a big crowd once again."

Sergio Perez

"The race in Austria is one I'm really looking forward to, both for the driving and everything that is around the event. The circuit has a simple layout and few corners and so the margins between drivers are smaller compared to some other tracks. It means a mistake in qualifying can set you back a long way. It requires a lot of concentration but it's fun to drive, with elevation changes and some very tricky corners.

"Not scoring in Canada was a disappointment so I want to make up for that in Austria. Last year it was not an easy race for me, starting far down the order [P16 following a grid penalty], but we had a brilliant race, scored well and set the fastest lap of the race.

"I remember getting to the Red Bull Ring for the first time last year, having never raced there, and meeting the fans. They had been waiting for the race for a long time and they helped create a great atmosphere. The Austrians have a great passion for Formula One - just like the Mexicans - and they are very proud of their Grand Prix."

Vijay Mallya, team principal

"Sahara Force India heads to Austria with a lot of positivity following a competitive showing in Canada. 21 points from seven races is a solid effort and keeps us well placed in the championship as we approach the middle of the season. The four points in Montreal were an important boost for Nico, who was a bit unlucky in Monaco and it's good to see him back in the points.

"Of course, this weekend's race is the first event to take place after Nico's incredible Le Mans victory. The 24 Hours is one of the great spectacles of motorsport: it is an amazing race that demands total commitment from drivers and cars. Nico's performance displayed his immense talent and made all of us at Sahara Force India proud. I truly hope he will be boosted by this success and translate it into another great performance in Austria.

"There's been a lot of talk about the development of the VJM08 and we are still on course to introduce an important step in Silverstone next month. In the meantime, the team has done well to squeeze more performance from our current package. The high-speed layout of Canada certainly played to the strengths of the Mercedes engine and, as Austria is regarded as another 'power' circuit', I would like to think we can be in the top ten once again."

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo

“[Austria is] not one of our strongest [circuits] but good nonetheless. It’s short, there aren’t a lot of corners - but the corners that there are good; there are a couple of proper quick turns and plenty to catch you out. It’s a fast track. You can have a good scrap as well. I finished the race [last year] in a really good tussle with The Hulk [Nico Hulkenberg]. Good stuff.

“Turn One is pretty cool as it climbs up the hill. It looks tight but actually it isn’t, it’s pretty quick, about third gear, and it opens up nicely. Turn Two is interesting as you climb a lot into what’s quite a tight right-hander, going uphill and off-camber. The second-last corner as well, that’s quick too. It’s quite flowing. There’s two tight corners but the rest are quick - third gear and up.

“With everyone camping around the track the atmosphere was like going to a festival - everyone sitting out in the sun, drinking beer, listening to music, up in the mountains. Yeah, I could go for a bit of that. Massive crowd of course, and genuinely supportive of the event. Not just the Red Bull teams but the entire grid. It was really noticeable on the drivers’ parade, which was by far the most lively of the whole year.

“I was rather cautious [about wearing the promotional lederhosen last year] so gave them a test run early in the week before rocking up in them on race day to maximise my Austrian Grand Prix experience. They’re surprisingly comfortable - a bit stiff at first but they come in after a while and develop a bit of give. I’m not saying they’re the thing for a 20-hour flight to Perth - but I reckon Oktoberfest, with a couple of beers… yeah, you’d be okay for a day.”

Daniil Kvyat

“First of all, I really enjoy the track; it’s a really good circuit. I already knew the track well as I had raced there before in junior series, so I was really looking forward to going back.

"I raced there in Formula Renault and also in Formula Three. [Kvyat won both races at the circuit during his 2012 Formula Renault 2.0 Alps campaign and was on pole and finished second in all three FIA European Formula Three Championship races at the track in 2013]. It’s great fun to drive. Actually, I think one of the best circuits on the calendar. It’s fast, it flows well, the lap is pretty busy. It’s a good circuit and I have good memories of it.

“I was at Toro Rosso last year so we didn’t have too much pressure from a media point of view, certainly not as much as the Red Bull Racing guys, so it was pretty easy from my point of view. But it’s a good atmosphere and the team’s home race is obviously important. However, I don’t think you can let it distract you. It’s just racing in the end and I’ll try to enjoy the weekend as much as possible.

“Last year we stayed about 45 minutes away in a small village, which was actually really nice. It was very quiet, very peaceful but maybe not the easiest place to get to! This year I think we’re staying somewhere a little closer to the track, somewhere a little more efficient in terms of getting to the circuit!”

Lotus

Romain Grosjean

“It’s a fantastic location and a great circuit. The mountains and the fresh air remind me a bit of Switzerland and the track is pretty exciting. It’s not a long lap but it has good character. You’ve got a reasonable start-finish straight, then and uphill section where we’ll appreciate the power of our car. Braking into turn two is fun as it’s uphill so you can brake later than you would otherwise. There’s a second DRS zone then some medium speed corners and you’re back to the start-finish again. Certainly last year we struggled, but this year’s car is so much better that I’m really looking forward to being able to push hard all weekend.

“We have a lot more potential to do well this year. Last year was the first time at the track for Formula One in over a decade and we were doing a lot of learning of the circuit and set-up as well as struggling with a lot of issues with our car at the time. We couldn’t get on top of the tyres and we didn’t have the right package for our brakes so it was a frustrating weekend, not to mention with some reliability issues too! This year we should be so much better placed and I’m really looking forward to being able to attack the track.”

Pastor Maldonado

“It is an interesting circuit and one I enjoyed visiting last year, even if it was a weekend where we didn’t have the best of results. I think we have much better potential this year with the car and we’ve been looking quite strong recently. It’s great to be able to visit a different type of location for a Grand Prix and the event was really impressive last year; I’m looking forward to returning.

“Just like any Grand Prix we’ll be looking to get the maximum from the car. You need good power in Austria especially with the decent hill there. There are a couple of straights and we’ve been looking good through the speed traps so hopefully we’ll keep that pace. If we can qualify well we should have a great race.”

Nick Chester, Technical Director

“There’s nothing to say we can’t perform as we did in Montreal. It’s another medium-downforce track with demands for strong traction, efficient aerodynamics and power unit performance. There are a few more medium-speed corners than in Canada which changes the requirements a bit and there’s every reason to expect the E23 will go pretty well.

“[Last year] it had been a long time since we’d visited the circuit and there was a lot to learn in terms of set-up and our approach to a Grand Prix weekend. Particular lessons learnt included that we underestimated the braking requirements and we found it difficult to get the tyres into their optimal temperature operating window. In both regards we’re far better placed with the E23.”

Federico Gastaldi, Deputy Team Principal

“Looking at the circuit and talking to our drivers and engineers it’s a place that could suit us so we’re feeling quite positive heading there, especially after the E23 showed pretty well in Canada. It’s good to breathe in the fresh air and sample the local delicacies. There are some fabulous sights to be seen and last year’s event was spectacular and it’s great to see what can be done with a strongly promoted event in Europe.”

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

“Austria ends the run of soft and supersoft nominations that we see towards the middle of the season, on quite a diverse variety of tracks. The tyre strategy will depend on some extent to the weather: if it is warm we are more likely to see two stops, whereas if it’s cool the balance might shift towards a one-stopper. Rain is also a distinct possibility in Styria at this time of year, as we saw during free practice last season, so the teams will basically have to be prepared for everything. This year, the drivers head to the Red Bull Ring with real data about the track for the first time, which will help them find the most efficient way to use the tyres. Obviously our aim is always to have between two and three stops at every race, so this is something that we will monitor carefully in future when it comes to nominations: we do have the possibility to make some minor changes if required. We’re only expecting a small time gap between the two compounds in Austria, so this opens up a number of different possibilities as to how to run the race strategy.”

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson

“I am delighted to be getting back to Austria and especially Spielberg. The atmosphere during the race weekend last year was amazing - it was a great experience. There were a lot of spectators in the grandstands and on the campsites. I like the track a lot, as it is a fast circuit which I am going to enjoy. Overtaking is rather difficult, but there are places where it is possible. I am looking forward to the race weekend.”

Felipe Nasr

“This season it will be my first time driving a Formula One car in Spielberg. I am looking forward to racing there. It is quite a fast circuit, with many long straights combined with some high-speed corners. The last two corners before the start and finish line are my favourites, as they are very quick and you have to drive them very precisely. The long straights could be a benefit for us, but downforce is also required in the high-speed corners. I assume it will be a challenging weekend fighting against our main competitors, but I am confident we will extract the maximum out of our package.”

Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Head of Track Engineering

“The Austrian Grand Prix at Spielberg can be considered, in terms of the set-up and aero configuration of the car, almost as a continuation of the previous race. The balance between the number of corners and lengths of the straights is similar to the Montreal track, yet their nature is substantially different with flowing bends in place of chicanes, and changes of elevation. We also expect that brakes will be a key factor there. For this race weekend the soft and supersoft compounds have been allocated by Pirelli. After an extensive assessment of last week’s achievements, we will direct all our efforts again towards competing at a high level.”

More to follow.