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Australia preview quotes - McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull & more

14 Mar 2016

The wait is almost over - after an extremely short and busy winter test period the new Formula One season finally kicks off in Melbourne next weekend with the 2016 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix. Those involved look ahead to the eagerly-anticipated Albert Park event…

Fernando Alonso 

"It's been a very long winter - the longest I can remember without Formula 1 - so I'm really looking forward to getting back in the car. This track is always exciting to drive, partly because of its street circuit nature - tight run-off areas, a bumpy surface and low grip - but also because everyone is impatient to go racing again.  

"The important thing is to get a good start - usually everyone is eager and it's quiet common for there to be some drama off the line in the first race. This year, it'll be interesting to see how everyone's tyre choices play out, and the strategy each team picks, but it's only on Sunday afternoon that we'll get to see where we really are. On Friday and Saturday, we'll be working hard to predict the track's characteristics on race day, and focusing on setting up the car in its final specification. It'll also be interesting to see how the improvement in the power unit deployment pans out on this tricky circuit, too."  

Jenson Button

"I'm so excited to go racing again! Albert Park is always a great season-opener - I love Melbourne as a city, and the track is pretty good, too. The warm weather is a welcome change and the higher track temperatures than we've been used to in testing always pose a bit of a challenge.  

"In Australia it's always a new slate each day in terms of set-up, as the track starts off very green on the Friday and wears in more and more as the weekend goes on. We are planning to bring some updates to this race, so we'll be working on configuring those into our set-up right from FP1. Albert Park is a tricky place to start the season at – it's an unforgiving, technical, bumpy street circuit, so it really gets you going after a few months off from racing, but that's why we love driving there." 

Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director 

"It's been a very long winter, and I know that I can speak on behalf of the whole McLaren-Honda team when I say that we can't wait to go racing again! There's been an incredible amount of hard work done over the winter, and we're all itching to get back on the grid to see where we are for this, our second year of the McLaren-Honda partnership.  

"We are certainly a step ahead of where we were this time last year in terms of preparation – we have much more mileage under our belts and we've performed most of the necessary system checks that we were still working on during race weekends in 2015. That said, we didn't manage to complete our final configuration and set-up work for the first race, so we go to Melbourne with a number of unknowns. It won't be an easy start to the weekend in that sense, since we'll need to concentrate on setting the car up for each session and readying the final specification of our package as soon as we get to Albert Park. Since the final pre-season test, there's been a huge effort back in Woking to bring new parts to Australia and it'll be good to finally get to the track on Friday and see how we fare.  

"Until the other teams fully show their hand in the same conditions, we won't have any idea where we stack up in comparison, but our priority is to focus on extracting the most out of our own performance, while still maintaining reliability. It's a difficult balance to strike, but as usual we'll work hard, in the hope of faring better in Australia than we did last year. We are always greeted by a warm welcome, and it'll be fantastic to hear the cheers from the knowledgeable Aussie fans in Albert Park. We're all counting down to the green light on Friday so we can get out on track and start the season proper."

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer 

"As a season-opener, the street circuit of Albert Park is a strenuous track for the drivers, car and the power unit, so it will no doubt be a difficult race. The circuit is flat, narrow, slippery and fast, which makes the whole weekend unpredictable.  

"That said, we are eager to see what the package is capable of out on track. During the short winter months, we worked hard to address the issues encountered in 2015, and during the two weeks of testing in Barcelona, we were able to confirm the fundamental power unit set-up for 2016. The logical next step is to test and show our progress on track, which will begin to shape the course of our development for this year.  

"Last year, the team was given a warm welcome by the enthusiastic fans, as well as fantastic support from our Honda Australia peers. We hope we can show our appreciation through our efforts on the track during the grand prix weekend."

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton 

"Testing was just incredible - the best I can remember in my career. The car feels even better than last year's from both a performance and reliability perspective, which is saying something. It's all so refined in every area and we can be really proud of what we've achieved over the winter.

"I was at the factory last week and it was humbling to stand in front of everyone that has worked so hard to get us to this point. I've been with this team for four years now and, despite all the success, everyone just keeps raising the bar every season, which is super impressive. I know that the guys and girls will keep pushing for more top results, so it's up to us drivers to go out there and nail it for them on track. People keep asking me about motivation - but I just have to look at the faces of all those people to know what I'm fighting for. 

"Together, we're always searching for perfection. But that target is always shifting and you're constantly faced with new challenges to reach it. Just as you think you're close, suddenly you fall further back - like someone dangling a carrot on a piece of string and whipping it away just as you reach for it. It's tough mentally - but that's a good thing, as it forces you to be resilient and seek improvement in every area. I know there's still more to come from me - I think I've shown that in the past two years. There certainly needs to be some extra in my tank, as the competition will be stronger than ever this year.

"There are a few things that will make it even more challenging for all of us this season, too. The changes to the radio rules will have a big impact. The engineers now can't give you prompts or reminders that might affect performance during the race, so you have to remember so much more. This even applies to strategy, so when it's shifting throughout the race you won't be in the loop. It will be tough - but hopefully it will make for more exciting races.

"Now we head to Melbourne and the first to chance to see how all this plays out on track. I can't wait to get started."

Nico Rosberg

"This is always a massively exciting time of year. Testing is important, of course. But what every driver really looks forward to is unleashing a new car flat out for the first time. I'm already itching to get back out there - getting to know our latest Silver Arrow and pushing on, making progress with it.

"Limited testing gives everyone a big challenge, as you have to be efficient and make more of that time than anyone else. It's even tougher when you're the benchmark, as you need to invent while others can invent and copy. But we've done our homework and I think it looks set to be a good year again for us. The level of build quality in the car - how it all fits together and all the little details - is just awesome.

"It's so impressive how the team keeps on pushing, aiming to be better all the time. Of course, we all know that Ferrari are right there with us and maybe some of the others will be up there too, so we have to keep pushing. But it's good to have that competition. With the team we have I believe we can keep them behind.

"I'm really hoping to bring back a couple of wins from the first flyaways to reward everyone at the factories for their hard work. There's such a positive vibe in the team and everybody gets so excited. I know they'll be cheering us on at home every weekend, so it's our responsibility to deliver for them.

"I've had a great winter and done a few things differently for this year. I've never felt more ready to go. It's going to be a great battle."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"It seems like we've never been away. Although the season starts later than usual, the work has been non-stop over the winter. Under stable regulations you are not looking to re-invent the wheel and you cannot expect huge development jumps. But looking for small, carefully evaluated steps forward in every area is equally challenging. There is always room for progress and we have found some interesting developments. It gives me great pride to see how the team continues to innovate in exciting ways.

"Motivation is crucial to performance and you need to set ambitious targets to keep that drive high. These change from year to year. When I first arrived, it was becoming a front running team. Then, it was winning the title. Then, proving to ourselves that it wasn't a one-off. And now, it's creating sustainable success - building the team and the organisation as a whole. We're realistic with ourselves. We know we won't win every race and every Championship. But we want to be up there fighting for it every year and putting on a great show, so that's the target.

"We expect the competition to be tougher than ever this year. Expectations are high, both internally and externally. But Ferrari look confident and there will likely be other teams involved in the battle. Testing is about clocking mileage and understanding the car, so there is no clear order at this point. But if it were to be this way, that's something we would enjoy. We are racers and we love a challenge. Having an enemy pumps you up for a battle - and having strong competitors motivates us to push even harder. 

"This is not a sport where you can relax. The minute you start being complacent you lose out, so you have to keep the energy in the system and we are doing this all the time. Likewise, the drivers need to keep raising their game. They are major competition for each other in the same car, which is not always going to be easy to handle. But with others also in the mix, it will be interesting to see how the dynamic evolves. We've shown in the past two seasons that there are no team orders - and this does not change. 

"Formula One is a sport - but it is also entertainment. Controversy, both on and off track, makes headlines. That's not a bad thing - it's part of the world we live in. But we can think about that later. For now, I can't wait for the flag to drop in Melbourne: let battle commence..."

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

"Firstly, congratulations to the team at Brackley and Brixworth on an incredible achievement in the delivery of this car. We saw an unprecedented level of reliability during pre-season testing, with over six thousand kilometers completed. That's almost the same mileage in eight days as we achieved across twelve days last year, demonstrating clear progress in our ability to prepare for a new season. However, it's still early days, and there are no championship points for testing.

"What's equally pleasing is to see evidence of continuous innovation. Innovation drives us forward - and it's clear to see on our car that nobody in the team is resting on their laurels. But while we were pleased with our performance in Barcelona, we have no definite sense of how we measure up relative to the competition. This creates tension - but mainly excitement to see where we stand.

"The first qualifying session of the year is, for me, the most exciting hour of the whole Formula One calendar. This is where you get your final exam marks for all the hard work over the many months needed to put together a new car. It's the first time we see all of the cars and drivers on the limit - gloves off, flat out. Once you get through qualifying and see where you stand, good or bad, a lot of that winter tension is relieved and translated into plans for the future. Whether it's maintaining a gap or closing on a target ahead, the objective becomes clear.

"After an intense winter, the team enjoys arriving in Melbourne. There is a great buzz as the paddock gets back to work, with new kit, some new faces and this year even a new team. We also have some significant new sporting regulations concerning tyre compound choices, driver communications in the race and qualifying format. Put together I am expecting these changes to create far more variation, uncertainty and excitement for the fans, while testing even further the ability of Nico, Lewis and the race team to perform under pressure. We're looking forward to it!"

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo

“For me the favourite things about the Australian GP are first of all the fans. They’re pretty awesome, every day we go to the track we get a pretty big greeting from everyone and they are super enthusiastic, it’s cool! The track is fun, I love street circuits so for me Melbourne’s got really good flow, really good corner combinations, lots of left/right, left/rights which is cool. And I’m not a massive fan of the European winter so getting back to Oz, not only to race but just to get back to some sunshine is great. To hear the Aussie accent, have some good Aussie food and live that summer lifestyle is great, so not really much to complain about!

“Testing’s been a lot better for us this year. You still don’t really know where you are until you get to Melbourne, but we’re better prepared than we were this time last year so we can use that as some confidence. Me personally, I’m ready to go - I was ready in January and I’m still ready now! Just keen for those lights to go out and to get racing! I think everyone’s excited to get going, but even if the race was elsewhere I think there’s no-one more excited than me to go racing, period! But the fact that it’s in Oz and I’m going to have more supporters than anyone else, hell yeah I’m excited!

“In fact, I’m going to have to control my adrenaline because there’s a long build up over the weekend. Sunday’s cool, it’s probably the quietest day of the week for us in terms of other obligations so it’s really time to just focus on the race. When I’m on the grid on Sunday, it’ll just be full focus, full determination, knowing that I’ve got a battle on my hands the next hour and a half, a battle I’ll look forward to!”

Daniil Kvyat

“I think compared to this time last year, I’m feeling a lot more confident and comfortable in the team, I know everyone a lot better and everyone knows me, so it’s good that we start off the season with this kind of confidence. With my engineers for example, we all know each other very well and with everyone in the garage too - we all know what each other is doing and what to expect from each other - so it’s good!

“Looking at the Australian GP, I like Melbourne it’s a nice, chilled out place with good food, a good beach and sunshine. The track is quite unusual, there is no other track you can compare it to; it’s half street circuit, half normal circuit with tight run off areas. You have to maximise your entries everywhere, be very precise in your driving - I like it.

“I feel like we’re prepared going into the first race, we’ve done a good amount of work in winter testing with all the procedures we were after. We maximised everything and we know what to do in Melbourne and that’s the most important thing so there are no big question marks now and that’s very good.

“Compared to Daniel’s Australian GP weekend, I’ll just have less media to be honest! But then I’ll get the punch back in Russia soon after! It’s a more relaxed weekend for me, I have a lot of time on Tuesday and Wednesday - I like being in Australia so it’s good for me. Daniel has much more time to stay in Australia anyway through the year so it’s OK he can suffer for a bit!”

Renault

Jolyon Palmer

“I am really looking forward to Friday when the 22 cars are out on track pounding round. I think everything will be ready. We always keep working on performance but when it comes to a race weekend you give it your all to achieve a good result. It will be busy for us in the race but I feel I’m in an OK position right now.

“Even though I did not get the greatest amount of laps in testing, I don’t feel too behind and know that when we turn up in Melbourne it will be OK.”

Kevin Magnussen

“I feel ready for Melbourne. We’ve had some good days of testing, with lots of laps: more than 100 every day and more than 500 in four days. Putting in the mileage was the main thing as I needed to get back up to speed after some time out of a car. I really couldn’t have asked for more. I’ve been through systems checks and feel comfortable going to Melbourne and doing a race. At the moment I think we are just outside the top ten but if all goes well then who knows. You can never definitely hope for points, but if we leave Australia with points we can be happy.

“I enjoy going to Melbourne. In 2014 I had a brilliant start with the podium, but I went again last year and it wasn’t as good as the first time! Hopefully we will complete the race this year and get some points. That’s my aim. If both myself and Jolyon can come away with points, it would be a massive achievement!”

Fred Vasseur, racing director

“It is very difficult to see where we are ahead of the start of the season. We need to focus on our job and try to improve where we can rather than spending time analysing where we are in relative terms. We have to fight the entire grid and everyone has the same target: to go faster than the guys around them.

“We need to keep our opposition under pressure and never give up. It won’t be an easy task as we started very late for this season, but we will see for 2017. Ultimately it doesn’t matter where we start, but we need to deliver in line with our targets. We will always aim to finish in the points, but bearing in mind that we only created the team in December, we need to be realistic and not start pointing the finger at anyone.”

Nick Chester, chassis technical director

“Overall we have learnt that we have a fairly good baseline car, which is something we can run with and develop over the course of the year. There’s an amount of small tidy-ups we want to do post winter testing, as every team would do. Our aim is to go to Melbourne with all problems fixed, then concentrate on suspension and the usual aero development thereafter.” 

Williams

Felipe Massa

"Australia is always a nice place to start the season because it’s a fantastic country and everybody likes to go there, it is also a race where anything can happen. I’m really looking forward to starting a new season, and I hope we can start well like we did last year. Hopefully our car is competitive straight away, that’s the most important thing. I am pretty optimistic that we can have a good first race and a good season."

Valtteri Bottas

“Melbourne is a really nice city and I always really enjoy going there. The people are nice and the weather is normally very good. Because it’s the first grand prix of the year it’s a very exciting time for everyone. I really like the track as well, for me it’s one of the best on the whole Formula One calendar. Last year was disappointing for me, because of my back injury, but this year I am looking forward to starting the season with a strong result.”

Pat Symonds, chief technical officer

“It’s always great to get back to Melbourne. It’s a real test for the teams and drivers as they move from winter testing mode into competitive racing. As a circuit, it provides a few engineering challenges. The entry to Turn 1 has been notoriously bumpy in previous seasons, although due to some resurfacing work, it should be smoother this year. The high-speed change of direction through Turns 11 and 12, which require an agile car, coupled with the relatively low grip that improves significantly throughout the weekend, leaves teams chasing a set-up that provides good low-speed grip with high-speed stability. We feel we have a good platform to work from this year and hope we can manage these challenges to achieve a competitive outcome.”

Haas

Romain Grosjean

“I was very happy with winter testing and the way everything is going ahead of Australia. There are always up and downs and things you need to do. There’s some boring stuff and some fun stuff. Eight days is not a lot of testing, but coming from scratch, where we started, it’s been impressive. Everyone is looking forward to going to the first race.

“I enjoy Albert Park. It changes a lot during the weekend. It’s not a permanent circuit, so the grip is changing a lot. The race start is quite late, but it’s one of my favourite Grand Prix. It’s not an easy track to get on with. It’s very hard on fuel consumption as well. For the first race of the season, it’s going to be interesting.

“It’s early to set goals but, of course, we want to score points as early as possible in the season.”

Esteban Gutierrez

“My goals for Australia? First of all, we need to find out how competitive we are. I hope we are as competitive and as good as the car feels, but we need to maximise and optimise what we have. Our target is clear - to achieve points. It is quite ambitious as a new team, but that’s what we’re targeting and we’ll work very hard to achieve it.

“I love driving [the VF-16]. It’s very enjoyable. I’ve had cars in the past which were difficult to fine tune in order to get a good feeling where you can anticipate, where you can push the car to the limit. The VF-16, straight away had a good feeling. As a baseline, that’s always a good sign. It’s a great car.”

Guenther Steiner, team principal

“[Testing] was a roller-coaster ride. At the moment, we are as ready as we can be for Australia, but you’re never ready enough. No matter what, we will do our best.

“During the five days that the guys got back from Barcelona and before they leave for Australia, they not only have to rebuild one car, but finish a second car. They are working very hard, and it’s why we’re on schedule.

“It’s taken so much effort from so many people [to get ready for Australia]. I think everybody saw how prepared we were in Barcelona with our equipment ready on the first morning of testing. We want to be just as prepared for Australia, and that is achieved by the hard-working people at Haas F1 Team.

“Our goal [for Australia] is to have both cars finish, to show that we can compete and be proud of what we are doing.”

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson 

“I cannot wait to finally kick off the 2016 Formula 1 season in Melbourne. The Australian Grand Prix in Albert Park is always special as the atmosphere is great - I enjoy being in Australia. I also have great memories from last year as I scored my first points in Formula One there. Looking back to the last few weeks, the preparations during the test days in Barcelona went well, and I felt comfortable with the C35. Now we have to see how things work out during a race weekend. I am confident the team has worked hard to be in a good shape for the season opener in Melbourne."

Felipe Nasr 

“The Australian Grand Prix reminds me of my fantastic result from last year. Finishing fifth in my first ever Formula One race is something I will probably never forget. It is nice to come back to Albert Park with these great memories. During testing in Barcelona I had some productive days collecting good mileage in the C35. I feel well prepared to start my second Formula One season. I am curious to see where we stand with the C35 in comparison to the other teams. Everyone within the factory in Hinwil has worked really hard, so we deserve a successful start to the 2016 Formula One season."

Force India

Sergio Perez

“It feels great to be going racing again. Winter has been long and I have been missing the atmosphere you get from a race weekend. Going to Melbourne is a great way to start the year and it’s one of my favourite races. Everyone is very friendly and relaxed and I always enjoy those races close to a big city.

“I’m a big fan of street tracks and Albert Park is a real challenge. You can’t afford to be rusty because it’s a circuit that doesn’t forgive your mistakes. Getting a perfect lap together is quite difficult because it’s quite stop-start. You need to be good on your brakes and strong out of the traction zones. Overtaking is always difficult - even though there are some good spots like turns three and thirteen.

“No matter how many laps you do in testing, you never really know where you are compared to the other teams. So I don’t want to say too much. As a team we feel quite happy with what we achieved in Barcelona and that’s the main thing. The car has been reliable and we’ve made a good step forward compared to last year. I think we can go to Melbourne knowing that points are achievable.”

Nico Hulkenberg

“Melbourne used to be my unlucky track, but I scored points in 2014 and 2015, so I think I’ve broken the curse! I don’t know of anybody in the paddock who doesn’t enjoy this event. After the long winter you arrive in Melbourne and everybody is pumped and ready to get the season started. The weather is great, the city is cool and you get a lot of energy and positivity from the crowd and the buzz in the paddock.

“Sector two is my highlight of the lap: you go from a slow chicane to a straight and into a fast left-right combination that is tricky to get right. It's a high-speed corner where you can make or lose a lot of time and it can set you up for a good overtaking spot on the approach to turn 13.

“To be quick at Albert Park you need a car that is well settled. It’s about braking late, using the kerbs and being precise. Tyre degradation is usually high so the new tyre rules could open up some different strategy options.

“The opening race of the season often throws up surprises: anything can happen and we need to put ourselves in a position to make the best of any opportunity that comes our way.”

Vijay Mallya, team principal

“Melbourne can always throw up some surprises and unpredictability, but I’d like to see us get some points and start the season as we mean to go on. We want to be qualifying and racing inside the top ten from race one.”

Toro Rosso

Max Verstappen

"Last year's Australian GP was a very special weekend for me: I was so excited to be taking part in my first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix! The parts of the circuit that standout for me are Turn 1, where you arrive quite fast – or at least that was my feeling back then, as it was all very new to me! – and it's bumpy in the braking area, so I remember that I found it a bit difficult to get the braking right for that turn. Other things I remember was halfway through the lap, when you arrive to Turn 10, I could see a lot of fans there, sitting on the grass – they are so passionate and it's so nice to see! At that same point I was also able to see part of the beautiful city. The last part of the track has some good combination of corners, even though it was a bit of a disappointing part last year, as it's the sector where I retired... To be racing in point's position in your first F1 race and have to retire is something hard to experience! But all in all, it's a fun, enjoyable track and I just can't wait to go back!"

Carlos Sainz

"I have very good memories from Australia, probably some of the best of 2015, as I ended up P8 in my first ever F1 qualifying session and then went on to score points in my debut race. Preparing for this race again definitely puts a smile on my face! I discovered this track for the first time last year and I can say I really enjoyed it. I remember that Turn 1 is quite bumpy and it's therefore easy to lock the front wheels. The second DRS zone is a tricky one, as we open it just as we exit Turn 2. What we need to be careful with is the entry of Turn 6, as it's quite easy to put a tyre on the grass! I also recall having to get very close to the wall at Turns 9 and 10, as this gives you lap time, and it reminds me a bit of Monaco. My favourite part of the track, and also the fastest, are Turns 11 and 12, driven in sixth gear. The last sector also includes another nice combination of corners that I enjoy very much, even though the final two turns are the trickiest, especially Turn 16, where you're fighting with the steering wheel to get a good exit. I definitely had good fun out there last year and I hope to say the same this time!"

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

“With far reaching changes to tyre regulations compared to 2015, we expect strategy options to have extended considerably, with more possibilities open not only to each team but also every individual driver. In fact, the tactical decisions for Albert Park already began last year, as each team nominated their tyres: only recently, like a poker game, did everyone have to finally show their hand. By Sunday afternoon in Melbourne, we’ll see who made the right choices.”


More to follow.