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Bahrain preview quotes - Manor, Sauber, Williams & more

31 Mar 2016

After the thrills and spills of Melbourne, the F1 paddock moves to the desert setting and floodlights of Sakhir for the 2016 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand. Those involved look ahead to round two of the season…
Manor 

Pascal Wehrlein

"Melbourne was amazing. Nothing can prepare you for the feeling of lining up on the grid for the first time and taking the chequered flag at the end of your first Grand Prix. They are special memories for sure. As a team we learned a lot in Melbourne. Qualifying didn't work out well for us and as we have the same format here in Bahrain we need to put those lessons into practice. We still have a way to go with optimising the set-up to counter the tyre degradation problems we experienced in the second half of the race. It was a good start, but there's a lot of room for improvement in every area, including me. 

"My first F1 night race will be fun and it's really cool to have that experience so early in my F1 career. I'm sure the circuit will feel spectacular to drive under the lights. I can't wait."

Rio Haryanto

"My debut was an incredible experience and one I'd waited a long time for, so I tried not to dwell too heavily on retiring. There were too many positives to take away from the weekend so that's what I did. On a personal level I was quite happy with my pace and how I translated everything I'd learned at the tests into a race weekend context. I know the team were disappointed with the problem that ended my race but it's all about looking forward and there's so much more to come.

"My first night race will be pretty special! Generally though, I think the weekend here will be a lot smoother and I've got some really good experience to draw on in every area. Most of all, I can't wait to see the chequered flag!"

Dave Ryan, racing director

"We came away from Melbourne feeling a little disappointed, no two ways about it. The drivers did a great job and there's a lot of potential in the car but we need to do a better job of bringing everything together when it counts. I'm sure every team can say the same as it's only the beginning but I'm expecting us to make improvements in every area this weekend.

"This race [Bahrain] always throws up a few surprises doesn't it? It's a bit of a moving feast to be honest, especially when you consider the weather we've seen here in the past few days. Rain is less of a factor, as it evaporates so quickly, but the wind can be a distraction for the drivers and the pit wall. Track conditions can vary significantly from the afternoon practice sessions to the twilight timing of qualifying and the race. So there's a lot for the engineers and drivers to get their head around in order to make the right strategic calls."

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson

“The Bahrain Grand Prix is the first night race of the season. I especially enjoy the surroundings under the floodlights, which looks pretty nice on TV. I know the track well from my previous two seasons in Formula 1, but also from GP2, as I have been there many times. Last year I put in a good performance as well as having a strong race. I was going for points, which did not work out in the end due to other circumstances. However, I will take that positive feeling from last year’s race weekend with me.”

Felipe Nasr

“The Bahrain Grand Prix is a special race weekend for me. Having Lebanese roots from my grandfather, I have always liked being in the Middle East. For me as a driver it is nice to not only get huge support from Brazil, but also from where we are. The track itself is great fun to drive and to race at night makes the event even more special.”

Williams

Felipe Massa

“Bahrain is definitely a place I really enjoy racing. I’ve won twice there and I’ve had many other good results. I always enjoy going there, including many times for testing. I like the people as well as the place in general and I look forward to having a good race there. It’s the second race of the season now and I really hope we can have another fantastic result in a place I enjoy.”

Valtteri Bottas

“The Bahrain evening race is a really nice one. I prefer it much more as an evening race. The track looks good and is just as nice to drive. It’s a good track for racing and I got a decent result last year. It’s quite a different kind of track to Melbourne, so it’s going to be interesting to see where we are compared to the others; because it’s more like a standard race track rather than the Melbourne street circuit. It will still only be the second race of the season, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Pat Symonds, Chief Technical Officer

“The Bahrain International Circuit is quite tough in all respects. It’s important to have good high-speed balance in the car and look after the rear tyres in particular. We will see much hotter conditions, and there is always a concern over wind and sand, which was a real factor in the early part of the weekend last year. Following the cooler Australian conditions, we will now see how our cooling systems stand up in the heat and what impact opening up these systems has on aerodynamic performance. The tyre choice shows a bit of variation as well with Ferrari and ourselves appearing to be going down a different route to Mercedes, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out over the weekend.”

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Motorsport Director

“The new tyre regulations for 2016 proved to be a big success, providing many different strategy options and talking points for all the teams in Australia. Bahrain is a very different type of circuit, with tyre behaviour affected by a big drop in temperature as the race goes on. This provides a different set of challenges and parameters, so it will be interesting to see who has learned most from Australia in order to take best advantage of another new situation. There are some quite diverse choices from the teams, which will play a key role in the race outcome.”

McLaren

Fernando Alonso

“Firstly, I’m very pleased to be heading to Bahrain after the crash in Australia. I’ve spent some time resting and I can’t wait to get back in the car. Although on paper Melbourne wasn’t a great race for us, before the crash I’d been having some good battles and the car felt pretty promising, so I hope in Bahrain we can experience more of the same.

“There’s also been a massive effort from the teams in Woking and Sakura, who have been flat-out manufacturing parts for this race to ensure we can get back up to speed after the chassis was damaged, and I’m hugely impressed with how quickly they’ve managed to turn it around. We’re still pushing to bring upgrades to each race, so providing we can get everything to the car in time we’ll be aiming to get as much track time as possible with the new chassis from the start of free practice.

“Living in Dubai, I’m used to the climate in the Middle East, and racing in different temperatures over the weekend, as well as managing the car’s performance over a long race distance in tough conditions, brings another level to the challenge for the drivers. I’m looking forward to seeing what our package is capable of at what has previously been a pretty challenging circuit for us.

“I really enjoy racing in Bahrain. It’s been a good circuit for me in the past – I’ve had three victories there – and there are quite a few good opportunities to overtake. There are lots of variables to think about and it’s one of the longest races, which usually produces some kind of drama. Hopefully we can enjoy some close racing and keep ourselves out of trouble.”

Jenson Button

“Bahrain is a fun track to drive on and very different from Albert Park in its configuration. It’s tough on brakes and fuel, and good balance is key to putting together a lap, as you need downforce on the long, fast straights and then stability and traction through the lower-speed corners. It’s a more extreme version of Australia in many ways, with the track starting off very dirty and rubbering in over the weekend. While that makes the track faster, we also have to juggle the rapidly cooling temperatures on race day after the sun sets.

“I’m really keen to get back behind the wheel, as, although it didn’t show in our results from Australia, our package felt very good to drive and the team worked really hard to bring a step forward in driveability from testing to the first race. Bahrain is definitely a tricky track for us as it’s high-speed, but we have a solid platform and improved deployment, so there are some positives to look forward to.

“We made a couple of misjudgements on the strategy side in Melbourne, but it’s all part of the learning curve with the new tyre compound rules. Together with the engineers we’ve studied the data and hopefully we can make some good calls in Bahrain, pull together the various stages of the race and achieve a more representative result.

“The landscape of racing in the desert after sunset is always really special and brings a new dimension to the spectacle. Everything in Bahrain is always very slick and it’s an impressive place to be. My win there in 2009 is still a great memory and the wide track and run-off areas mean it’s a fun circuit on which to battle. I hope we can mix it with the midfield pack – it’s a very competitive area of the field – so we’ll be pushing hard to get the maximum from our package as soon as we can.”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

“The race in Australia was certainly an eventful one for McLaren-Honda. First of all, I was very happy to see Fernando walk away after such a heart-stopping incident. In addition, I’d like to say a huge thank you to all our McLaren and Honda employees for the incredible efforts going on behind the scenes to get the spare chassis built and ready to race next weekend. It’s a truly remarkable achievement in between flyaway races, and a testament to our incredibly strong teamwork.

“We’re certainly hoping for a less dramatic race in Bahrain, and will be aiming to build on the promising initial data we’ve collected from our car, which shows a definite improvement in pace from last year’s package. There’s still much more potential to unlock and performance to find, but the encouraging leap made from testing to Melbourne has shown what’s possible, and we will keep pushing to improve our pace and develop our strengths by continuing to bring updates to the car at every race.

“The Bahrain Grand Prix has become something of a home race for us, and we’re very proud to be racing in front of our shareholders and enthusiastic fans. The spectacle of the Bahrain International Circuit is something very special. Racing under floodlights always creates a unique atmosphere and the fans get to enjoy action on track in completely different settings over the course of the weekend. For the engineers, it’s a battle to juggle many different constraints – temperatures, track surfaces, brake wear, tyres, fuel consumption – and we’ve already learned a lot about how our car performs in different conditions from Melbourne, which we’ll be putting to good use. In Bahrain we’ll be looking to discover our true pace and put our package to work in the tough desert conditions.”

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

"After a chaotic Australian weekend, we head off to our first night race of the season in Bahrain.

“We have recovered the power unit from Fernando’s car used in Melbourne. After initial investigations, we are massively disappointed that the ICE and most of the surrounding parts have been heavily damaged, as the impact from the accident was just too great. We will be replacing the complete power unit in Bahrain.

“Looking forward, Bahrain’s sunny and dry weather will hopefully ensure that we have plenty of clean running. The circuit’s two long front and back straights will be strenuous on the power units, so we will make the most of the practice sessions to set up the car. It’s evident that we still need to increase our performance, but thankfully we were able to learn more about where we are and how to progress from the data collected in Melbourne.”

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton 

I'm excited at the thought of more races like Melbourne. There are going to be weekends where we're a few seconds up the road from Ferrari, races where it's wheel to wheel and races where they might be ahead. We really don't know - and that's exciting. I have a good feeling about my pace. I was ahead all weekend until the race start last time out, so I'm confident heading to Bahrain. It's been entertaining on track for the past two seasons there, so more of the same would be great! There's been a lot of talk about the rules and whether the drivers should be more involved in decision making. It's not our job to come up with ideas and we all have different opinions anyway. But personally, I think we need more mechanical grip and less aero wake coming off the back of the cars so we can get close and overtake. Give us five seconds' worth of lap time from aero and nothing will change - we'll just be driving faster. I speak as somebody who loves this sport and loves racing. I don't have all the answers - but I know that the changes we're making won't deliver better racing."

Nico Rosberg

"We've stepped up our game once again with a fantastic car. But Ferrari were a real threat all weekend in Melbourne and it's clear that we've got a big battle on our hands, so we have to keep pushing very hard. The new radio rules make things quite a big challenge. It's tough out there - and for me it's a good direction we've taken, giving the drivers more responsibility. The important thing is whether it's what the fans want to see, so we need to listen to them. It's Bahrain next - a track which always seems to provide entertainment for me! I've had some great battles there in the last two years with Lewis and also the Ferraris, so I'm expecting more of the same this time and very much looking forward to that. It was great to win the first race - but the aim is to come out on top at every step of the way this season, starting this weekend. There's a long way to go..."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"We have made a solid start to the season. However, while our advantage in Melbourne was a healthy one, it was nevertheless close enough that those bad starts could easily have lost us the race. Bahrain is a track that should suit Ferrari, so we expect even smaller gaps and a very close match this weekend. After a successful debut for the new tyre regulations last time out, we can also expect an interesting strategy battle during the race - so there is plenty to look forward to. This weekend we will see the new qualifying system continue after a less-than-impressive debut in Australia. The teams were unanimous in their opinion of it on Sunday in Melbourne and it wasn't a positive opinion. We haven't found the right format with this change and it's hard to see how it might be more entertaining for the fans this weekend in Bahrain. The sport is under scrutiny on this matter, so careful thought is required in order to make coordinated, intelligent steps forward from the position we are in right now. The fans want close racing, in a format they can understand, between the best drivers and cars in the world - in that order. We should be capable of delivering that to the people in the grandstands and watching around the world."

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

"Bahrain is quite a different track to Melbourne, so it will be interesting to see how we fare. One thing you can normally guarantee is that it will be dry. Unlike the rain-hit Melbourne weekend, this will provide plenty of opportunity for track time. Thanks to their evening timings, qualifying and the race in Bahrain see much cooler track temperatures than the mid-afternoon FP1 / FP3 sessions - making the latter somewhat unrepresentative. This potentially makes tyre selection even more of a factor. We know already that there is a marked difference between the allocations selected by competing teams for this race, so we could see a few surprises. A big positive from Melbourne was seeing how well the new tyre rules delivered in terms of strategy variation - and we expect to see more of the same here. We've seen close battles throughout the field in both years of twilight racing in Bahrain, so we look forward to hopefully providing another spectacular evening for the fans."

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg

“Next up is Bahrain, which is a special place. As a circuit, it's very different to Melbourne: it's not bumpy at all; it's very smooth and it's full of slow corners. There are a several overtaking spots and the whole track, with long straights and big braking zones, makes for some great wheel-to-wheel racing. It's a track that rewards attacking, so hopefully we will see lots of action in the race. And of course, it's a night race so the atmosphere of the whole event is very different!

“One of my favourite things about Bahrain is the paddock. It looks like it’s straight out of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’, with the lights and buildings all adding to the atmosphere. It's one of my favourite events of the season. We will arrive there in a good place and we have the potential to get another strong result.”

Sergio Perez

“Australia didn't bring the result I was hoping for so I am targeting a better outcome from Bahrain. Getting a bad start really compromised my race last time out because I got stuck in the middle of cars on different strategies and I couldn't recover. However, it’s a long season and I have an opportunity to get back in the points in Bahrain.

“The racing is never boring in Bahrain so fans should enjoy some good entertainment. There are long straights and sharp braking zones so it's great for overtaking, but the big tractions zones make this a tough track for the rear tyres. I think tyre degradation will be a key factor in the outcome of this race. The track evolves a lot as the race goes on, as the cars sweep away all the sand and dust that the wind has blown onto the track.

“I have some very good memories from Bahrain - the race in 2014 was just fantastic when I celebrated my first podium with the team. I am confident we can be strong again this year and get back all the points I missed in Australia. Even in Melbourne, there were lots of positives we can build on, such as our strong qualifying speed and race pace. The team is doing a great job back at the factory and we should have some interesting new bits on the car, too, so I am feeling confident.”

Vijay Mallya, Team Principal

“On paper Bahrain should be a strong track for us so I’m optimistic we can deliver a similar level of performance to that which we showed in Melbourne. We will have some new aerodynamic developments, which will add some performance to the front of the car, so we will work hard to optimise those during the weekend.”

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz

“Turn 1 is very tight at the start, meaning that a lot of cars need to fit in a small space. I remember having a tough moment through Turns 1 and 2 at the start last year, with a lot of cars bunching up. The race takes place at night, so your braking points change during the weekend and you take your references from FP2. I remember Turn 6 being difficult all weekend, suffering a lot from understeer because of the wind always changing the balance of the car.

“Turns 9 and 10 are the most difficult corners, not only of this track but also of the season, because it’s a double apex and you brake through the whole area, making it easy to front-lock a lot. You will always be able to see the marks of the tyres in that braking zone. I also remember Turn 12 being a challenge because it’s always on the limit – you can go flat there one lap if the wind is okay, but then you try to do the same the following lap and it’s impossible because of the wind… It’s tricky, but it gives the driver a lot of pleasure when you manage to do it well!

“Finally, at the last corner you have to make sure you get a good exit. Last year we struggled a bit with top speed, so it was all about getting a lot of traction out of there – I remember this straight being a bit too long for us… Maybe no longer that much this year!”

Max Verstappen

“The Bahrain circuit has a very long straight – too long last year! – and they overtook me quite a few times there in 2015… It's not a nice feeling and inside your head you're talking to yourself and saying “c'mon, c'mon!”; it's frustrating, but there's not much more you can do when another car is quicker than you.

“I also remember a lot of national flags on the left after the first three turns. I first saw them during the track walk, but then I sometimes also had time to see them while driving. Turns 5, 6 and 7 were a bit tough to get right when it was dark as the braking points change, but it's still a nice part of the track as I always enjoy the fast corners.

“Turns 9 and 10 were quite difficult for the front-locking and it's easy to flat-spot your tyres there – something you don't want to do during a race! In general, it's special to race in the evening, while it's getting dark. Hopefully this year we will score some points there, because Toro Rosso has never scored any in Bahrain! So this is definitely a good target that I will be looking to achieve.”

Haas

Romain Grosjean

“Bahrain is not a circuit that looks very technical from a paper point of view, but I love driving it every year. It’s a big straight into turn one. Big braking and a tricky exit to turn two, and then you head up the hill approaching turn four. It’s got tricky braking with long lateral g’s and acceleration going into the high speed section of (turns) five, six and seven. The wind can have a big influence at those corners. Then you have the hairpin down the hill, going up against (turns) nine and 10 where you can easily have some front-locking because there’s a lot of g’s there under braking. Then the back straight takes you to turn 11, an uphill corner, then turn 12 where it can be flat out if you’ve got a really good car. Tricky braking into turn 13 because you’re coming from a high-speed corner. You really want to go early on the power to go down to turn 14, which is the last corner, again big braking before accelerating to cross the start-finish line.

“We need to get more running. We need to get more mileage and further our understanding of the car. We have a long list of things we want to try and do, and things to improve. It’s a lot of work but, on the other hand, it means we can improve the car by a big chunk. I always like to keep things positive. If we can do a lot of that in Bahrain, the car will improve and that means we can keep working on better results.”

Esteban Gutierrez

“I think, in general, we can go to Bahrain making our next step forward as a team. In both organization and communication there has not been much time for the team to breath because of the hard work in building the car and testing in Barcelona and then the first Grand Prix. Hopefully, we can consolidate things and get everything done and try to make the best of our potential.

“It’s quite impressive that even though we have not been able to experiment a lot, we have a very good base line. So, I’m really looking forward to get to know more of the car to experiment more and really work on the best direction for our setup. Bahrain will help us a lot to get more consistent running, more laps in practice and hopefully a smooth weekend.”

Guenther Steiner, team principal

“I think our plan is working, but we won’t finish sixth every weekend, so we need to be careful with our expectations. I think we showed that you can start a new team and end up in the midfield. We were not last in Australia, which was one of our goals, and I don’t think we will be last this year. How far we’ve come is a sign that our plan is working.

“We are not being arrogant about our early success and we will have our races where we will underperform. Our sixth-place finish in Australia keeps the team going, working very hard and trying to do the best possible job we can. If we continue to do what we did in Melbourne, good results will come.”

Renault

Jolyon Palmer

“I raced there in GP2 and it’s a track I have been successful on in the past. I won the last race I did there, then I also had a podium. I also drove in practice last year. The track is OK. There are a lot of straights so plenty of overtaking opportunities, so we will find out more about the car in this trim. There is a lot of track evolution as it is very sandy at the start of weekend, and then the track gets more and more rubber down, so conditions change a lot. The weather is almost always sunny, but it can be quite windy, which can blow sand onto the track. The fact it’s a night race is pretty interesting as it’s still very dry. In terms of set up, practice 1 and 3 are hard as they are a lot hotter than the race but there is a lot we can do in procedural terms, such as aero tests. I will be more relaxed now I have one race under my belt, particularly as I finished all 58 laps. I feel much more comfortable after pre-season testing and am looking forward to going to a track I know and have won at before.”

Kevin Magnussen

“It’s not the most exciting track, to be honest! The heat is a major challenge and it is tough on the rear tyres so having a car that looks after them will be an advantage. There are also four long straights so it is a power orientated track. I will enjoy getting out there and if you ask me if the race could be tomorrow I’d be there, no questions asked!”

Bob Bell, chief technical officer

“I don’t think we’ve seen anything at Barcelona or Melbourne that is worrying. Barcelona is pretty indicative of standard aero levels and mechanical grip so we haven’t seen anything that concerns us for the major tracks. Naturally we would like to repeat the form we saw in Australia, and maybe sneak into the tail end of the points if we can. We also brought a prototype front wing to Melbourne that Kevin used and it appears to have lived up to expectations. It will be on both cars in Bahrain.”

Red Bull

Daniil Kvyat

“I like the weather in Bahrain and the track is good. It might look like a simple, modern track but actually it’s very challenging to put a strong lap together. I like that Bahrain is a night race, it gives it some passion! And night racing feels like you are going into space!

“The races in Bahrain are good, there is a long main straight and good overtaking opportunity after Turn 1. Then there is the tow again to Turn 4, so there are good opportunities to race. This is where most of the racing happens in Turn 1, Turn 2, and Turn 4 and maybe Turn 8 as well sometimes.

“To me, this track has been OK, last year there were a few issues, but in the race it was fine. I had an OK race there when I was at STR as well. There is a long straight which was our weakness last year but this year we are looking to find some improvements so it could turn out to be quite a competitive track for us. If we can grab a few good points for both cars, that would be great.”

Daniel Ricciardo

“I think the track’s always been pretty fun to race on, I feel I’ve always had good results at this track, and there are good places for overtaking. Since it’s been a night race it’s become a lot more exciting. The tyres last a bit longer and you can push a bit harder throughout the race so it’s been a good challenge the last few years and a place I’ve always enjoyed. There’s not really one standout corner that’s like ‘woah’ but it’s all pretty cool and the middle sector is quite fun. Night races are fun, for whatever reason it feels like you go a bit faster at night, so it’s exciting. If every race was a night race it wouldn’t have that same atmosphere so it’s cool that we have a few across the year.

“The track is good for overtaking, the last corner flows quite well and if you can get close for DRS you can get a good run into Turn 1. If you don’t get it into Turn 1, then there’s Turn 4 or the middle sectors where it’s easy to make mistakes. There’s probably four places you can pass on the track which is pretty good. The track does suit us, the last couple of years we’ve had a pretty good result, so hopefully we can continue that this year as well.”


More to follow.