Spanish Grand Prix, Team and Driver official previews
After four back to back fly-away races of 2009 season, Formula 1 is finally back to Europe starting with Spanish Grand Prix this week. Most of the teams are planning to bring major updates to this track and it will be interesting to see who did the best job. All ten teams have done testing here in March, but the pecking order may change as all the teams brought updates to their cars during past four races.
Ferrari, Brawn, BMW and Torro Rosso teams are excpected to bring major updates to this event. Ferrari will have it’s first double decker diffuser solution and a lighter chasis for Raikkonen while BMW will have a lighter chasis and a lot of aerodynamic updates. They also ruled out running KERS at Spanish and Monaco grand prix’s to be able to focus on evaluating updates. On the other hand, Brawn Gp will introduce their first update to the car this season.
Let’s look at teams official previews for Spanish grand prix;
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
“It’s a bit more than a year ago that I won my last Formula One race. At Barcelona in 2008 I had my best weekend with Ferrari: pole position, victory and fastest race lap. Since then I came very close several times – I’m thinking of Magny-Cours, Montreal and Spa – but for one reason or the other I could never make it. Having said that, a driver never loses the lust for winning and I want to have that feeling again as soon as possible.
“After four races outside Europe it’s always very nice to come back to the Old World. Furthermore I really like the Circuit de Catalunya a lot, also because I could win here already twice in my career. I really liked hearing from the Team that the new aerodynamic package’s first signs are positive. It will be really interesting taking the car out during Friday’s free practice sessions. We drove on this track back in March this year, but it’s always really difficult to understand from the tests who’s really strong in the field. Furthermore many cars have changed quite a lot since then. With the new aerodynamic package we’ll have more downforce compared to the first four races, but also almost all of the others will show up with some updates. We’ll see who has done better work.
“Aerodynamic efficiency is crucial at the Circuit de Catalunya for a good lap time. It’s a very demanding track from a technical point of view and you need a good car to be competitive. A good qualifying will be important to avoid getting stuck in the field with all the risks coming with a situation like this at the start; we paid our price for that at Bahrain. Overtaking is never easy at Barcelona, but now we’ll see if the KERS can help to make it easier. On such a track it might make the difference, especially at the start.”
Jenson Button, Brawn GP
“Although the team only completed four days of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in March this year, I know the track inside out and it feels very familiar to be heading back there for the start of the European season this weekend. You need to have a car with good downforce for a really quick lap there and we are fortunate that our car behaves so predictably which enables you to feel completely confident when committing to high speed corners. This can be a very difficult circuit for overtaking so you have to make the most of the run down to the first corner to capitalise on any opportunities at the start of the race. I visited the factory last week to join the team for a small celebration of our successes to date and catch up on the progress with our latest developments. We know that we have a real fight on our hands from here to maintain our lead in the championships but I am confident that we are well prepared for the challenges ahead.”
Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP
“The Circuit de Catalunya feels like a home circuit for the drivers with so much of our pre-season testing taking place here over the winter. Although the track has lost some of the high speed challenge that it once had, it is still an interesting and physical lap to drive. You need to find a good rhythm to make the most of the combination of the high-speed corners, particularly at turn three which is very fast and demanding, and the slow corners in the final sector of the lap. The long pit straight requires good aerodynamic efficiency and we will be thankful for the power of our Mercedes-Benz engine there. The Spanish Grand Prix is always one of my favourite races on the calendar as it feels like this is where the season really begins.”
Ross Brawn, Brawn GP team principal
“The short break which we have enjoyed since returning from Bahrain has enabled the whole team to regroup at our factory in Brackley and spend a little time reflecting upon our first four races. Jenson, Rubens and the team delivered a first class job to win the Bahrain Grand Prix which is the level of performance that we must sustain if we are to seriously challenge for the championships this year. The field has compressed considerably since the season-opening race in Australia and the performance margins at the front are now very tight indeed. Whilst we have been away racing over the past few weeks, the factory has been working extremely hard on our upgrade package for the BGP 001 and we look forward to seeing the results of our development work on track in Barcelona this weekend.”
Jarno Trulli, Toyota
“It’s good to be coming back to Europe again after the long-haul races as this makes things a little easier for everyone. The opening races of the season have shown the potential we have in our new car; to get pole position and the fastest race lap in Bahrain was a good achievement which gives us great encouragement. We’ll see how it works out in Barcelona but we have to be optimistic after our strong performances so far. We tested in Barcelona before the season but I have to admit it’s unusual to be preparing for the race having not driven at the track for a couple of months. In the past we have generally tested there just before the race so everything was quite predictable, but it could be different this time. I am enjoying this season because we are consistently fighting at the front so I am really looking forward to the Spanish Grand Prix.”
Timo Glock, Toyota
“Barcelona is one of the tracks I know best after all the testing and racing I’ve done there over the years and I’m feeling optimistic going into the Spanish Grand Prix. I have scored points in all the races so far – only two other drivers have done that – and I certainly expect to continue that run this weekend. But I hope to score a few more than in Bahrain; it was disappointing only to finish seventh after starting from the front row however the potential of the car is clear for everyone to see. That motivates everyone to keep pushing hard because we can see there is the possibility for some great results. We have an upgrade to the car this weekend so hopefully that can bring something extra but we will have to wait and see how the other teams develop as well.”
John Howett, Toyota team President
“We have made a successful start to our season but there is no doubt we want more; we feel we are close to our first victory and this is our clear target for the remainder of the year. We narrowly missed out on winning in Bahrain but by starting from pole position and setting the fastest lap, we showed we are right on the pace and we are working hard to bring it about soon. Thanks to the fantastic job done by the team over the winter, our car has been one of the very fastest so far this season and we have some aerodynamic upgrades in Spain which will bring more performance. We have an aggressive development programme for the whole season so I’m confident we will be in good shape.”
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
“The schedule for the first four races was very tough for everyone, so going back to Europe almost feels like a fresh start. After such a positive performance in Bahrain, we’re fully aware that the characteristics of the Barcelona track won’t suit our car so well. In addition, we won’t have the bigger upgrades of some of the other teams as we already introduced several new parts during the opening flyaways, so it will be interesting to see where we sit in the order. Nevertheless, the engineers are optimistic that our new diffuser and front wing will once again help us to make progress towards the front of the grid.”
Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
“Going back to the scene of last year’s accident doesn’t change anything for me: I really enjoy this track – I had a great race to fifth here in 2007 and I love the high-speed corners, where you’ve got to push hard to get the maximum from the car. It’s also a circuit where you need to find the perfect balance to look after the tyres – and I really enjoy trying to find the best compromise for the race. Our pre-season test at Barcelona was not very encouraging, so we are going into this race with realistic expectations, but I’m optimistic the whole team can deliver once again this weekend.”
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
“Our decision to introduce performance updates at each race rather than concentrate all our developments into a single upgrade package has helped us score some reasonable points in the opening flyaway races. With our rivals expected to introduce some more substantial improvements in Barcelona this weekend, we once again expect a fight to score points. And while the high-downforce nature of the Circuit de Catalunya may show up some of MP4-24’s shortcomings, everyone within the team remains confident and motivated that we can sustain the momentum we have gathered to push and close the gap to the front this weekend.”
Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President
“The first four flyaway races within only five weeks have been turbulent and downright demanding for everyone in Formula One, and particularly for us. The field has moved closer together than ever before in Formula One history. Unfortunately, we are still not competing in the right position and the beginning of the European Formula One season in Barcelona will be a true test for the future balance of power. I expect an extremely difficult race. We are in the middle of an intensive process of catching up and, in comparison to our competitiveness in the previous two seasons, we are still far from where we need to be. Our team is working extremely hard to achieve more significant improvements in aerodynamics and particularly in downforce, but to do so we still need more time.”
Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
“I am looking forward to the race in Barcelona. After a block of four overseas races Formula One comes back to Europe, which I am happy about. As all Formula One teams have tested in Barcelona, I expect the pack to be very close together – even closer than up to now. We will bring a new aero package and we hope to improve significantly compared to our recent performance, as it is our goal to close the gap to the top teams.
“The track is nice to drive and quite challenging. There are some high-speed corners, some low-speed corners and a hairpin which requires very heavy braking. As we have all done a lot of kilometres here, I guess we could drive the circuit with our eyes closed.”
Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
“We know the Barcelona track like the back of our hands, as we used to test here a lot. I’ve been to the circuit so many times. As recently as last year we had 16 days of testing in Barcelona. This year we had four days in March, two for each driver, and there will not be any more. Barcelona is a tricky track to drive because it presents a variety of challenges and the circuit is very sensitive to changes in temperature. If the wind, temperature or grip levels change even slightly, a set-up which was fine one minute is suddenly all wrong the next.
“Like everybody in the team, I am also placing my hopes on our new aerodynamic upgrades. The team has put an incredible amount of energy into trying to close the gap to the leaders. I hope we will perform rather better against our rivals in Barcelona, but that’s difficult to predict as all the teams will be bringing upgrade packages of varying degrees to the first race of the European season.”
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director
“The Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona signals the start of the European season after four races overseas. Traditionally this represents something of a second start to the season.
“For the BMW Sauber F1 Team this applies more so than usual this year, as we cannot be satisfied at all with the first four races of the season. After our positive winter testing, all of us at the BMW Sauber F1 Team envisaged a rather different start to the season. The car is not fast enough and we have recorded only one podium finish – Nick Heidfeld’s second place in Malaysia.
“We are approaching this challenge in a positive way and are working intensively in Munich and Hinwil to get back to our old form. We will be lining up in Barcelona with an extensive aerodynamics-focused development package, and are already working on further upgrades to be introduced later on in the season.”
Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering
“Although the teams know the Barcelona track extremely well from all the testing they’ve done there in the past, this circuit frequently presents a new challenge. The problem is the track conditions can change very quickly here and the wind has a big impact on the cars’ handling through corners.
“We will be lining up in Barcelona with an extensive development package for the F1.09, which we have put together for the start of the European season. The nose section, more deeply undercut sidepods and the rear wing are all totally new. Added to which, modifications have also been made to the front wing, engine cover and underbody. We expect these improvements to significantly reduce our lap times.
“Of course, we know that the other teams will also have made modifications to their cars for Barcelona. However, we expect to be able to close the gap to our rivals. We won’t find this out for certain, though, until the race weekend. Up to then we will only have the results from the wind tunnel and simulations to go on and, of course, can no longer test in advance on the track. Seeing the full potential of the car reflected in results on the track will be a big challenge for the engineers.”
Adrian Sutil, Force India
“Barcelona is a track we all know really well from the laps we do over the winter. This year I did nearly 1,000km there! This means you can go to the circuit with a set-up that’s pretty much ready to go. I like the circuit, it flows quite well, apart from the chicane at the end though, of course. The crowd is always huge as well – it gives you a buzz when you drive round.
“The modifications in Bahrain worked better than we thought and gave us about four tenths a lap, but we have to keep introducing more new parts to just stay with the others. Last time we were racing, but everyone else is moving forward as well so we need to stay focussed and get the most out of what we have.”
Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India
“I enjoy going to Barcelona as it’s good to get back to Europe, with the tracks we know very well. I also posted two fastest race laps there in 1997 and 2005, so I feel comfortable on the circuit. Barcelona is itself a nice track. We know it very well as we do a lot of days there in winter testing. There are a couple of interesting corners such as one and two and a few quick corners like turns three and nine. There’s a hairpin in first or second gear at turn 10 and at the exit there is quite a lot of wheelspin, which makes it very difficult for the tyres. Unfortunately the new chicane at 14 and 15 disturbs the rhythm of the lap, so it’s not as exciting as it was a couple of years ago when the last two corners were very difficult. It’s always good to get back to Europe though – a good result there sets you up for the start of the European season.
“In Bahrain we showed we had a much better car than in previous races but we still need another couple of steps and then we will be able to challenge for points. Last year we had a good race and finished 10th but as we’ve seen reliability with everyone has been very good so we shouldn’t make too many predictions. It’s not going to be easy as the others are improving as well, but I think a good result would be top 12.”
Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal
“I was very pleased to see the clear improvement we demonstrated in Bahrain as a result of the new diffuser and aero upgrades. To get both cars fitted with the modified floor in such a short time was a major undertaking, particularly from a team with such a limited workforce and budget as Force India. This of course was only the first stage in development and for Barcelona we’ll have yet more upgrades coming through based on the information we gained in Bahrain. We’ll be running a driver-adjustable front wing flap and a further modification for the front wing. This is just part of our ongoing development cycle and there will be further upgrades at most of the forthcoming races.”
Fernando Alonso, Renault
“It’s always very special to race in Spain and I’m lucky to have two races at home this year in Barcelona and Valencia. Seeing the support of the fans always gives me a boost and I just hope that I can make them happy and have a strong weekend. It will be difficult to fight for the podium, but hopefully we can qualify well and score some big points in the race.
“All the teams know the track well as we do so much testing there in the winter. We tested there in February, but obviously we have developed the car a lot since then so we will need to work on the set-up during free practice. We are still missing some performance at the moment but the team has really improved the car already this season so we are certainly moving in the right direction. Hopefully we can take another step forward this weekend.”
Nelson Piquet, Renault
“(The Circuit de Catalunya) is the circuit that I know the best, but it’s not one of my favourites because it’s not especially challenging for the drivers. It’s all about having a good aero package and a well balanced car to cope with the high-speed corners. It’s therefore difficult to overtake, so you need to qualify well to be able to choose a sensible strategy for the race. Barcelona is also really demanding for the tyres and so we need to see how the different compounds perform during long runs on Friday.
“We’ve definitely improved the car by fitting the new diffuser and the team did a great job to react quickly and adapt the car. We also had an update to the front wing in Bahrain and the car is now much easier to drive than it was at the beginning of the year. I know the whole team is working really hard to find more performance and now that we are back in Europe it will be easier to bring new developments to the races.”
Pat Symonds, Renault Executive Director of Engineering
“The whole team is still pushing hard with development and the diffuser and floor that we brought to China was very much a first attempt and over the course of the year we will see several more versions, the first of which we hope to have in Barcelona. In addition, we’ve got new wheel fairings this weekend with quite a major design change to give us an increase in downforce and a new rear wing. On top of that we’ve got a few small aerodynamic tweaks that we will introduce on a race-by-race basis. Overall we can expect a reasonable step in performance for Barcelona.
“We weren’t particularly satisfied with our performance in Barcelona during winter testing and I think that was probably because our aero performance was significantly below that of the cars with twin diffusers. Now that we have hopefully improved our performance with our own new-style diffuser, we certainly hope that Barcelona will be a bit more favourable for us.”
Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
“It’s been a tough start to the season for me. I’ve had three DNFs out of four races and I don’t want anymore. I’m going to put them behind me now though and concentrate on the work ahead. There’s still 12 more races to go and I’m determined to get some good results for myself and for the team.
“I really like Barcelona and have lots of racing experience there. Last year, I had a good qualifying session and scored two points for the team coming seventh in my debut race. As I haven’t had a great first few Grands Prix, I hope that this will mark the start of a new phase for me and I can do something good in Barcelona.
“I didn’t have the new parts on my car in Bahrain so I’m looking forward to trying those out in Spain and to see how the other new bits go. I’m sure that the upgraded package will be a step forward, we already know how much time it will give us, but it’s all relative compared to what the other teams have done.”
Nico Rosberg, Williams
“It’s been a bit of a frustrating start to the season. We should be going into Europe with more than 3.5 points from the first four races. We were looking competitive at the outset in Australia, but things just haven’t gone our way. It’s also so close out there, probably the closest season I’ve raced in. We’ll have some aero upgrades for Barcelona which I’m hoping will help us and push us further up the grid. It would be good to score some points to reward the team at Grove who have been pushing really hard.
“As we spend quite a lot of time testing at Barcelona, it’s a circuit we all know well. Last year was going really well for me and I was looking good for sixth place, but then a technical problem put me out of the race. The only concern with Barcelona is that track conditions are constantly changing, so knowing what direction to go with the set-up can prove hard.”
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone Director of Motorsport Tyre Development
“Barcelona has a track surface that is the middle range in terms of abrasion and roughness but durability and driver requirements mean our harder allocation combination is used. The front left tyre has a lot of work to do at this circuit and equally, teams and drivers will have a big challenge trying to gain an advantage here as they know this track so well.
“Of course, the experience of the teams at this track with their current cars will assist them with set-up. However, the ambient and track temperatures are likely to be warmer than testing so this will have an effect. Generally, we see quite close lap times here and close races too. The circuit layout is well balanced so it is a good indicator of overall car balance. A car that performs in Barcelona has the potential to perform well at many places.”