Australia preview quotes

Renault



Fernando Alonso

Q. Fernando, you ended the 2008 season strongly. Can you carry that form into 2009?

FA: That is certainly our intention! We finished in a strong position last year and this year our goal is to fight for the championship. But we have lots of new regulations this year and nobody really knows what will happen when we get to Melbourne. From what we have seen in testing it seems all the teams are very close and so we will certainly have a fight on our hands.

Q. There has been less testing available this season, but are you pleased with the progress of the R29?

FA: The first test in Portimao was tough as we had some bad luck with the weather, but when we introduced updates at the later tests we quickly improved the car. We've learnt how to optimise the set-up and we now have a car that is easy to drive and consistent. What is important now is that we keep improving and developing the car throughout the year.

Q. Are you excited about the new regulations introduced this season?

FA: Yes, with the KERS and moveable wings the drivers now have more work to do inside the cockpit. During testing I have been working hard to adapt to these new systems so that I can get the most from them in Melbourne. I'm really pleased with the KERS system that we have developed and hopefully this will give us an advantage at the start of the season. I'm not sure if it will make overtaking easier, but it will certainly improve lap times.

Q. What are your expectations for Melbourne?

FA: In the past Albert Park has been a good track for Renault and so I hope we can have a strong weekend. I think the order of the teams will probably be different from the last few years as we have got used to Ferrari and McLaren dominating, but with the new rules I think there will be lots of cars fighting for the win. Hopefully we will be in that fight.

Nelson Piquet

Q. Nelson, you're entering your second season of Formula 1 - are you excited about the year ahead?

NP: Absolutely - I'm feeling much more confident this year and looking forward to returning to Melbourne. I learned so much with the team in 2008 and I now have a year of experience under my belt which will make things easier. It's also a new era for Formula 1 with lots of changes, but we've made good progress with the car during testing and we are heading to Melbourne with high hopes.

Q. How difficult has it been adapting to the new rules introduced this season?

NP: The cars are totally different to last year and so all the drivers have had to adapt to this. Learning about KERS has been a challenge for the engineers and drivers, just as the moveable front wing flaps have been because these are totally new systems that are being introduced this year.

We've also had to adapt to the return of slick tyres, but I'm really happy to see them back as they are always more fun.

Q. What are your thoughts on the Albert Park circuit?

NP: It's a challenging track and quite a difficult place to set the car up as it's a mixture between a permanent venue and a temporary street course with lots of tricky slow speed corners, as well as some quicker sections. As a city, I love Melbourne: the fans are great and the atmosphere of the race is always pretty special.

Q. Have you set yourself a target for Australia?

NP:It's still difficult to know how we compare to the other teams and so setting a target isn't easy. We know we have a good race car that is consistent and so I think we will be competitive in Melbourne. I will do my best to try and reach Q3 in qualifying and hopefully finish in the points.

Toyota



Jarno Trulli: "Melbourne is a great place to visit and the Australian Grand Prix is always good fun. As a Formula 1 driver you really want to race so I am pleased the season is starting and we can get on with the competition.

"I am totally fired up for this season and I am feeling very positive about our chances. The TF109 is the best Toyota I have driven in pre-season testing; it feels stable and gives the driver confidence but more importantly it seems to be pretty quick, even though it's hard to make too many judgements based on testing.

"We made a big step last year, proving we can fight for podiums and finish regularly in the top six so I am hoping for another step forward this year. We have more experience now and the team has worked really hard for a long time on the TF109 - we are ready for the season and I am raring to go."

Timo Glock: "It's very exciting to be going to the first race this year because the big changes to the technical regulations for 2009 give Toyota a good opportunity to fight at the front. It's really hard to predict because you don't know what other teams are working on in testing but I know our programme and the results we have seen are very encouraging. Testing has gone really well and I have a good feeling for the new car.

"It's a different emotion to be starting my second year with Toyota compared to 2008 because now I am much more familiar with the team and I feel I can really start the season strongly. Last year it took a few races to find the right direction for me in terms of set-up but I don't expect that to be a problem this season. Australia is anyway one of my favourite places to visit so I can't wait to get to Melbourne and get the season started."

John Howett, President: "This is a big season for our team and we have set ourselves high targets. We exist to win so that is clearly the aim this season and we have every reason to be optimistic after our extremely positive testing results. This is our eighth season in Formula 1 and we have learnt a lot in that time; we are leaner, more experienced and better equipped to succeed.

"Our drivers are a great asset to us this season; Jarno has huge experience and everyone knows he is tremendously fast while Timo is an explosive young driver who showed his great potential last year. So 2009 is a big opportunity for our team and we are determined to make the most of it. We have been on the podium in the past in Australia and I would like to see us there again this weekend."

McLaren Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton: "There is no better place to begin the FIA Formula 1 World Championship than in Australia. The weather is fantastic, the facilities are excellent and the people of Melbourne make us all feel extremely welcome. Most importantly, everyone arrives with an air of enthusiasm and expectation.

"Despite weeks of winter testing, it's still difficult to know exactly who has the best package, and finding out over the weekend in Albert Park is always fascinating. Perhaps Vodafone McLaren Mercedes doesn't come to Melbourne with the same prospects to challenge at the front that we experienced in both 2007 and '08, but the whole team will be working tirelessly to help us move back to the front."

Heikki Kovalainen: "I had a great race in Melbourne last year on my debut for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. It's a track I love - a circuit that you really have to attack with a lot of enthusiasm if you are to get the best from the car. The fast esses at the back of the circuit are probably the most demanding corners , getting it just right is a hugely satisfying feeling.

"Elsewhere, I enjoy the 'back to school' feeling of the new season you meet up with everybody, share your stories from the winter and look forward to another good season. Everybody in our team is really motivated and, while we probably won't start the season as favourites, we will work around the clock to get back there."

Martin Whitmarsh, team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: "We go into the start of the 2009 season fully aware that we do not yet have the technical package that will allow our drivers to fight at the front. In Formula 1, there is nowhere to hide: that's what makes our sport so demanding and yet so endlessly fascinating.

"And as a team that goes Grand Prix racing with the expectation of winning races and challenging for world championships, we therefore go to Melbourne with realistic expectations. Nonetheless, we begin our season with huge determination to re-assert ourselves at the front and we will not rest for a moment until we have done that. Most importantly, we haven't forgotten how to win."

Norbert Haug, Vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: "Melbourne is the city where 12 years ago McLaren-Mercedes achieved their first of 58 Grand Prix wins since then. After a total of four victories at Albert Park, this time it may not be possible to repeat Lewis's success of last year.

"Considering our test results we will not be as competitive at the season opener as we intend to be, and so I do not expect a qualifying result at the front of the grid. However, we will all work hard to return to the front as soon as possible and in Melbourne everybody in the team is fully motivated to do everything to achieve the best possible result."

BMW Sauber

Robert Kubica: "I'm really looking forward to the Australian Grand Prix. I'm happy that the race season will finally get started and all the speculation of the pre-season testing will stop. It will be very interesting to see how competitive the teams really are.

"I like street circuits in general, so Albert Park is one of my favourite race tracks. You have to be very precise. That applies to the whole circuit; you need to stay on the clean line.

"But this year precision will be especially important for the first corner after the start, when we will have our very first fight for position with the bigger 2009 front wings. I'm pretty sure it will be an interesting race. In addition, Melbourne is a very nice city and the people create a truly special atmosphere for all of us in Formula 1."

Nick Heidfeld: "I'm looking forward immensely to the start of the season in Australia. This time around I'm particularly keen to see how the teams and drivers stack up against each other. It's time for the speculation to stop; from now on it's only facts that matter.

"A whole number of things have changed since last year and that means there are a lot of unanswered questions: What effect will the KERS and adjustable front wings have in the races? What will happen at the start when we are side-by-side with the larger front wings for the first time? Will overtaking really be easier, as our experiences in testing have led us to believe?

"Last year winter testing did not go as well as it might have done for us, and we surprised everybody with our strong performance in Australia. This winter all of our testing went pretty well, and I hope this impression is confirmed in Melbourne.

"We had to contend with some difficult weather conditions in testing, and I'm also curious to see what happens in Albert Park in this respect, as it can get very autumnal in my favourite travel destination in March."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "The start of a Formula 1 season with perhaps the most sweeping rule changes we've ever seen is now in sight. We are pleased that Australia is again the first GP of the year in 2009. There is always a very special atmosphere in Melbourne. The Australians certainly love their sport and they've been well and truly bitten by the Formula 1 bug.

"Last year Nick took second for us in the first race of the season, and we're hoping that we get off to a good start in Albert Park once again this year. We are heading in the right direction with the BMW Sauber F1.09; both the drivers and the engineers came back with positive feedback during testing. Plus, Nick and Robert carried out full race simulations without suffering any technical problems.

"As far as KERS is concerned, our system will be race-ready in Melbourne. We sent the cars out regularly with KERS during testing and the results were very good. Now it's just a matter of weighing up the pros and cons. On the positive side, the drivers would have an extra 82 hp at their disposal for 6.6 seconds per lap. However, the system adds weight to the car and this has an impact on the car's weight distribution and tyre wear. We will make a decision on a driver-by-driver, circuit-by-circuit basis."

Willy Rampf, Head of Engineering: "There's always a lot of anticipation ahead of the first race of the season, but this time it's even more exciting than usual. Winter testing gave us some initial indications of where we stand in relation to our rivals, but there are still a lot of question marks. The reason for the uncertainty is the radical changes made to the technical regulations.

"Totally new aerodynamics with significantly lower downforce compared to last year, the introduction of KERS, the return of slicks and the double mileage requirement for the engines mean we're starting from a totally different basis. Using the potential of the tyres to optimum effect will be particularly important.

"Melbourne is a stop-start kind of circuit, which places heavy loads on the brakes and, at the same time, demands good traction. Grip levels are very low, especially at the start of the weekend, but you cannot let that deflect you from getting the car set-up right."