Spanish Grand Prix preview quotes

While most of the teams may have spent the last four days testing together at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, nobody is quite sure where they stand when compared to their rivals. This should all become a great deal clearer at next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix and it seems that team personnel and drivers alike can’t wait to discover their true pace…

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2007 Qualifying - 4th, 2007 Race - 2nd
“The Circuit de Catalunya is a challenging track for the engineers and drivers. It changed a little bit in character prior to last year’s Grand Prix. One of the key factors at this circuit is achieving a good balance through the variety of corners. Turn Two is a big corner and it provides a good challenge from both a driving and set-up perspective. With the end of the circuit now being tightened up a fair amount we have got to get that balance so we will get good high-speed corner performance and traction coming out of the low speed corners. There are a range of different challenges and technically it is an interesting circuit.

“I feel we have a competitive package at the track; the car seems to work quite well. We have a range of new components coming on board for this race which we tested this week and had some positive results, but we are not alone in doing this! The Circuit de Catalunya is a great track; we can’t ever lose it from the calendar. It always sees competitive racing and there are so many enthusiastic fans there all the time which makes for a great atmosphere.”

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
2007 Qualifying - 8th, 2007 Race - 7th
“This circuit is one of probably the two most important test tracks we use, together with Jerez. It is a real performance tester; you need to have a really good aero performance in the car to go fast round here, which is why we always come here as it allows us to understand how well our aero package is performing. It also has some very heavy braking areas, so it is good for evaluating this and some good corners to understand the balance of the car. Also, the slower chicanes mean we can test how the car changes direction. It has a good range of challenges so you can test everything. Also, usually the weather is good here.

“I think Turn One is best (for overtaking) because you can drag the other car out of the new chicane that is quite slow, along the pit straight. Apart from that is it very difficult, you can probably think about overtaking into turn five, maybe into turn ten if you get a good run into turn nine, that is about it really.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren Formula One CEO
“The Spanish Grand Prix sees us entering the European season and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, along with all the other teams, will be in Barcelona with significant upgrade packages on the cars. The cars remain relatively consistent over the course of the fly away races and this race weekend is the first opportunity to understand how we have moved forward with performance and developed the MP4-23 in comparison with our primary competitors. We are confident that we have improved the performance of the car, but this week’s test was not an accurate indicator of performance, so we will need to wait for the race to establish how the MP4-23 will fare.

“The emphasis has been on the aerodynamic performance, developing downforce, balance and aerodynamic efficiency. In parallel we have developed the suspension systems and the chassis. We have come away from three races with no testing where inevitably we discovered vices that were not analysed before the start of the season. This period has provided an opportunity for the drivers and race engineers to focus on a bit of set-up work as well for this race.”

Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“The track at Barcelona with the long front straight and with long sweeping corners as well as tight bends is one of the most demanding of all circuits in terms of aerodynamic efficiency. It is also challenging for the engines. About 70 percent of a lap will be run under full throttle and after the new chicane before the start and finish straight, about 13 seconds will be run under full throttle. Barcelona is the circuit which all competitors know best, because it’s the test track all teams use the most, and they have a lot of data from there.

“It’s a rule that those who can win here are capable to do so at all the other Grand Prix circuits. The track is particularly demanding for a Formula One car’s aerodynamic efficiency. Therefore, many teams focus on the Circuit de Catalunya at Barcelona when they test, and therefore, they have more experience there than at any other circuit of the current Grand Prix calendar. Prior to the season, we completed here considerably more than 1,000 laps during the test days corresponding to more than 5,000 kilometres. Moreover, we tested from Monday to Thursday in the week prior to the race and completed another 1,600 kilometres on the Circuit de Catalunya.”

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 7th, 2007 Race - DNF
“The Spanish Grand Prix has its own special ambience because the stands are now regularly packed to the rafters. The fans ensure a brilliant atmosphere, which we as drivers pick up on to some extent as well.

“Although I have already clocked up hundreds of race and test laps on the Circuit de Catalunya, boredom just doesn't come into it. It has often been the case that a set-up determined during testing was no longer the right one for the race weekend. That could be due to the weather or to the condition of the track, which naturally accumulates much more rubber deposits over a grand prix weekend than during testing.

“Now the question everybody wants to hear the answer to is: how well are the new components, with which we've modified the BMW Sauber F1.08 since the initial overseas races, going to work? I'm also very keen to see whether we have made more progress with our new developments than the competition. At any rate, I'm confident that we will be just as strong as in Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain.”

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 5th, 2007 Race - 4th
“I think we will have a more predictable race than the first three overseas Grands Prix. The conditions this time round are completely different. All the teams know the Barcelona circuit like the back of their hands because we do a lot of testing here. That's why I expect the gaps between the teams to become a lot smaller than in the last races.

“Everyone will be coming to the season's first European grand prix on top form. I guess all the teams will be lining up with an improved car. But at the same time that means we also have to get the maximum out of the BMW Sauber F1.08. If we manage that, and since the latest test in Barcelona I am firmly convinced we will, I'll be racing right up at the front again. My goal is to achieve a good result to earn as many points as possible for myself and the team.”

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director
“It was a textbook start to the season for our BMW Sauber F1 Team. We're no longer the number three team, as last year, but over the first three races we have carved out our niche right up among the top three teams. The workforces in Munich and Hinwil are accordingly elated and fired up with incentive.

“We used the three-week break after the batch of overseas races for our intensive
preparation for the European opener in Spain. The race in Barcelona is almost like a second start to the season. For the first time in 2008, Formula One will be rolling up in Spain with everything in tow: trucks and hospitality facilities not only make a great impression; more importantly, they save a tremendous amount of work.

“The Circuit de Catalunya is one that makes wide-ranging demands and is frequently used for testing by the teams. It has often served as a yardstick for their general competitiveness. Here all the teams will be taking a step forward on the development front, us included. Afterwards there will be a fresh assessment of how things stand.”

Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber technical director
“I can't wait to see how things pan out in Barcelona because almost all the teams have been testing improvements to their cars here last week. Everyone has made progress, but the key question is, how much compared to the competition? That's why it's set to be a very interesting race and one that will also point the way ahead for the coming weeks and months. We've been pretty happy with our improvements, so we should be able to keep up with the front runners as before.

“Barcelona is a circuit the teams know back to front from the numerous tests that are carried out here. And yet it proves a challenge each time around, with the wind often playing a crucial role. It means the balance constantly has to be adjusted. The many medium-fast and high-speed corners demand a great deal of downforce, which means the tyres come in for some punishment. That's why we use the hardest compounds here.”