Q&A with Heidfeld and Kubica
Q. Did you enjoy the winter break?
Nick Heidfeld: I'm pleased to say the winter break was not actually that long thanks to the regular testing we've been doing. And in between times I've been getting through some intensive fitness training. I've got a small studio at home where I can do special exercises aimed at building up the muscles in the neck, arms and torso. I managed to spend some time with my family over Christmas and the New Year, which I really enjoyed, of course.
Robert Kubica: My winter break was pretty similar. I also spent a few days with my family and chilled out a bit. And, like Nick, I stepped up my fitness training, which included joining the team for the training camp in St Moritz. I mainly focused my training on the endurance side.
Q. Coming out of the winter break, how hard is it to motivate yourself again for testing ahead of the new season?
RK: It's not an issue. For me the short break was enough to recharge my batteries. I also like being in the car for testing. Plus there was the added incentive - and honor - of being the first person to drive the new BMW Sauber F1.08 on the track.
NH: As far as I'm concerned, the winter break could have even been a bit shorter. I love being in the car and look forward to every opportunity to drive it. All in all, I would prefer it if we tested less and raced more often. Almost five months without a race is just too long, if you ask me.
Q. With winter testing complete, how do you see things shaping up?
NH: Even for us as drivers it has been a long time since it was this difficult to say how the F1 teams stand against each other. The testing results of the big teams have simply been too variable to form an opinion. As for us, we have made huge progress since the roll-out in Valencia.
RK: The engineers took a certain amount of risk and have entered new territory in some areas with the F1.08. One of the consequences of this is that we were not quite where we hoped to be at the start of winter testing. But since the roll-out everybody in the team - and that means both the testing crew and the guys back at the plants - has been working at full steam, seven days a week. These efforts have paid off; we have made great steps forward and registered improvements in all areas. And I'm sure we are still far from exhausting the full potential of the F1.08.
Q. How has the absence of traction control and engine braking control affected you?
RK: In testing we noticed that the driver has a big influence over tire wear. And that applies to an even greater extent the higher the temperature of the asphalt. Plus, it is also extremely important to avoid straying from the ideal line as much as possible.
In the past, we could rely on the traction control to keep everything in check if we went off line, and even if you had a bit of a slide you would only lose a relatively small amount of time. Without traction control the driver has to take his foot off the accelerator to avoid the risk of spinning. And that means you lose more time, of course. As a whole, though, it is not exclusively a question of driving style. The car also has to make optimal use of the tires.
NH: All the drivers have been really keen to find out how the latest Formula One cars react without traction control, and we have all adapted our driving style accordingly - after all that's part of our job. I also had the opportunity to try the car out in the wet in testing. I have to say that it was really fun to drive without traction control. The challenge for the drivers is greater, and that's the way I like it.
Q. In what ways does your teammate get on your nerves?
NH: When he's quicker than me. But that's obvious, isn't it?
RK: I would not like to be in a situation where I didn't have a good relationship with my teammate. Luckily Nick and I work very well together.
Q. What personal aims have you set yourselves for 2008?
RK: I will always give 100 percent and am looking to finish in the points on a consistent basis.
NH: I'm aiming to squeeze the maximum from both myself and the BMW Sauber F1.08, to minimize mistakes and to keep on developing as a driver.
Q. The first night race in F1 history does not take place until September (in Singapore), but the idea has already been floated of holding further races in the dark. What do you think of this possibility?
NH: I'm generally a fan of all things new, so I can't wait to see how it all works in Singapore and what the atmosphere is like. The plan is to use artificial light to illuminate the race track as if it were daylight. So there is no comparison with the Le Mans 24-hour race, where I once drove in the dark.
RK: I don't think there will be any problems if the weather plays along. We will probably notice hardly any difference to a normal race. But things might turn out rather differently if it rains, as reflections from the floodlights could have a negative effect on visibility. However, I'm sure that the FIA has planned for that eventuality as well and will ensure that the race takes place safely.
Q. And looking ahead to Melbourne?
RK: I'm a fan of street circuits, so I also like going to Melbourne. I've always been very quick there in the past. But I also like the atmosphere in the city, and the friendly, motorsport-mad fans there. At any rate, I can hardly wait for practice to start for the Australian Grand Prix. It will finally put an end to the weeks of speculation caused by winter testing.
NH: The opening race of the season is always something special. I like the Melbourne circuit, as it has a character very much of its own - a cross between a street circuit and a permanent race track. As the circuit is not constantly used for racing, grip levels are extremely low particularly during the initial practice sessions. With no traction control or engine braking control it will certainly be a big challenge. Added to which, the weather has sometimes come up with the odd surprise in the past.
For me, there is the extra attraction that Australia is my favorite travel destination, and I'll have a couple of days' holiday there before the race. Basically, I'm just really looking forward to the season finally getting underway.