Australia: Team personnel preview quotes The new era of Formula One racing begins this weekend, with the sport set to debut the new aerodynamics, slick tires and KERS after months of development work in the factory and on the test tracks. Here to give us their opinions of the upcoming weekend are various Team Personnel, starting with those at McLaren.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren-Mercedes (Team Principal):
“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, McLaren-Mercedes (Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-president):
“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.”
Mario Theissen, BMW Sauber-BMW (Team Principal):
“The start of a Formula One 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 One 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 tire wear. We will make a decision on a driver-by-driver, circuit-by-circuit basis.”
Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber-BMW (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 tires 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.”
Pat Symonds, Renault (Executive Director of Engineering):
“I enjoy [the Australian Grand Prix] and I think the whole team does as it's when we get back to racing, which is ultimately what we're all here for. Melbourne is a great city and everybody looks forward to going there, although I suspect we will end up seeing a lot more of the garages in Albert Park than the city itself!
“The target I set at the beginning of the season is always the same: to be winning races and challenging for the championship – it would be wrong to have any other intention. However, when you start tempering your expectations with reality, you may moderate that target a little bit. Nonetheless, I do believe that we've got a car that is good enough to challenge for wins and when you combine that with our drivers and the team's ability to go racing, I'm fairly confident we can deliver a strong start to the season.”
John Howett, Toyota (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.”
Dominic Harlow, Force India-Mercedes (Chief Race Engineer):
“The culmination of winter development and car build effort makes Melbourne an exciting and technically challenging race. The Albert Park circuit is hard on brakes and, being a temporary construction, has a constantly changing grip level. The weather offers plenty of variety some for the teams to deal with, from 40deg. heat as in 2008, to rain disturbances from the southern oceanic region.
“For the first time ever the race this year will be an evening event, potentially leading to cooler track conditions, however Bridgestone's softer tire will almost certainly struggle to resist graining and degradation.
“One very important fact to remember at this circuit however is the seemingly annual first corner accident where nearly five months of anticipation can be over in a few seconds. We have often seen safety cars in Melbourne, and it could figure again in this year's race, and the change to the regulations could particularly mix things up.”
Ross Brawn, Brawn-Mercedes (Team Principal):
“Our ambition has always been to be on the grid for the first race of the season in Melbourne and our planning was specifically tailored towards the achievement of this goal. I am extremely proud that we have achieved our ambition and the Australian Grand Prix will mark the start of an exciting new journey for our team. The BGP 001 car is the result of 15 months of intensive development work and the team have been nothing less than fantastic in their commitment to producing two cars in time for the first race.
“From our short but crucial testing program over the past two weeks, we have reinforced our view that the BGP 001 is a good car and an excellent platform from which to develop performance over the course of the season. Our focus during the seven days of pre-season testing was on reliability and developing our understanding of the car in race conditions. We are very satisfied with the work achieved and the initial pace seen from the car however we are fully aware that our work has only just begun. The practice running in Melbourne will be crucial and we have to get as much mileage as possible under our belts to allow Jenson and Rubens to refine the set-up of the car to their liking.”
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone (Director of Motorsport Tire Development):
“The move to slick tires is significant, although Bridgestone have a lot of experience with these tires from many different race series so we are confident that we can produce good racing slicks. We are making these tires to the same sizes as we had with grooved tires, but this means there is a new front/rear grip balance. The teams will therefore have to work hard to get a good set-up, particularly with the varying surface of Albert Park, and we will be working closely with everyone to achieve this.
“We received many requests last season to make the difference between the two compounds greater, so we have attempted to do this by not only having a different compound stiffness, but also varying the temperature working range of the tires. We have sought to allocate one tire which has a lower working range and one which has a higher working range. This means that, even more than before, competitors will have to think long and hard about how they use their tires, and there will be good rewards for those who make the best choices.”