Malaysia preview quotes
From the idiosyncrasies of Melbournes Albert Park, the F1 paddock moves quickly to the first purpose-built venue of the season, the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur, host of this weekends 2012 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix. The teams and drivers look ahead to what should be a hot three days – both on and off the track
Paul di Resta, Force India
2011 Qualifying – 14th, 2011 Race – 10th
I left Melbourne on Sunday night because it was important to get to Malaysia and start acclimatising as soon as possible. Sepang will be a tough fitness test and Ill see how well the work over the winter has prepared me. I definitely feel in good shape at the moment. Its up there alongside Singapore as one of the toughest races of the year, simply because of the heat and humidity. While you are driving its not too bad because you get some air flow through the car, but you really feel the heat when youre sitting in the car in the garage with the heat soak from the engine and the tyres. Thats when youre most uncomfortable in the cockpit.
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
2011 Qualifying – n/a, 2011 Race – n/a
Im glad that we have back-to-back races because I just want to get back in the car. Seeing how the race developed it was frustrating not to be out there fighting for points, but it wasnt meant to be. Im now fully focussed on Malaysia because theres no point thinking about what might have been. The lap has a nice variation of high and low speed corners and there are two long straights. So you have to find the right balance between top speed and having enough downforce for the corners. The high temperatures and the track surface also result in quite high tyre degradation so its important to find a race set-up that is quite easy on the tyres.
Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal
Its difficult to judge much from the first race, but we have learned a lot from Melbourne and we will try and improve our race pace consistency this weekend in Malaysia. What is clear is that all the teams around us are very closely matched in terms of absolute pace and even the smallest mistake in qualifying or the race can cost you several positions. It will be very competitive in the midfield, just as we predicted during the pre-season. Sepang this weekend should be another good indicator of where we stand in the pecking order. Im optimistic that it will suit the characteristics of the VJM05 more than Melbourne and that we can remain in the hunt for points.
Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham
2011 Qualifying – 19th, 2011 Race – 15th
I’ve been looking forward to getting back to Malaysia and after the race in Australia it’s good that we can get straight back on track so quickly. I’ve accepted the penalty I was given for passing Vettel under the safety car – it was definitely a bit harsh but the rules are set and it’s just unfortunate I made a small mistake that will put me back five places on the grid at Sepang. It’s not really a problem – we know we can pass the cars that will probably be ahead on the grid and I’ll just have to do my best to put myself as far up the grid as I can on Saturday so we can minimise the effect of the penalty in the race. As Malaysia’s one of our two home races we’re always given a very warm welcome when we come here and that’s extra motivation for the whole team to push on in what are clearly pretty tough conditions. I feel for the guys in the garage as they have to work in intense heat and heavy humidity, but for me I’ve been training hard all winter to prepare for the whole season, and this race isn’t really any different. Staying hydrated is key – I’ll take on more liquid than normal earlier in the week before the race and I’ll make sure I’m outside in the hottest part of the day to get my body used to the temperatures, but once I’m in the car it’s really business as normal.
Vitaly Petrov, Caterham
2011 Qualifying – 8th, 2011 Race – 17th
This is my first race in Malaysia with the team and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Malaysian fans react to their home team, and to building on what we achieved on track in Australia. The race in Melbourne didn’t end as we’d wanted, but it was still very good to see that we could push the cars ahead, and until the problem we had with the steering wheel I felt good in the car. My engineer Gianluca told me afterwards that he felt happy, despite how the race had finished, because we’d done a really good job in the car and in the pit stops, so we know we have something to work on, which is good motivation for the race at Sepang. Putting aside the weather, which affects everyone the same, the track itself is a good challenge, and with KERS on the car for the first time for the team in Malaysia I think we can show how we have progressed since last year in front of our home fans. We should be looking to get more out of the package in qualifying than in Australia, and in the race itself it would obviously be good to avoid the sort of incident that held us up at the start of the Melbourne race and be right in the fight from lap one. Whatever happens it will be a good week and the more time I spend with my new team, the more I’m finding what a good group of people I’m working with so I want to do my best to help the whole team keep pushing forwards.
Mark Smith, Caterham technical director
The obvious challenge facing everyone in Malaysia is how you cope with the heat. This will be the first time this year where we will be able to see how the 2012 tyres operate in the sort of temperatures we will be facing throughout the weekend, and we also have to take into account the strong possibility of heavy rain when we are planning the setup options for each session. We saw in Australia that we have some work to do on generating heat into the tyres as early as possible when the cars are on track, and the increased ambient temperatures in Malaysia will obviously help that, but I think managing degradation levels will play a key role in the race strategies of all the teams. We need to make sure we improve our qualifying performance and then I think we can be reasonably confident of repeating the sort of race pace we saw from both cars in Australia. We know what the car is capable of and we need to maximise track time on Friday and Saturday to help us extract the performance it has within it, so the main aim will be to have a reliable, problem free weekend and put on as good a display as we can in front of our home fans and our shareholders.
Tony Fernandes, Caterham team principal
This is our third visit to one of our two home races and the first for us as Caterham F1 Team, with the legal wrangles we have been involved in for the last two years now behind us, firmly in control of our own destiny and writing a brand new chapter in our story. I am very glad we are back home as Caterham and it feels like only yesterday that we were making our debut at Sepang, and recording what was for us an historic first appearance in Q2 in only our third ever race. While I would obviously like to see us repeat that in 2012 I am not sure if we are quite there yet. We have obviously improved our pace relative to our 2011 speed, but the teams ahead have also improved, so even though we are closer than this time last year we still have work to do to bridge the gap in qualifying. However, in the race I think it looks like a different matter. At the end of last year we were agonisingly close to a number of cars ahead, and this year our race lap times in Australia were on a par with at least three cars ahead. With a bit of luck, which obviously deserted us in Melbourne, I think the Malaysian race will give us a chance to show just what we have achieved over the winter, and that gives us good reason to be optimistic about the weekend ahead.
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes
2011 Qualifying – 11th, 2011 Race – 9th
“After the disappointment of how the first race in Melbourne turned out, I am flying to Malaysia with a big sense of anticipation, because we saw in Australia that our car is capable of putting us in the mix. Of course, we haven’t forgotten that the circuit in Melbourne is not really representative of the true competitive picture, but nevertheless the car gives me a good feeling for the season ahead. Sepang will be interesting for everybody because it will be the first clue to the real relative strengths of all the cars. The range of slow and fast corners give a good indication of where you are, which always makes the race in Malaysia fun for the drivers and engineers, and overall a big challenge for both man and machine. I’m looking forward to it.”
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
2011 Qualifying – 9th, 2011 Race – 12th
“I always look forward to coming to Malaysia for the Grand Prix. Sepang is one of my absolute favourite tracks on the calendar and it is the home race of our friends from Petronas. The circuit has two long straights which should suit us this year, and the conditions will be very demanding as always due to the high heat and humidity. I’m confident that we can improve our performance here, and we will have a successful weekend in front of all our Malaysian supporters.”
Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal
“The Malaysian Grand Prix is always a special race for the team as the home race of our title partner Petronas. As always, the support that Petronas provides to Formula One, both to our team and to the promotion of the sport and the Grand Prix in Malaysia, has been fantastic, and we are all looking forward to a busy and successful week. Despite a positive start, our first race weekend of the season in Australia did not turn out as we would have wished, and there has been, and will continue to be, a lot of hard work done before we take to the track again in Malaysia. We have a fundamentally good car, now it is up to us to optimise its performance and achieve its potential on track.”
Norbert Haug, Vice-President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“Last weekend in Melbourne, we began the race well, with our cars running third and fourth, and ended it badly, with Michael retiring from P3, while Nico suffered a puncture on the last lap after contact with another car while fighting for sixth place. Before this, Nico’s lap times were affected by higher levels of tyre degradation than ourselves and Pirelli had expected from testing and the practice sessions in Melbourne. Our team will be working hard to understand and, where possible, correct this before the next race in Malaysia. Our title partner Petronas is headquartered in Kuala Lumpur and they are strong supporters of Mercedes-Benz motorsport activities in Formula One, DTM and our Formula Three junior programme. However Petronas is much more than a title partner and element of the team name. Thanks to their hard work, the continuous development of fuels and oils has also brought valuable tenths of a second in lap time improvements. Moreover, Mercedes-Benz and Petronas are close business partners in many countries around the world, with notable success. Together, we are working to achieve similar successes in Formula One and, with the potential our car has shown in pre-season testing and in qualifying and the opening stages of the race in Melbourne, we are now working in a focused manner to convert this into strong race results.”
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director
Malaysia is one of the biggest challenges that we will face all year, and that is simply down to the nature of the track and the weather. We can expect track temperatures of up to around 50 degrees centigrade and a similar performance gap between the two nominated compounds as we saw in Australia. Our target is still for that gap to be less than one second even though there is a whole step missing between the soft and the hard compounds that we have chosen for the race. Malaysia is good for overtaking, and that should fit in well with the characteristics of our P Zero tyres, which have been specifically designed to promote overtaking through a certain degree of deliberate degradation. Tyre strategy is going to be very important, particularly when it comes to looking after tyres at the beginning of a stint. Last year the battle for the podium places went down to the very last lap, and our objective for this years tyres is to encourage even closer racing, following the thrilling start we saw in Australia last weekend.
Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus
2011 Qualifying – n/a, 2011 Race – n/a
Im happy to get the first race out of the way. Well be trying to improve our performance in Malaysia for sure. We dont know how the car will behave there but its been good everywhere so far so hopefully itll be the same there. Itll be hot and humid which is a challenge but we have a good car. As long as qualifying goes well we could be fighting for podiums. Well have to wait and see. Malaysia has been good and bad for me in the past; Ive had a few bad races there but Ive also won three times at the circuit including my first Grand Prix victory so its nice to go back to where it all began. Its hot and humid which makes it a challenge for the drivers, but its the same for everyone. I havent used the DRS here before so Im not sure how much use it will be, but our car is good in a straight line so hopefully it can help us out in the race. Well have to wait and see. Were learning about the car all the time and the last race didnt really give us the chance to use its full potential. Hopefully Malaysia will be a bit more straightforward.
Romain Grosjean, Lotus
2011 Qualifying – n/a, 2011 Race – n/a
Sepang is probably my favourite track. I raced there in 2008 as part of the GP2 Asia Series and I really loved the circuit. Its nice and wide, with fast flowing corners and a lot of undulation which makes it great fun to drive. The last corner is a tricky one, but I enjoy everything about racing here. Well, maybe not the heat and humidity, but at the end of the day it makes it just another challenge for the drivers! Im really looking forward to it. I believe we can achieve some positive results this season, hopefully starting in Malaysia.
Eric Boullier, Lotus team principal
Sepang will be a totally different track from Albert Park of course. This said, we think that the E20 should be competitive there. One of its bigger assets is very low tyre degradation. Considering the very hot conditions in Malysia, this can only be a help. We think we can be competitive there.
James Allison, Lotus technical director
Although slightly unusual, Albert Park is actually not a bad weather vane for the season. Its range of corner speeds and traction demands means that cars which are quick in Melbourne tend to do OK over the remainder of the season. The next race will be much hotter, which poses different challenges for the cars, the tyres and the drivers, but we are confident that our Melbourne form, coupled with our reasonable pace in Jerez and Barcelona, will translate into a competitive showing in Malaysia. We dont have any big upgrades to the car. It is a tight turnaround with a back to back race and we will be concentrating on finding a good setup with the package we have to make sure that we are using the tyres well. Sepang is quite challenging in this regard, due the high track temperatures that we can expect.
Alan Permane, Lotus trackside operations director
The track surface is very abrasive, particularly in comparison to Albert
Park, which is very smooth. High speed stability is an essential requirement of the tyre in Malaysia due to the circuit layout, which contains some long straights and quick direction changes.
Pedro de la Rosa, HRT
2011 Qualifying – n/a, 2011 Race – n/a
“Our two main priorities for Malaysia are to have DRS and improve the power steering in this short time that we have whilst being away from Europe. In Australia we were only able to complete 7 timed laps so I need get more track time, get to know the car better and improve the set-up. If we can achieve this then we could have a good Grand Prix. Sepang is probably the toughest track of the year both for car and driver. Mechanically its very demanding because besides there being a lot of consecutive high-speed corners it is very hot and humid. Cooling is key for the car as is hydration for the driver.
Narain Karthikeyan, HRT
2011 Qualifying – 24th, 2011 Race – n/a
“It wasnt an easy first weekend for us in Melbourne but the team is working hard and we hope to complete the maximum amount of kilometres with the new car so that we can have it in prime conditions for qualifying and the race. The team is working on solving the reliability issues that we encountered, so Im confident that things will go better in Malaysia. Sepang is a circuit that I like a lot and a place where I have raced numerous times. This was the only Grand Prix out of the eight that I took part in last year that I didnt finish, so this year Im looking to firstly qualify and then finish the race, that is the main objective.
Luis Perez-Sala, HRT team principal
“Winter has been a period of hard work where we have achieved many things in a short period of time. But this is Formula One and what counts in the end are results so, although for us it was important to make it to Australia and run from the first day, to have made it so far and not quite make it didnt please anyone. Anyways, the F112 is a young car with potential and the team is also new and promising. They both need running time and adaptation, but we are aware that the Championship doesnt stop and there is no time to lose. That is why we will continue to work to the maximum as we have done until now and Im confident that in Malaysia we will continue to progress and take that extra step to improve.
Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber
2011 Qualifying – 10th, 2010 Race – 7th
I have good memories of Malaysia. Last year I finished seventh, two years ago for the first time I managed to make it into Q3, and I also won there in my time in GP2. So its really a good place for me. I think we have a good chance to score points there because our car showed a lot of potential in Melbourne, and the characteristics of the track should suit us. It will be the first time that we will be driving in really hot ambient temperatures, but that shouldnt be an issue. Looking at the performance of our car, Im really optimistic for this race.
Sergio Perez, Sauber
2011 Qualifying – 16th, 2010 Race – DNF
In Melbourne we did not have a straight forward weekend due to the gearbox failure in qualifying, but nevertheless we have proven the C31 is a fast car and we can be competitive. So I hope in Malaysia we will be having a more consistent weekend in terms of weather conditions and reliability, as there is still a lot more to learn about the car. The Sepang International Circuit is a nice one. It is one of the most physical circuits of the season. The heat is demanding for the drivers and also in terms of tyre degradation. It is not an easy circuit to race on, and it is quite technical. I especially like the first section of the lap with the long corners and some hard braking.
Giampaolo DallAra, Sauber head of track engineering
The circuit in Sepang is a technical one, but also a modern and wide one which therefore allows for more lines. In terms of set-up you have to take into account that it is demanding for the tyres. The tarmac is rather on the rough side and you have high speed corners and changes of direction which put stress on the tyres. Therefore the hardest and the medium tyre compounds from Pirelli are allocated for this race. The car configuration will be almost the same as in Melbourne. It is a back to back race anyway and the downforce level isnt much different to Melbourne. Drag matters mostly in the first sector and, to a certain extent, also in sector three. Traction is important although a bit less crucial compared to the street circuit we have been racing on in Australia. Braking stability fairly much effects the lap time, so we have to keep an eye on that. In terms of cooling for the engine and gearbox, you normally run the maximum available configuration in Sepang. Last, but not least, there you sometimes have to deal with changing weather conditions at very short notice. It will be another challenging race weekend and we are looking forward to it.
More to follow.