Europe preview quotes – Williams, HRT, Renault, Bridgestone & more

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After the streets of Montreal’s Ile Notre Dame, Formula One racing heads to the streets of Valencia. But in place of the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve’s high-speed, low-downforce layout, come the Spanish track’s demanding twists and turns. There are a total of 25 corners (11 left and 14 right), which test the drivers to the maximum. They and senior team personnel look ahead to the forthcoming European Grand Prix…

Rubens Barrichello
2008 Qualifying – 3rd, 2008 Race – 1st

“I have great memories of Valencia. I won the race there last year, it was my tenth win so it was great fun. It was also significant because it really pulled me back into contention for the championship. Cosworth is doing well to improve its consistency and the team are bringing some more upgrades to Spain so I’m looking forward to seeing where their combined efforts put us. The challenge in Valencia is to get into Q3 and score some points.”

Nico Hulkenberg
2008 Qualifying – n/a, 2008 Race – n/a

“Valencia is a great track, I really like it. I know it well from racing there in GP2 last year and I’m very much looking forward to driving it in the FW32 because it’s a circuit I feel quite comfortable on. Like Monaco and Montreal, there are walls everywhere but the track’s a bit wider and I like the challenge. We’ll have more new parts for this race but we’ll have to wait and see what improvements they bring to the car. We are inching a bit closer to the top ten, as we showed in qualifying in Montreal, but we have to continue pushing and gain more tenths to get into the top ten consistently.”

Sam Michael, Williams technical director
“From Montreal we’re moving back to Europe and to the fourth street circuit of the year. Valencia has been a welcome addition to the calendar since it joined the schedule in 2008. The 5.4km lap is made up of 25 corners, which should conspire to make a tight and twisty track, but instead the drivers actually get into quite a good rhythm around Valencia. Speeds tend to average out around the lap at around 200km/h.

“As a street circuit the teams do face certain challenges over the weekend. The track provides little grip at the outset, the multitude of corners place some considerable stress on the tyres and the coastal location can whip up some sea breezes which can affect the balance of the car. As overtaking opportunities are also limited around Valencia, a good grid position is important. We’ve secured points at each of the two races in Valencia, and that is our aim again this time round. We will have further upgrades on the FW32, including the development blown rear wing.”

Bruno Senna, HRT
2008 Qualifying – n/a, 2008 Race – n/a

“I am really looking forward to the Grand Prix in Valencia because it is a circuit where I had a good performance in GP2 Series in 2008. The circuit is difficult with some very technical corners but the biggest challenges are the bridge, which is very narrow and bumpy, and the last corner, into which you arrive at very high speed. Then, you have to slow the car down turning into the hairpin. On this circuit, it is very important to find the right setup for tight slow corners and good traction. As it is not a very high downforce circuit, we may be able to have a competitive weekend again and I hope we will continue having good races.”

Karun Chandhok, HRT
2008 Qualifying – n/a, 2008 Race – n/a

“It is the second home race this year for our team in Valencia and the atmosphere there is normally quite good and very special. I am looking forward to the event on this circuit and I already raced there in GP2 Series. The track is not a traditional street circuit as it is very wide and has a lot of run-off areas unlike Monaco or Montreal. There are long straights and low speed corners where you have to jump the kerbs to be quick. You will need good stability on the brakes, compliance on the kerbs and good traction. For Valencia, we hope to show a good performance like we did the races before.”

Colin Kolles, HRT team principal
“There is a special atmosphere at the Valencia Street Circuit because it is situated around the harbour. It is not easy to find the right setup for the car because of the track layout with high speed straights and low speed corners. You need low downforce on the straights but high downforce and traction for accelerating after slow and slippery corners. Due to the coastal location of the circuit, a strong sea breeze can also cause balance problems. The drivers have to be concentrated during the 57 laps of the race and due to normally high air temperatures it is going to be a physically tough race. After our good performance in Canada, we are aiming to fight for positions with other teams again.”

Robert Kubica, Renault
2008 Qualifying – 10th, 2008 Race – 8th

“I know a lot of other drivers don’t think the same way, but I enjoy driving there. It’s quite an interesting circuit because it’s half-street circuit, half-modern circuit. The characteristics are quite similar to Canada, because most of the corners are slow speed, so you concentrate on braking stability and good traction – which should suit our car because we are strong in these areas. We run a higher level of downforce than in Canada, but you still need good aerodynamic efficiency because the speeds are high at four points of the lap.

“The main difference will be with the asphalt: in Montreal, the track surface was new and very slippery, whereas I think the grip levels will be better in Valencia – but that will be the same for everybody. It’s still a street circuit, so grip levels will be low on Friday morning, but they should improve quickly throughout the weekend, especially because we will have more categories racing and putting rubber down than we did in Canada.

“I enjoy the first sector, because it has two chicanes where you have to jump over the kerbs, and the walls are very close. The other fun section for the drivers is the final part of the lap: they are taken flat out, or with one small lift, but you really get into the flow from one corner to another and then, for the last corner, you have to brake while there is still a lot of lateral load on the car. It’s very tricky to find your braking point for that corner, which makes it even more challenging.”

Vitaly Petrov, Renault
2008 Qualifying – n/a, 2008 Race – n/a

“I won the GP2 race there last year. I know all of the tricks in terms of the braking points, the line, where you can use the kerbs and even how the tyres will perform and degrade during the race. Of course, it will be different again in an F1 car, so it will still be a big challenge to put together a good performance all the way through the weekend, but I will be starting from a better baseline than in Canada. I’ve been living in the city for three years because it’s where my GP2 team was based, so I know everything here. It’s not like having a home race in your own country, in front of your people, but it’s a good feeling because you know the place already, you feel comfortable there and feel good.”

Alan Permane, Renault chief race engineer
“We’ve got quite a nice upgrade coming (this weekend), with a new front wing and a new floor, which we believe will take us another step further forward. We have certainly seen an incredible rate of development this year. If we take the gap to pole position as a measure of how much we’ve improved, we’ve seen the gap steadily reduce race by race as we’ve developed quicker than some of our competitors. And with the updates we have planned for this weekend, that trend will hopefully continue.

“The circuit has all the typical street circuit characteristics because it’s not used throughout the year and will be very dirty at the start of the weekend. The car went very well at Monaco, the last proper street circuit, so we’re optimistic of another strong showing this weekend. We will have the same tyre compounds that we had in Canada, but I don’t expect anything like the same problems we encountered with degradation and tyre management.”

Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development
“From a riverside street course in Canada we now head to a seaside street course in Europe. In common with the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the Valencia Street Course has several high speed sections, however it has more corners. The layout and track surface is more aggressive to the tyres than in Montreal so we do not expect the same challenge for teams to get maximum performance from the medium and super soft compounds as in Canada. This year’s European Grand Prix takes place in June, as opposed to the late August date of the first two Grands Prix in Valencia but we don’t believe the date change will present us with radically different weather.”

Pedro de la Rosa, BMW Sauber
2009 Qualifying – n/a, 2009 Race – n/a

“I’m certainly looking forward to my second home race this year, although it will be quite a busy weekend. It is a great achievement for Spain to have two Grands Prix and we do have a fantastic crowd. A little bit of a downer for the spectators is the fact that on both Spanish circuits overtaking is very difficult. Usually you don’t see much overtaking in Barcelona or Valencia. Turn Two should be the best option for overtaking, but I have not driven the Valencia street circuit yet so there might also be others. In the two races I have finished this year I have been fighting for the points until the last few laps of each race. We will be bringing several new parts for the car so I expect a step forward here.”

Kamui Kobayashi, BMW Sauber
2009 Qualifying – n/a, 2009 Race – n/a

“From what I have seen so far the Valencia street circuit doesn’t seem to be the most exciting track, but I only know it from two GP2 races and racing there in Formula One will be different. I like driving over the bridge, which makes the track quite distinctive. It might not be as hot as last year when the race was two months later, but I still expect rather high temperatures, which is fine for me. It is another race in Spain, and in Barcelona we had one of our better weekends in terms of performance, so I hope we can achieve a positive result.”

James Key, BMW Sauber technical director
“For Valencia we return to a higher downforce level, similar to what we had in Istanbul and a step up from what we had in Canada. The fact that Valencia is a street circuit with small run-off areas can make for an eventful race, so you have to stay away from the walls. The circuit is very stop-and-start, which means acceleration and braking performances are important with relatively slow speed corners in between each straight. We have a new aero upgrade for the European Grand Prix, which should make the car more efficient and a little bit easier to set up. This is the first of our mid season updates. We have to see how we go in Valencia. We are looking to bounce back after a difficult weekend in Canada.”

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP
2009 Qualifying – 7th, 2009 Race – 5th

“This will be Formula One’s third visit to Valencia and I’m really looking forward to the weekend. The city is pretty cool and the Spanish fans are always enthusiastic so there should be a good atmosphere around the marina. Valencia is a really good track and not what you would usually expect from a typical street circuit. There are a lot of corners but it’s quite fast and flowing which combined with the barriers that line the circuit means that you have to keep your concentration levels high. The last race weekend in Canada was quite a tough one for us but I was pleased to finish in sixth and score decent points after being in thirteenth place on the first lap. Our pace was quick in the race and I hope that the upgrades we have for Valencia will bring further improvements.”

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP
2009 Qualifying – n/a, 2009 Race – n/a

“Valencia is a track which I have never raced on before so it will be another new experience for me but one which I am very much looking forward to. I always have been quite good in adapting quickly to new situations and I strongly expect that to be the case in Valencia. I like going into new experiences like this and having detailed discussions with my engineers about the challenge. We will bring further updates for our car which should help to improve the performance. We have already seen that the car has improved steadily over the last few races and in Canada, the pace was better even if unfortunately that did not show in the results. That’s why I look forward to travelling to Spain a great deal.”

Ross Brawn, Mercedes GP team principal
“Our car was well suited to the circuit in Montreal and our pace during the race was encouraging. Unfortunately qualifying was a disappointment and we placed well below our potential which compromised our weekend. Nico was clearly one of the quickest cars during the race and his climb from the midfield to sixth place was a very impressive performance. Michael showed good promise but damage to his front wing on the first lap and then the puncture put him out of the running and we were too ambitious with the use of the option tyres which left him struggling for pace. Looking ahead to Valencia, the circuit is similar to Montreal in many ways with long straights connected by slow corners which should suit our car. We have an upgrade package which will be another good step in our development towards competing at the front of the field. With the new points system this year, we are still within striking distance of the championship leaders and we will continue with our efforts to become more competitive. We have a number of the basics right and the difference between winning and losing is small. We need to close that difference.”

Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“The track at Valencia’s harbour side, where the America’s Cup took place in 2007, is not a typical one on the Grand Prix calendar. It consists mainly of slower corners with the last sector then being quite fast and presenting some quicker turns. The lap is close to 5.5 km which is above the average length of most circuits. We are planning to introduce some important upgrades to our cars in Valencia and are looking forward to making a step towards the top of the field.”

Jenson Button, McLaren
2009 Qualifying – 5th, 2009 Race – 7th

“As a team, we’ve taken maximum points in the last two races and it feels like we’ve really gathered considerable momentum. The team really is functioning as a single unit, so I think we head into Valencia next weekend hopeful of being able to once again capitalise on that determination and ambition. Even though it’s a street circuit, it’s got quite a different feel to other street tracks like Monte-Carlo or Singapore. For a start, it’s quite a bit faster – there are some low-speed corners with some fairly unforgiving walls at the apex, but there are also some high-speed changes of direction and some long straights, so it’s quite an interesting place set-up-wise. It’s not as if you completely rely on downforce, there’s a trade-off, and that should suit our package. ”

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2009 Qualifying – 1st, 2009 Race – 2nd

“I’m really looking forward to racing in Valencia. I had a great, attacking race there last year – but I’ve finished second for the past two seasons, so I feel like I have some unfinished business! I also think it’s good for the championship to have a variety of circuits – we’ve just come from a fast, flowing road course in Canada, to a tight street track in Valencia. And, next month, we’ll be at Silverstone – one of the fastest tracks of the year, and a circuit with incredible history. As a driver, that sort of variety makes the racing exciting and unpredictable, which is all you can really ask for. The last few Grands Prix have had some fantastic racing – it would be great for all the Spanish fans if we can have a great race here too. It’s not a circuit where we’ve seen too much passing in the past, but I think this year could be different – the grid is so tight, there were battles all through the field in Montreal last week, so I think we could have a close and exciting race this year.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
“After two consecutive one-twos, it certainly felt like Bruce McLaren himself was looking down on us and smiling, particularly after we recently commemorated the 40th anniversary of his death. I’m sure Bruce would also have appreciated the relentless and dedicated approach we have taken to the engineering and development of MP4-25 – I think we’ve shown in the past two races that we lack nothing in terms of hunger and motivation. And with our car being constantly developed, I believe we can continue to be a threat at the majority of remaining races on the calendar. Of course, we’re no strangers to relentless development – it’s one of the team’s greatest strengths – and we’re absolutely committed to maximising every last component in the search for performance. Nothing is too small to be overlooked, and it’s that holistic approach that really brings rewards, allowing us to eke out performance in every single area of the car. It’s also an approach we’re increasingly focusing on with the team, too: we’re looking at pit stops, engineering, strategy – and we’re seeing practical and material benefits in those areas, too.”

More to follow.

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