FIA F1 - USGP Preview Comments


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Austin, Nov. 15, 2012: After the twilight tension that was Abu Dhabi, the Formula One paddock moves on to a brand-new venue, the recently completed Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, as F1 racing returns to the USA for the first time since 2007. And it’s a special race in more ways than one - it could decide both the 2012 drivers’ and constructors’ titles. Those involved discuss their prospects for the 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix…

Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham “COTA looks like a great circuit. I’ve spent a day in the simulator preparing for it so I know how it flows and they’ve taken the same approach as we saw in India, adding in up and downhill sections with some really quick corners and a couple of heavy braking zones where it should be possible to pass other cars.

“I think one of the key things to how successful the weekend will be is how the American fans take to the race. We’ve obviously been there before and there’s a lot of other racing that US fans are very passionate about, but F1 has changed since we last raced there and we know what it takes to put on a show so I think it’s going to be really good.

“Aside from the race weekend it’ll be good to go back to the US as I’ve always enjoyed myself there. Quite a few of my golfer friends either live out there or have houses in America so hopefully I can get a round or two in and have a little bit of the lifestyle they enjoy out there. It’s going to be busy as we have quite a few sponsor functions, and I’m taking part in the FOTA Fans Forum on Wednesday evening in downtown Austin, but the only thing I need to make sure is that I don’t put on any weight! The food in the US is really good and I’ve heard they do pretty big steaks in Texas, so my physio will be keeping a close eye on how much I’m enjoying myself off track!”

Vitaly Petrov, Caterham “I’m really looking forward to visiting America, both for the race but also because it’s my first ever trip to the USA and it’s always been my dream to go to the States. This time I probably won’t get enough time to have a proper look around but I’m definitely going to make sure that when we come back here I have a few clear days to really see what it’s all about.

“I think all the drivers are excited about getting on track. It’s a new challenge and from what I’ve seen in the simulator it could be a really special track. There’s a lot of elevation changes, a few blind corners where it’s going to be tricky to find the apex and quite a lot of the lap is high speed. From what I’ve seen of our schedule the whole weekend is going to be very busy for us - we have a lot of important sponsors in America so it’ll be pretty intense, on and off track, but I think it’ll be one of the best weekends of the year.”

Alexander Rossi, Caterham test driver “First it’s obviously fantastic that COTA is bringing F1 back to the US and as I’m a real F1 fan at heart I’m really excited about the race coming to Austin. COTA have done an amazing job on the track. It’s going to be a great challenge for the drivers and they’ve also made sure the whole weekend is worth staying for, not just the sessions on track but the whole event.

“As our team’s test driver I know that the main thing is that Austin is a new circuit and the race drivers need as much time as they can on track to prepare for qualifying and the race - as a race driver I’d want exactly the same in their position. For me the weekend will be a great chance to work with our team’s partners and the fans to show them what my world is like. I’m an ambassador for our Premium Partner GE so I’m going to be bringing their guests right into the heart of F1, as well as taking part in events like the FOTA Fans Forum on Wednesday night at the Hilton Hotel in Austin. It’s going to be an incredible week, in the build-up to the race and on race day itself, and I’m going to be working hard to help introduce a lot of very important people to our team and F1 as a whole.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India “I’ve not spent a lot of time in America so I’m looking forward to being there and seeing some of the country. I’ve visited New York before, but that’s as much as I’ve done. I love the people and the culture so I’m sure it will be a fun week. We arrive on Tuesday so that gives us a couple of days to explore Austin before we go to the track.

“I’ve driven the lap on a simulator so I’ve got the layout in my head. It’s pretty much an average medium-speed track with a lot of elevation changes. Turns three to six are high speed with lots of change of direction - a bit like Maggotts and Becketts at Silverstone. There are some big stops and some low-speed sections towards the end of the lap too. So pretty much a bit of everything.”

Paul di Resta, Force India “I’ve not done a massive amount [of preparation], to be honest. I’ve seen some maps of the circuit, but the main preparation will come from my simulator session on the Monday of race week. So I’ll arrive in America with it fresh in my mind.”

Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal “The United States is such an important market for the teams and the brands associated with the sport so it’s a very welcome return to the calendar. It will be the first time Sahara Force India has raced on American soil and the whole team is excited to be going there. Visiting a new venue always presents us with new challenges, but from what I’ve heard we can expect a first class facility. As for the city, Austin is a friendly place with good hospitality and I’m sure we will receive a very warm welcome.”

Pirelli Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director “Austin is one of just three new tracks for us in Formula One competition this year, alongside Bahrain - which we’ve tested at previously - and Hockenheim, where we previously raced in GP3. So in many ways America will be the biggest challenge for us of the year, but stepping into the unknown is a situation that we are used to: last season the majority of tracks were completely new to us. We’ve chosen the hard and the medium compounds as we think it will be quite a demanding track, based on the asphalt samples and simulation data we have gathered. Naturally we’ve leaned towards a slightly more conservative choice in order to cover every possibility at a brand new circuit, but the tyre choice in Abu Dhabi was also conservative and yet we saw one of the most exciting races of the year. We’re all absolutely delighted to be returning to America with Formula One: it’s a crucial market for us as well as being the home of many of the most enthusiastic fans out there. We’ve felt a huge buzz about this race, and with the championship so finely poised it couldn’t come at a better time.”

Jaime Alguersuari, Pirelli test driver “I don’t know anything at all about the Circuit of The Americas - I’ve only ever seen some photographs and videos - but it looks like a great track and a lot of fun to drive. It’s clear that all the teams have good knowledge of all the Pirelli tyres now, so I would say that understandably the hard and the medium tyres are quite a conservative choice, but of course this depends on many other factors such as the macro-abrasion of the surface in Austin. We could be looking at a one-stop race although there are other outside circumstances that can always affect this, such as safety cars and the weather. A new track often shakes things up a bit, so I’m sure it will be interesting.”

Pastor Maldonado, Williams “After a good performance in the last race in Abu Dhabi I’m looking forward to getting in the car again and seeing what we can achieve in Austin. The team has worked very hard to get the car back to the sort of pace that can consistently challenge for points and that is what we will be looking for in this race. The track is new so it will be challenging to get the right set up, but that is the same for all the teams. It looks like a fun and challenging track to drive from the work we have done in the simulator and the American fans should bring a really good atmosphere as well.”

Bruno Senna, Williams “I’m excited to go to Austin because I’m hearing lots of good things about the track. It has both high speed and technical sections so it will be tricky to learn for all the drivers and it’s always interesting to see how drivers cope with a new layout and new corners they haven’t driven before. The weather can be very varied in Texas as well, with lots of wind and drops in temperature so that could be a factor. The car has definitely come on a lot in the past few weeks so we take good momentum into this race.”

Mark Gillan, Williams chief operations engineer “On the back of a good result in Abu Dhabi the whole team is really looking forward to the last two races of the season. We will be pushing hard right to the end with further updates in order to try to secure seventh position in the constructors’ championship. As this is a new track, with no historic database of information to call upon, it places even more importance on one’s circuit simulation tools and simulator to ensure that we’re fully prepared in terms of both car set-up and proposed run programme. Pirelli bring their hard and medium tyres and as normal for any new track one will need to be careful on analysing the track versus the tyre evolution when making strategy predictions.”

Remi Taffin, head of Renault Sport F1 track operations “Austin looks like it will be a very interesting circuit. It has replicated some of the most challenging corners we have visited, including the Suzuka Esses and Turn 8 from Istanbul. There are also several gradient changes over a lap, particularly in sector one, which features a blind apex that will really push the drivers. Going to a new track requires a lot of simulation on the dyno in advance, more than double the amount of time we would spend for a ‘standard’ race, but we may even spend longer than this, as with such variety of corners, we expect that the RS27 will be given a full workout.”

Pedro de la Rosa, HRT "The truth is we don’t know much about this circuit. All I know about it is from what I’ve seen on the Internet. The first thing that strikes you about this track is the number of gradient changes and how extreme they are. The important thing is for our car to adapt well to this circuit and we will dedicate Friday to learning the track and setting up the car. The choice of medium and hard tyres seems, on paper, an election of quite hard compounds. But until we don’t confirm the grip of the asphalt it will be difficult to draw any conclusions.”

Narain Karthikeyan, HRT "The Circuit of The Americas looks like a promising layout, lots of parts from different circuits around the world but what I’m looking forward to most is the massively uphill turn one. These gradient changes do well to add to the circuit’s character as we’ve seen in India so it is going to be a challenging layout. So as a driver, it would be up to us to do the maximum number of laps possible on Friday to learn the circuit and get the base set-up right and then take it from there. I raced in Formula One the last time it was in America, back at Indianapolis in 2005 and then NASCAR in 2010 and I really enjoyed racing there; the fan following is huge. So it would be great to see Formula One being successful in such a promising market and hopefully with this new facility and an entertaining circuit, it will happen soon enough.”

Luis Perez-Sala, HRT team principal "Once again we’re heading to an unknown circuit, so the key will be to learn the circuit and adapt as quickly as possible. All we know about this circuit is what the simulation department, who have been working on it for some time, have put across to us. According to them it’s a very complete and spectacular track and that gives us extra motivation to face this penultimate test of the season. It’s been an intense end of year but I’m confident that we can finish off on a good note which will enable us to make a positive overall assessment of this special season.”

Mark Webber, Red Bull “Regarding the new track, it's unproven in terms of what we need to do with the car there. We will have a reasonable idea before we turn a wheel, but we've got to get into the nitty-gritty from our simulations. We need to see track temperatures and how the asphalt is for the car in terms of grip - we've got a lot of unanswered questions which we only learn on Friday, but the layout looks awesome. It’s probably one of the best layouts of the year in terms of being challenging for the drivers and the cars. I've been to Austin a few times, I’ve got some buddies there. It’s a really vibrant city, similar to Melbourne, and I know the locals are going to really embrace it. They obviously have the huge music festivals and they pull those off really well in terms of the organisation and getting everyone around.”

Sebastian Vettel “I think it's great that we are travelling to the United States again. I have been in the simulator learning the Austin track; how it flows and getting a general feel for it. What we know from designer Hermann Tilke is that the hallmark of the circuit will be the big differences in altitude within a lap as the highest point is expected to be 40ft higher than the lowest point. The site has natural elevation changes, which promises a fast course with difficult corners for us to familiarise ourselves with. It was also important to the designers that the fans in the stands could see a lot of the track and see the cars for a good amount of each lap. The track has 20 corners and we go anticlockwise.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus “It will be the third new circuit for me this year and most of all, a brand new place for every team and every driver as well. Korea and India were both new to me, but I had seen the previous races on TV. I don’t know anything about Austin, just the name Circuit of the Americas. I have always liked to go to new places as it adds a bit of additional excitement. I’m particularly looking forward to this one. I like the American atmosphere, it’s just a relaxed environment; they know how to have fun and, most of all, they love racing.

“I competed in seven Grands Prix at Indianapolis. Unfortunately the one time I felt I had a really strong car there was in 2005 when only six cars raced and I wasn’t one of them. I did get pole position in 2003, but none of the races are ones I remember well. Last year I tried NASCAR. I did two races on the Charlotte oval and I really liked it a lot. That was probably the experience I needed to open my eyes for racing again. After that I really wanted to come back to Formula One, while it was a tempting idea to do more NASCAR, too. After seeing the excitement of the American NASCAR fans I hope Formula One gets people as eager to enjoy our racing in Texas, too.”

Romain Grosjean, Lotus “I’ve never been to the USA before, not even for a shopping trip to New York! It’s going to be a new experience in many ways. In actual fact, I did try to make a quick visit after the Canadian Grand Prix but there wasn’t time in the end. I’m sure it will be a big journey of discovery for me; a new country, a new culture and of course of a new race track which is always something I like to experience.

“NASCAR is of course very famous, and I think we can learn things from the show that it puts on for all the fans, as it’s very impressive. The Indianapolis 500 is another event that everybody knows too. I hope that all the fans we meet in Austin are as enthusiastic as seen at these other events.

“I’ve spoken to [Lotus test driver] Jerome [D’Ambrosio, who has driven the Circuit of The Americas] so I have a little idea of what to expect. On top of that I’ve worked with simulations of the track, and it’s easy for me to play Xbox when I am travelling so I can get an idea from that too. I don’t think it will be the easiest circuit to learn and there are a few fast corners which look like they will be a challenge. The first corner certainly looks to be good fun.”

Eric Boullier, Lotus team principal “We as a team are very happy to be returning to the USA especially as we strongly believe that it’s a market where Formula One should be. We already have some American partners, so it’s good to be racing in their home country. It a land of tremendous opportunity for Formula 1 and we hope to build on this opportunity in the future. Also, we took part in the opening ceremony of the track two weeks ago, and the buzz it has generated was quite surprising. I’m sure that America likes Formula One more than people think.”

James Allison, Lotus technical director “It’s certainly more difficult than going to a circuit which we have raced on before! The good thing is that it is a level playing field in that regard - no team has raced on the Circuit of The Americas before. For the engineers it’s a bit more of a challenge not knowing the peculiarities of the circuit. We know the layout of the track and there are a good number of simulations we can do such as suspension settings, wing levels, gear ratios, but the idiosyncrasies will need to be worked on at the track itself.

“It’s a similar overall downforce level used on the car, but it’s a very different circuit from Yas Marina. There is a much wider range of corner types. Austin has a series of flowing fast corners which doesn’t exist in Abu Dhabi, then there are some slow chicanes which do. The diversity of corners means that it’s a much sterner overall test of the car. However, if we look at other tracks that test the car in this comprehensive manner, we’ve been pretty good.

“We are still experimenting with the latest evolution of our Coanda system. This delivers the same downforce as the one we introduced in Korea and used in the Abu Dhabi race, but does not sap as much power from the engine. We trialled this evolution in Abu Dhabi, but opted to go for the known quantity of the Korea-spec. Now we have the young driver test behind us, we are confident that this evolution will assist with around an extra six horsepower for the last two races of the season. We also have a little aero upgrade to the front wing too.”

Jenson Button, McLaren “Visiting a new circuit is always an interesting challenge. You approach it in a very different way from a track you’ve visited before - Thursday’s track walk and those first laps are all about exploration and understanding as you gather information from lots of different sources in a bid to build up a complete picture of the track and what’s required to get the best from it.

“On paper, the circuit looks to have a little bit of everything - the plan-view certainly looks familiar; you can see elements of the Maggotts/Becketts complex from Silverstone; there’s a reverse of Istanbul Park’s Turn Eight, too; and I can even see a bit of the Hockenheim infield, too.

“Whether those elements will blend together to make a satisfying whole remains to be seen, but there are a couple of long straights into tight corners, too, which should at least open up the possibility of overtaking.

“I think we’re in for a fantastic weekend - I really cannot wait to get out to Austin and see the city, the people and the track. I think it’s going to be brilliant.”

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren “It’s crazy to think that the last United States Grand Prix was five years ago! It’s a race I still remember like yesterday, though - the nervy anticipation as I drove into the [Indianapolis] Speedway for the very first time, the thousands of supportive fans, and the fantastic car I had beneath me that enable me to take my second Grand Prix victory in the space of a week. For me, those were incredible, thrilling times.

“I have to admit - I’m absolutely made-up that we’re going back to the States. It’s a fantastic country and a place where our sport truly deserves to be. I think the Circuit of The Americas looks like it could also be the place that modern Formula One finally calls home. I’ve only driven it on the computer and in the sim, but I think it’s going to be a track that drivers enjoy, which produces some great, close racing, and which fans will quickly love.

“This is a new circuit, a new challenge and a new opportunity - I’m definitely looking to be the first Grand Prix winner at the Circuit of The Americas.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal “I’ve always maintained that Formula One’s presence in the United States is crucial, so I’m personally pleased and satisfied that we’re finally returning to America after spending far too long away from its shores.

“On a wider level, the arrival of a state-of-the-art, purpose-build Grand Prix track is perfect for Formula One, and this is a golden opportunity for the sport to finally put down roots and find a long-term home. From a business perspective, too, we are in the right place at the right time. This is an invaluable commercial opportunity for the sport, for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and our partners.

“With Lewis, we won the last Grand Prix to be held in the United States back in 2007. After a strong, but ultimately disappointing, performance in Abu Dhabi last week, I know that both Lewis and Jenson head to Austin, determined to pick up the baton and return us to the top step of the podium.

“This should be a great race for Formula One.”

Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber “I have never been to Texas, as I have only been to New York and Las Vegas in America. I know this will be something completely different and perhaps pretty exciting because Texas is cowboy country, so I hope I can see some of them there. I have had a look at Austin on a Google map and it looks nice. This is another new Hermann Tilke circuit and he always gives us exciting tracks to have nice races. I have not seen the circuit on a simulator and, in fact, have no idea what it is like. However, it will be okay and a surprise for me. I shall walk the track when I first get there. I don't know how many laps it will take to learn it, as it very much depends on the track. It can take three, ten or more laps.”

Sergio Perez, Sauber “I am very much looking forward to this race! I think it is the closest race for eight years for me to my home town of Guadalajara. I expect many Mexican Formula One fans to attend and this, for sure, will give me an extra boost. Of course I also hope there will be a Mexican Grand Prix one day, because I am aware of the great enthusiasm for Formula One in my country, but for now I regard the race in Austin as my home Grand Prix. I have no issues about learning new tracks quickly. In my first Formula One season, which was only last year, I had many tracks to learn. I am sure we will have a good crowd there and I definitely want to put in a strong result for both the Sauber F1 Team and myself.”

Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Sauber head of track engineering “Going to an unknown circuit always requires a bit of extra work in advance. Along with all the other teams we have been supplied with the relevant data about the Circuit of The Americas. We implemented a simulation for the aerodynamic configuration of the car, gear ratios, braking systems and, more generally, for a baseline set-up. A rather unknown factor is how abrasive the tarmac will be. In this regard we rely on Pirelli and the tyre allocation they decided to go for, which is the medium and hard compounds. Unlike at circuits we are very familiar with, you will probably see a bit more driving in the first free practice session to double check the set-up and, of course, to allow the drivers to learn the track. The lap begins with an uphill straight leading to corner one and then to a number of high-speed corners. This part, I think, should suit our car best. After a very tight left hander we will have a long straight followed by a couple of slow-speed corners and a multi-apex long right hander before arriving back on the start finish straight.”

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes “My wife and I have been big fans of the USA, and also of Texas, for many years, so I'm particularly looking forward to the race. I'm really excited to see what kind of track we will find and to see if the American fans will embrace our sport.

“From the pictures and layouts of the circuit that I have already seen, everything looks very good. I think Formula One will put on a good show at the Circuit of The Americas, and naturally I will be giving my best to be a part of that.”

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes “It will be very exciting to race in the USA again and I’m really looking forward to our visit. The United States Grand Prix should be a great event and a real show for our American fans. I can’t wait to drive on the Circuit of The Americas track for the first time in practice next Friday.

“I spent some time practising on the simulator at the factory this week so I know what to expect and, as a team, we are as well prepared as we can be from our simulator work.

“The track looks cool with a great double S section to begin the lap and it looks like there should be some good opportunities for overtaking. We really want to end the season on a positive note so we’ll be aiming to score some points next weekend.”

Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal “We are very pleased to see Formula One returning to the United States for the first time since 2007 and the team are looking forward to visiting Austin and the Circuit of The Americas next week. Visiting a new circuit for the first time is always a significant engineering challenge, and we have been working hard at the factory to prepare for the weekend.

“The team have done over five race distances on the simulator to assess the layout, gradients and G forces. The track layout looks quite varied with a high-speed twisting section in the first sector, elevation changes with an uphill approach to the crest of turn one, and a slower, more technical section at the end of the lap. Nico was in the sim yesterday to complete our preparations and his feedback, along with that of our other sim drivers, will be used to prepare for the Friday practice sessions next week.”

Norbert Haug, Vice-President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport “It is five years since we last visited the United States and there is a great sense of anticipation in Formula One to be returning to a custom-built, state of the art venue at the Circuit of The Americas. A new circuit offers a new challenge for the teams. The circuit will provide a real test for the cars and drivers: it’s not a bland venue but rather a demanding layout with significant elevation changes.

“It contains an extremely demanding first sector, with a challenging series of high-speed corners and, throughout the lap, you can feel echoes of other great tracks around the world. Our sport has always enjoyed a very dedicated audience in the USA; their knowledge is impressive and they have always given Formula One a very warm welcome. It is an important step to return to the United States for our sport and its image.

“The USA is the biggest market for Mercedes-Benz cars in terms of sales and a race in the USA belongs in a world championship. The circuit looks to have exactly the right ingredients for an exciting weekend and we look forward to delivering a great race for the American fans.”

Timo Glock, Marussia “Going to Austin is a really big thing for the sport and everyone involved. The first race back in the US will be quite something for us. It’s a new track for all of the teams, and already it looks awesome on the simulations we have experienced and the images we’ve seen. I’m really looking forward to it a lot and I hope the organisers and fans have a great first race bringing F1 back again; I know we will enjoy being back in the US. I can’t wait to arrive early next week and have my first real view and walk of the track. Should be an amazing weekend.”

Charles Pic, Marussia “The US GP is high on the list of races I have been most looking forward to in my debut season. From what I have seen, the track is spectacular and the layout seems very interesting from a technical point of view. We spent some time in the US - in New York actually - in the summer after Canada, helping to promote the new race. The reaction amongst the fans and media was overwhelming and although I didn’t get to race in the States before, they certainly look happy to have F1 back. It will be great to be a part of that. As for our objectives, there is a lot to think about as this is a new race, but we need to keep pushing hard to maintain our current momentum versus Caterham - in qualifying and the race - and ensure we leave town with 10th in the constructors’ still firmly in our grasp. Should be a great weekend.”

John Booth, Marussia team principal “The whole team is looking forward to what, for us, will be our very first US GP. It’s a landmark race and we’ll embrace every minute of the experience, hopefully finding a little bit of time along the way to soak up some of the Texan sights and sounds. The Circuit of The Americas promises to provide a fantastic racing experience for the drivers and the fans. The attention to detail with the preparation of the track is evident and the organisation has so far looked second to none. From our simulation work we can see the parallels with some of the features of other great tracks on the calendar, so we are confident that it’s a circuit the drivers will enjoy racing at and the engin content=eers will find a pleasing challenge. The ‘unknown quantity’ factor will be very exciting for us, as no one will have the advantage at the start of FP1 on Friday, so it will be all about how good a job we all do from there onwards. This track represents a significant challenge for Pirelli, as they have had only asphalt samples and simulations with which to calculate wear rates and the effects of likely ambient temperatures. Last weekend’s race in Abu Dhabi had us on the edge of our pit-wall seats at various points, as it reminded us that to hold on to 10th in the constructors’ championship, we cannot control what happens further up the field, ahead of our own private duel with Caterham. We have to continue closing that gap and find the momentum to get ahead of them on track. We’ve come very close in recent races, despite their KERS-advantage, and we’ll remain in dogged pursuit of this objective right up until the chequered flag in Brazil.”

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