Driver quotes pre-Canada: The Gran Turismo edition

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As the Formula 1 drivers prepare to take to the track in Montreal, they first have to survive the gauntlet that is the press interview. Let’s check and see if there were any nicks or bruises this time around.

We’ll begin with Timo Glock:

Timo Glock, Virgin
2008 Qualifying – 11th, 2008 Race – 4th
“We head to Canada in good spirits after a positive outcome to our weekend in Turkey, which saw both myself and Lucas (Di Grassi) take the chequered flag. I’m pretty excited to be coming back to Montreal. It’s a race that everyone has a lot of affection for – drivers, team members and fans – so I hope it’s back on the calendar for good. I’ve had a lot of fun races and good results here in the past. In fact, this was the scene of my first F1 race and I got my first championship points in it. I raced here in Champ Car in 2005 and finished on the podium, so it’s a circuit that has a lot of happy memories for me. Montreal is also a great city with a fun carnival atmosphere, especially on Crescent Street. Virgin Mobile are presenting the activities there this weekend, so Lucas and I will be down there on Saturday night to say hello to the Virgin Racing fans. In terms of our racing objectives for the weekend, we’ll be looking for another two-car finish with more clear signs that we are making good progress with car performance. I’m looking forward to it.”

As always, when your positive outcome is having both cars finish a race, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Also, am I the only one who thinks it sounds like Timo knows the off-track entertainment spots a bit too well?

Next, Timo’s team mate:

Lucas di Grassi, Virgin
2008 Qualifying – n/a, 2008 Race – n/a
“I’m really looking forward to racing in Canada for the first time. We had a good result in Turkey and I hope we can achieve the same outcome this weekend but with fewer frustrations along the way. With regard to the problems we had with the engine, we don’t expect to have any similar issues this time. We need a clean start on Friday in Free Practice and to keep building from there. This will be my second race with the new chassis. I’ve done some work in the simulators to prepare for this race. The first two corners are pretty tight, so it will be interesting to see how 24 cars get through there at the start of the race because it was always pretty hair-raising when it was only 10 teams rather than 12. This is a big race for Virgin on and off the race track with plenty of fun things happening at the Crescent Street Festival and hopefully the reward of best of the new teams once again.”

Translation: I expect to run into four, maybe five cars in the first corner. I’m considering starting from the pitlane and waiting 30 seconds to go, in time for the safety car.

Rounding out the Virgin quote, Mr. Nick Wirth:

Nick Wirth, Virgin technical director
“Getting a two car finish in Istanbul was very important for us, as it is finally allowing us to focus on performance. Whilst the big performance steps for us this year are yet to be brought to the track, we have a nice Montreal aero package which consists of new aero parts all over the car, specifically for this track. The circuit itself is another interesting challenge, mainly in that it changes throughout the weekend and that makes getting the best race set-up quite tricky. Brake wear and temperature is something that will challenge the teams this race, and if a number of people get that wrong, things can get very interesting close to the finish. We’re looking forward to another step in progress and performance this weekend, and more good reliability.”

Umm… Nick. When do you plan to bring the “big performance steps” to the track? I doubt any of us would mind if you sped that process up a bit.

Now, on to the team that last year was playing the role of Virgin/HRT/Lotus:

Adrian Sutil, Force India
2008 Qualifying – 16th, 2008 Race – DNF
“I’ve raced in Montreal twice in 2007 and 2008. I’ve not had such a good history there so far but I’m older and more experienced now. The first years I went there I think I was a little impetuous and went for a position that wasn’t there, but I feel there’s a new person going back with more self confidence and understanding. I’m really looking forward to the race as I enjoyed Turkey, it was always challenging and, despite it not being the easiest weekend, we still scored points, which shows we can still do well even when the conditions are tough. I love Montreal and the atmosphere and the track itself is quite a challenge. There isn’t a lot of grip as it isn’t used very much over the year, although it does improve slightly over the weekend. The long straights and hairpins need a low downforce configuration and it feels a bit like a street circuit as well, which I love. It’s still good for racing as you can slipstream into the corners and brake late. To do well there you need a powerful engine and high straight-line speed and a low drag car that’s efficient and a good, soft balance over the kerbs. That’s exactly what we’ve got so I’m feeling really good going into this race. The SRW (switchable rear wing) was a development item in Turkey and we didn’t use it on my car in qualifying or the race as we didn’t get enough information on it after the various issues we had in practice. It’s a really good system for me as I can use it without taking my hands off the steering wheel and once we introduce it long-term it will be very easy to use. We saw on Vitantonio’s car that it gave a big improvement, so if we can use it on my car it will be a real step forward. We will test it some more in Canada and hopefully get some good data together.”

Stop the presses! Did Adrian just final admit he had a nasty habit of running into people? I bet Nick Heidfeld will be making an appearance in the Force India garage to have a little talk. And, yes, Jarno Trulli will be there, too. With pictures.

Now, a quick detour away from the teams and onto the tires:

Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development
“This will be the first time since 1997 that we will race in Montreal with slick tyres. Previously, we have always found this a difficult circuit for deciding tyre allocations, and this will also be the first time we have raced at this track with a gap between compounds. The circuit’s heavy traction and braking demands mean that a lot of heat is generated in the tyres so drivers need to be vigilant with their tyre management. The track surface can change a lot over the course of the weekend, and the weather in Montreal is often very variable too. I think that these factors will make our visit to Canada a good test for teams, drivers and Bridgestone.”

Another translation for you: Think you’ve seen marbles in the past? Just wait.

Renault is being quietly optimistic about its chances this weekend:

Vitaly Petrov, Renault
2008 Qualifying – n/a, 2008 Race – n/a
“It will be a totally new experience for me because I have never been to Canada before. So it’s a new country and a new track for me to discover. I’ve been told that there is always a good atmosphere in the city and that the public really support the race so I’m looking forward to experiencing that.

“First of all I just want to get there and see how things go in practice before I start setting myself targets. I need to get a feel for the car and learn the track so that is the priority. It’s a track with lots of big braking zones and chicanes, so I think it will suit the R30 because our car is easy to drive and is good at jumping over the kerbs. I will be targeting the top ten in qualifying and we’ll see what happens in the race.”

First off, the Renault drivers seem to be the only ones who speak in more than one paragraph. Not sure why that is. Secondly, umm… I think Vitaly just might get in the top 10. So, bye bye Force India.

For HRT, we’ll give you a two-fer:

Bruno Senna, HRT
2008 Qualifying – n/a, 2008 Race – n/a
“I am looking forward to the Canadian Grand Prix and the great ambiance in town and at the circuit. I only know the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve from television and videogames. The track is a mixture of low speed corners and long straights on which top speeds are very high and very challenging for the drivers. I hope that this low downforce nature helps us and that both cars could pass the finish line at the end of the race.”

Karun Chandhok, HRT
2008 Qualifying – n/a, 2008 Race – n/a
“I never raced in Montreal before and therefore I am really looking forward to get to know this circuit. I was told by people in the paddock that the atmosphere is supposed to be unique there. The track itself is pretty tricky with a lot of bumps and kerbs which are typical of a street circuit. Because of the long straights and many braking actions you need a car, which is stable on the brakes and has good traction. Our aim is still to finish the race with both cars.”

Takeaway from HRT? Thanks god for Gran Turismo!

And finally, mostly to whet your appetite for the fun off track, Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen:

Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus
2008 Qualifying – 7th, 2008 Race – 9th
“I’m really looking forward to Canada. Montreal is an amazing city and everyone there really loves the fact they have a race on their doorsteps. It’s pretty impressive how the whole place almost becomes like a festival – some streets are closed for parties, events and all sorts of things, and everyone really gets behind the whole race. With the circuit being practically in the city it’s hard to escape the noise and goings on, but I love it. The circuit itself is a real challenge, for the cars and the drivers. Braking is very important because there are long straights and it’s the second hardest circuit on the brakes in the whole season – cooling them is a priority and getting your braking points right is the key to a good lap. There’s always a lot of action in the braking zones, so we’ll see how we get on in the race. Riding the kerbs well is also critical, so it’s important to set up the car for them, and we’ll focus on that on Friday.”

Makes me a little mad I’m not there.

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