Finally, a GP, and finally quotes to preview it

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Our ever-enlightening preview quotes for the race this weekend in Barcelona. It’s a pretty full package out the date; maybe everyone is reading to race?

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus
2011 Qualifying – n/a, 2011 Race – n/a

“I have tested here very many times. It’s a challenging circuit – great fun with a good car, but not that great with a not so good car. Usually a car going well in Barcelona goes well everywhere. We had a good car there for the second pre-season test even if the car wasn’t quite together for the first one. The car has improved and I feel more comfortable in it.

“I expect Lotus to be very competitive at Barcelona. It’s going to be very, very close between the top teams. This is the only circuit where the teams have already tested with the new cars, and the set-up is crucial as the track changes with the wind and temperature. All the teams have updates for the first European race, which makes it even more interesting and even tighter at the top.

“I have won here twice, and there’s nothing better than winning in any Grand Prix. Those two wins are my only podiums in the event.”

Romain Grosjean, Lotus
2011 Qualifying – n/a, 2011 Race – n/a

“In Barcelona it will be important to qualify well, and it will be much harder to overtake than Bahrain. Qualifying is an area where we can still improve a little bit ourselves, we have some ideas of how to improve, and hopefully we’ll get on to the front row. We have a good understanding of the E20 after the Mugello test and we hope to bring some new parts to Spain too. Tyre management will be the key for a good performance in the race. Let’s see what the temperatures are like. If it’s as hot as Bahrain, the E20 should work well…”

Eric Boullier, Lotus team principal
“The first race in Europe is always the start of a new adventure. In this respect, yes, we’re all looking forward to this challenge. It also makes the life of the team easier in terms of logistics: we’re not that far away from home any more. This said, Barcelona is a special track because we always test there in the winter so it will be interesting to see the gaps between the teams; it might be even tighter than what we have already seen.

“We’ve been able to look after our tyres quite well during the races so far but the Barcelona track is very abrasive, especially for the front left tyre. Maybe we’ll do a better job than our rivals in this area. The only question mark is our performance relative to the temperature. A pattern started to emerge over the first four races, where we seemed to be more and more competitive in hot conditions. We’ll see.”

James Allison, Lotus technical director
“We will bring the first tranche of gains from our Windshear programme in addition to some parts from our conventional wind tunnel development. There will be modifications to the front and rear drums, to the front wing and to the floor.”

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
2011 Qualifying – 2nd, 2011 Race – 1st

“Of all the current GP tracks, Barcelona is the one that we know the most because we have done so much testing there in recent years. That said, the knowledge that you gain at the tests doesn’t always help due to the changing wind direction that occurs there, which can sometimes give you a nasty surprise, especially into Turn One. But in general, a car that functions well aerodynamically in Barcelona will work everywhere – so it will be an interesting weekend. We have been working on the package for Barcelona at this week’s test, but we will still have set-up work to do there on arrival.”

Mark Webber, Red Bull
2011 Qualifying – 1st, 2011 Race – 4th

“It’s the first European race of the season, so it will be all hands on deck after a successful Mugello test. It was a tricky start to the test, but it finished off well and we head to Barcelona with good miles on the car and an understanding of some new avenues. I like the Barcelona track, we do a lot of work there and it’s a track that’s been good to me in the past. I got pole there for the last two years and converted it to a win in 2010, so I’m looking for a strong weekend. It’s tight amongst the teams, so we’re mindful that we need to get everything right to get a good weekend.”

Alexander Rossi, Caterham test driver
“I am looking forward to getting back into the F1 car in Spain and I want to thank the team for the chance to run in FP1 in Barcelona. I have a clear goal for the session – make sure I run to the plan set by the engineers, not make any mistakes and learn as much as I can over the whole weekend. I know how much I will be able to take from my time with the team back to my Formula Renault 3.5 commitments and I know the team will do everything they can to help me maximise my performance on Friday.”

Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham
2011 Qualifying – 15th, 2011 Race – DNF

“Barcelona’s a good circuit where the main challenge is to nail everything absolutely perfectly. If you make a half a tenth of a mistake it can cost you a grid position and it’s a race weekend where you have to focus on the details to give yourself the best chance of success. It’s a track with a lot of high-speed corners, some where you have to be really on it to save time, and you have to be pretty committed going into the braking zone in T1 as that’s where there is an overtaking chance. For the fans it’s often a pretty quiet race because it’s a tough circuit to overtake on, but that makes qualifying even more crucial and means you have to get the plan on Saturday absolutely right.”

Vitaly Petrov, Caterham
2011 Qualifying – 6th, 2011 Race – 11th

“After a good test in Mugello we are all looking forward to getting back to racing in Spain. Barcelona is a track I know well and one I like racing on. I was on the podium there in GP2 in 2009 and while I know that’s out of reach for us at the moment, we will all be focusing on continuing to take the fight to the cars ahead and repeating the sort of performances we’ve put in so far this season, particularly on Sundays.”

Mark Smith, Caterham technical director
“The Circuit de Catalunya is a track every team knows extremely well. We have already tested there twice this year as the layout gives the cars a good test of most of the track conditions we see throughout the season – fast, high G corners, a long straight and a number of slower speed corners where good traction is key. It is also one of the more technically demanding tracks for the drivers and offers a bit of everything. Turns 3 and 9 are high-speed corners and finding a balance for both together is not easy. The final sector is also a good challenge – the car has to make big changes of direction so you need good mechanical grip to maximise your lap time.

“Barcelona is also a relatively open circuit and the wind can have a significant effect on car balance, particularly when it changes direction. However, while the wind can be an issue, another major factor in Barcelona is the way in which the track evolves over the race weekend and throughout each day due to air and track temperature changes, which can be fairly extreme. Although we understand these factors well, due to the amount of time we spend at the circuit, we do need to constantly monitor what is happening with the weather to ensure the car setup remains optimised and we are on top of the changing conditions.

“We will also be giving our test driver Alexander Rossi his first FP1 run with us in Barcelona and we are all looking forward to giving him the chance to work with us at a full race weekend. He did a good job in Abu Dhabi when we ran him in the young driver test in 2011 and I am sure he will perform well for us on Friday in Spain.”

Tony Fernandes, Caterham team principal
“We head back to Europe after what has been an encouraging first four races for the team. We may not have quite bridged the gap to the midfield pack yet, but we are clearly much closer than we were this time last year, particularly on race day when we have seen clear evidence of the progress we have made.

“Having been with us for four races now, I am very pleased with the job Vitaly has been doing for the team. He is obviously a fighter and he is pushing his team mate well, especially on Sundays, and that is good for the whole team. I think Heikki is due a run of better luck in the races as he has been pushing extremely hard in qualifying, particularly to get himself into Q2 in Bahrain, but he has not had the same luck when the lights go out on race day. Hopefully that will change in Barcelona and we will be able to see both cars fighting to the chequered flag on Sunday.”

Jenson Button, McLaren
2011 Qualifying – 5th, 2011 Race – 3rd

“Barcelona can be a funny circuit: we all test there so regularly that every driver knows it like the back of his hand, yet it can still be an extremely tricky place to get absolutely right. But, because every team is so dialled in to the track, even having a well-sorted car isn’t necessarily the answer because it’s sometimes the smallest differences that determine the order.

“You need to have absolutely every box ticked if you’re going to win at Barcelona. It’s a place that punishes poor balance like almost nowhere else – if your car is understeering around here, then you’re going to really struggle. There are no particularly stand-out corners, but the blast up the hill through Turns Seven and Eight and the fast right-hander at Turn Nine have a great flow and feel great when you nail it – especially in qualifying.”

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2011 Qualifying – 3rd, 2011 Race – 2nd

“Our performance at Barcelona during winter testing looked promising – but the form of the season is still very hard to read, so it’s difficult to predict who’ll be at the front next weekend. Nonetheless, we had a great race there last year – I pushed Sebastian [Vettel] all the way to the finish. I think we have a comparatively stronger car this year, so I hope we can have another strong race.

“It’ll be interesting to see how straightforward overtaking will be this year. It’s always been a tough place for passing – as I found out last year – but I really hope DRS and KERS-Hybrid combined will make it a little easier. I think it’s going to be one of the toughest tracks of the year for overtaking, but I’ll be hoping for a strong performance in qualifying in order to make it as straightforward as possible in the race.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
“I think the drivers and the engineers enjoy the tricky technical challenge of Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. You really operate your set-up on fine limits around here: every team’s balance is so refined that even the slightest imperfections become highlighted. Get it right and you tend to have a serene afternoon, get it wrong and you’ll be hitting trouble, and traffic, throughout the race.

“As we’ve seen in the first four races, added to that mix will be the additional conundrum of managing the tyres – Barcelona should give all the teams a clearer understanding of how the tyres behave in what’s likely to be a ‘typical’ European race climate. But there will still be plenty to learn.

“I sometimes think of the Santander Spanish Grand Prix as a useful acid test as to the effectiveness of the year’s regulations: it’s a tough, technical circuit where passing is limited. If the racing is good here, then we’re normally set for an interesting year: for 2012, we’ve already seen that the combination of DRS and KERS-Hybrid can spice up proceedings, so I hope we’re in store for a fun and eventful race next weekend.”

Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber
2011 Qualifying – 14th, 2011 Race – 10th

“At the Mugello test I definitely had the feeling our new update to the car is a step forward for us. This is good, of course, but only at the Barcelona circuit will we be able to tell how much of an improvement it really is. Not only because testing never allows for proper comparisons to the competition, but also because the Circuit de Catalunya is special. It has everything – fast corners, medium speed corners and slow corners. Although everybody knows that track so well, it is very difficult to get the set up right there. But, in turn, if you really manage to get it right there this normally means the car can be fast on other circuits as well. It will be a challenging weekend for us drivers as well as for the car and the engineers, and I am very much looking forward to going racing again.”

Sergio Perez, Sauber
2011 Qualifying – 12th, 2011 Race – 9th

“I am looking forward to the Spanish Grand Prix very much and also to the other forthcoming races in Europe. To me the race at the Circuit de Catalunya is one of the most special ones on the calendar. I obviously know the circuit very well from GP2, from last year’s Formula One race and, of course, from testing. It was there where I scored my first ever F1 points last year when I finished ninth. I hope to get some points again this year. Our recent race in Bahrain was very disappointing, so I really hope our new aero package will work well in Barcelona.”

Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Sauber head of track engineering
“The Barcelona track is very complete. It has all kinds of features – low speed, medium speed and high speed corners as well as changes of direction. In some places the circuit is quite bumpy, and the tarmac is abrasive. Although we know this track well from testing it’s always a challenging one. Pirelli will provide us with the soft and the hard tyre. It’s the first time this year that there are two steps between the tyre compounds, which makes it interesting. We expect the soft one to be good in qualifying, while the hard compound should be strong in the race. The limiting factor is the wear on the front axle. However, at the same time the track characteristics stress the rear tyres, therefore the challenge will be to find the best compromise for the set-up of the car. We tested a major upgrade to the car in Mugello, consisting of a new front wing and new bodywork, including a different exhaust exit and a new diffuser. The results of the test were encouraging. However, all the teams had some upgrades, and only the next race weekend will give us confirmation whether we are able to strengthen our position compared to our competitors. Nevertheless I’m confident that we can have a strong performance in Barcelona.”

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes
2011 Qualifying – 10th, 2011 Race – 6th

“After completing our testing programme in Mugello, we are now heading to the start of the European season in Barcelona next week. The positive thing about the test was that we could really concentrate on the developments we were aiming to work on. This should give us a good basis for further developments, even if maybe not for the next race to come. Barcelona is a track we have driven extensively on, and this is why we know that its characteristics do not exactly play fully into our hands. But then, we will definitely go there and try our best and at the same time keep on working for the things to come.”

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
2011 Qualifying – 7th, 2011 Race – 7th

“I am really looking forward to next weekend and racing in Europe again. It’s quite unique to come to a track where we have done so many laps in winter testing, however the race weekend will be a completely different challenge. The test in Mugello this week was very positive for us, and I believe we will arrive in Barcelona with a much better understanding of the tyres and how we need to set our car up. Despite the familiarity of the track, there will still be a lot of work for us to do, and it should be a good challenge.”

Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal
“After a hectic start to the season with four races and the test in Mugello, we are all looking forward to the European season getting underway and the familiarity that brings. The team had a good week in Italy for the test this week where we were able to work both on challenges that affected us during the initial races of the season, and evaluate a number of new developments planned for the forthcoming races. Spain plays host to the first European race, and although the Circuit de Catalunya is a very familiar venue for the team and our drivers, the weekend will bring its own challenges. I feel confident that we are continuing to make progress, and we will of course be working hard to continue that trend.”

Norbert Haug, Vice-President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“The first four races of the 2012 season have offered great, thrilling sport for all fans of Formula One. Eight drivers from six teams on the podium in four races – one more driver than in the entire 2011 season – and four winners from four races for the first time in nearly 30 years; you couldn’t ask for more in terms of on-track excitement and unpredictability. No team has yet produced winning form at more than one event and achieving this consistency will be key. Our Mercedes AMG Petronas team has registered a positive trend: after two difficult races at the start of the season, we were competitive and won in China then, in Bahrain, we were the third-fastest team on race day. We have been hard at work since then to further improve the competitiveness, consistency and reliability of our car. The Circuit de Catalunya will present a very different challenge next weekend to the ones in the first four races with track temperatures likely to be very different and with new developments on the cars. We will approach the race weekend in a focused manner in order to maximise our team performance with both drivers.”

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