I have a new favorite pre-race quote, courtesy of Sebastian Vettel: “What I know so far is that the track is 5.14-km and in the industrial town of Noida, about 50 minutes by car from New Delhi.”

Thanks, Seb. That helps a lot! Others (even his) are actually fairly useful as we head into the great unknown of a new track…

Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director
“We’ve opted for a deliberately conservative nomination in selecting the hard tyre alongside the soft, simply because on a brand new circuit you are never quite sure of the exact race conditions you will encounter. But we’ve structured the allocation in such a way that we think the teams will run more on the softer tyres, particularly because we are bringing an extra set of soft compound tyres for Friday. This will help us to make some decisions about our strategy for next year, particularly after we saw the excellent durability of the softer compounds. It’s too early to talk about the number of pit stops we expect this weekend, but we anticipate a reasonably significant lap time difference between the two compounds.”

Narain Karthikeyan, HRT
“Driving in front of the home crowd cheering on is going to be a surreal experience. A once in a lifetime experience and I feel extremely fortunate. There is a huge buzz around the Grand Prix already and I’m sure that it’ll be a resounding success that will motivate more youngsters towards the sport and give us the future F1 drivers. Making it into F1 at the time I did was a seriously uphill task and the thought of being able to compete in the inaugural Indian GP was non-existent. But it is finally here and I’ll be on the grid. It is going to be one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar. There are points at which, if you’re in an F1 car, you will see nothing but the sky. The layout itself is going to put tremendous energy through the tyres and the strategy will play a key role in the final result. For sure I’ll race hard and try to get a good result for myself and the team. I would like to express my gratitude towards Tata Group and the rest of sponsors for their continued support and belief throughout my career.”

Daniel Ricciardo, HRT
“I haven’t seen the circuit yet but I’ve tried it out on Red Bull’s simulator. I’ve heard it looks quite good from Mark (Webber) and Sebastian (Vettel) and if they say that then usually their judgment is pretty good. It’s always nice to go to a new place and circuit. I think every driver is excited to see what it is like. I like Indian food but it’s a little bit heavy, perhaps not the best for the diet, I will be quite careful leading up to the weekend but maybe on Sunday night I will enjoy a good curry. I did a show run in India a couple of weeks ago and there were loads of people, I’ve heard it’s already sold out so there should be quite a good turnout for the race. We had a good performance in Korea and I hope we can keep on improving in India.”

Colin Kolles, HRT team principal
“Finally the time has come and we are heading to India for the first ever Formula One Grand Prix in its history. Going to new countries and race tracks gives all teams and sponsors a new platform and opens new opportunities that can be highly beneficial to the sport. Despite not being the most popular sport in India, the excitement around the Grand Prix and the effort that everybody is doing, makes us think that it will be an extremely popular event. And for HRT, it is even more special. Having Narain Karthikeyan, the first Indian driver in F1 history, and Tata with us makes it feel like a home race. Narain is a talented driver and we are proud to be going down this path with him. For this single event, Narain will be driving alongside Daniel Ricciardo. I have asked Tonio Liuzzi to step aside for the Indian GP in order to allow driving programs with Ricciardo and Karthikeyan to be completed. I have to thank Tonio for his professional approach and attitude. After the positive performance the team had in Korea, I hope that we will keep on that line in India. Although Narain has already driven around the track and given us a positive feedback, we really don’t know what to expect but we are looking forward to it.”

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
“By the time we race in India, I’ll have done several laps of the track on the simulator. What I know so far is that the track is 5.14-km and in the industrial town of Noida, about 50 minutes by car from New Delhi. The track is a combination of slow corners and high-speed straights which flow into each other. The altitude difference is extreme, rather like in Spa or Turkey, which will give the driving an additional element. Incidentally, we’re expecting the track to have the second highest average speed of the season after Monza. That means that we’ll be completing a lap at an average speed of 235 km/h, so there should be plenty of good opportunities to overtake. I’m really looking forward to India; I always do when we drive on a new track.”

Mark Webber, Red Bull
“We have completed some good simulator work, but in terms of the kerbs and other subtle final details, these will obviously come into place right at the end, so I’d say we have an 85 percent understanding of what the track is going to be like. It’s always nice to drive at a new venue and in the simulator it looks like quite a quick flowing track, very rewarding. It’s going to be pretty warm, which is going to be a challenge for the tyres. I’ve never been to India before. There are some amazing cricket players from India – it’s their number one sport and I’d love to watch Australia play cricket there someday. I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber
“It will be my first time in India and I’m very curious to discover a bit about the country. Everybody is telling us to be careful with the food. In a way I’m a bit worried about my stomach, but at the same time butter chicken curry is my favourite food and I would love to have it where it comes from. Obviously I don’t know the track yet. Maybe I will walk it, although generally I don’t regard track walking as being really very useful. The speed you have when you are on the circuit with the F1 car is so different it changes everything. I certainly want to get a good result for the team, as well as for myself at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix. I also hope there will be huge interest from the people, as this is always a crucial question for debut races, and excited fans do create a good atmosphere.”

Sergio Perez, Sauber
“I am looking forward to this new track in India. It is another unknown circuit for me, but this time it will be new for everybody, so it won’t only be me who has to start from zero. On Monday before the race I will actually get to know a bit more about the circuit when I will be testing in the Ferrari simulator. I think the first Indian Grand Prix will be a very exciting event. I have some Indian friends and they keep telling me how emotional everybody is there about it. In any case, it is my goal to make the most out of that race weekend and score points again.”

James Key, Sauber technical director
“After our performance in Korea was clearly below our own expectations, we analysed all the data carefully and came to the conclusion that we underestimated the limitation on the front axle and front tyres. As a result we suffered from too much understeer, which resulted in over loading the front tyres. Concerning the Grand Prix in India, we are obviously very much looking forward to going to a new venue in a country which is new to Formula One. Obviously the track itself is fairly much unknown to everyone, apart from using the simulation, and the other preparation work you can do with the information you have.

“You never really know what to expect until you are there. Like Korea last year, at a brand new track we expect that things like the evolution of grip will be quite significant over the weekend. This will influence the balance of the car, and you will possibly have to change the downforce level. The track itself looks pretty interesting, as it has one long straight and a fairly high downforce requirement in some of the winding bits at the back. The track is not unlike other new circuits. There seem to be some overtaking opportunities, but the drivers need to learn where that works and how effective the DRS is.

“The downforce level is most likely similar to recent events. We will have the soft and the hard tyre compound there. It’s quite some time since we ran the hard compound, so we’ll have to see how that goes. A lot depends on track temperatures, but given the nature of the track with several highly loaded corners, it could be that the hard tyre will warm up okay and last. Maybe the soft will struggle, but you never really know until you’re there. On the car we will have some small modifications to the rear wings and some small updates on the front wing.”

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
“I’ve been a few times before – we’ve done a few Vodafone promotional days there. The last time was just crazy – just after Singapore, we did a demo run in Bangalore and were expecting 5,000 people to turn up. On the day, there were around 40,000 fans – it was just incredible. You can’t believe how many people are aware of Formula One and how many are looking forward to the race next week. There’s already a great deal of knowledge about the sport – I think it’s going to be a big deal. India’s a sport-mad nation – mostly, it’s about cricket, which is understandable because they’re a very successful cricketing country, but I really think the people of India are going to take Formula One to their hearts. The reception we’ve had in the last few years has been greater than I could ever have predicted and I think the whole country is ready for something new and something exciting. I really hope India will get turned on to Formula One in a big way – it would be amazing to have an entire continent supporting you – and I really hope we can put on a fantastic race! It’s too early to say, but I think we’re set to be competitive at all of the final three races. We were quick at Singapore, Japan and Korea – and I think the pattern at the front has sort of settled down now as we reach the end of the season. I think we have a car that can be quick anywhere, so I’d like to think we’d be in the hunt again next weekend.”

Jenson Button, McLaren
“The first time you run on a new circuit is a strange experience because you’re piecing together an incredibly diverse and vivid set of data in your mind. That’s quite an intense experience. You’re quickly gathering everything together – constantly assessing the grip-level, watching for unexpected bumps, checking the kerb-height, run-off areas, pit-lane entry and exit, gradient. And that all happens at about 170mph! But the track itself has quite a nice mix of corners – the start of the lap is pretty stop-start, there are a couple of long straights mixed with tight hairpins, but it’s the end of the lap that’s more interesting: there are some pretty high-speed changes of direction through the esses and some gradient change. One of the things that looks really interesting is the double-apex banked corner at the back of the circuit – that’s pretty unusual. It’s sort of a mix between Turn 13 at China and Korea’s Turn 11. I always look forward to the next Grand Prix. The word is that people in India are really excited about Formula One and the event – it’s important for the sport that we make a good first impression and I really hope we have a fantastic race. Our car’s been pretty competitive recently and we’d like to win more races before the end of the season.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
“Every new venue we visit is important to the sport of Formula One and to our partners, many of whom have a considerable presence in India, and who are delighted by the prospect of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix. I think it’s important that the world championship is fully represented on the world’s stage – and a Grand Prix in India is certainly a very positive step. For Formula One, the most important thing is to educate, nurture and cultivate our audience – I firmly believe that Formula One is the greatest sport in the world and I want us to spread that word across the whole Indian subcontinent. Secondly, we want to take Formula One to the people. I know that our partners such as Vodafone are already very actively engaged in this activity in India, but I think we’ve done the right thing by establishing the circuit close to New Delhi.

“Initial impressions suggest the track will be a good one, with particular regard paid to close and exciting racing. And I’m also told that the prospect of the Grand Prix is causing a great deal of excitement within the city and the country as a whole. So I think we’re doing everything right – and I sincerely hope we can walk away on Sunday evening having done a great job for the country and for Formula One. We go racing to win, and, as I’ve said before, that’s the firm intention we take with us to all remaining races on the calendar. We’ve made some good progress recently with the 2011 car and we feel we have a car that can challenge for victory at all the remaining Grands Prix. While we’re winding down the development of the 26 and ramping up development of MP4-27, we still have a few more opportunities to track-test components and developments that can be carried over to next year. And we take plenty of positives away from the last two races: I think Jenson’s win in Japan and Lewis’s drive in Korea were two of the best performances of their respective careers. Both drivers are motivated to win and want to lead the team through these final few races and into the winter. There’s a lot of positive energy back at MTC, and you’re seeing that at the racetrack, too.”

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes
“For the next race, we are heading to India for the first time; a country which a lot of people tell me is fascinating. I’m looking forward to experiencing this new culture and seeing the track for the first time. I am sure we will be impressed with what has been done there. There has been a lot of interest in the build-up to the event, and therefore hopefully we will entertain a lot of new fans in India. I’ve always been happy to welcome new tracks on the calendar and enjoy the challenge of adapting to them. The outcome of the last race in Korea was unlucky for us, therefore I am extra-motivated to score some points next weekend, and reward the good work of the team.”

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
“This will be my first visit to India, and it will be very exciting for me to discover the new culture. I am planning to spend a few days in the country and looking forward to doing some sightseeing, particularly making a visit to the Taj Mahal. I hope the first race in India will be a great show for all motorsport fans there, and a big success. I enjoy going to new tracks for the first time as I tend to learn them quickly, and it will be very interesting to set the car up as there will be so many unknown points. I hope to be able to fight in amongst the top six cars again, like during the last race in Korea, but this time hopefully I will be able to stay ahead of one of them until the end of the race.”

Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal
“The Indian Grand Prix will be a new adventure for Formula One, and we are all looking forward to experiencing the country and the Buddh International Circuit for the first time next week. A tremendous amount of work has gone into the new venue and the preparations for this inaugural event, and the interest in India seems to be growing daily. In the second most populous country in the world, this can only be good for Formula One as we continue to expand our fan base by taking the sport to new markets The circuit itself looks to be an interesting challenge and we have been preparing back at the factory with circuit maps, simulations and models. You can do a great deal of work beforehand but nothing replicates the feedback from the drivers on their first laps out on the new circuit on Friday. With just three races remaining, we will be aiming to finish the season on a high and pushing hard to score good points at each one.”

Norbert Haug, Vice-President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“Mercedes GP Petronas is pleased and proud to be part of Formula One’s visit to India and its inaugural Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit. India is a country with a rich cultural heritage which is admired and respected across the world, and it is also a country of the future: there is a vibrant, growing economy and, for Mercedes-Benz, a rapidly accelerating market for our cars. The Buddh International Circuit promises to deliver the excellent facilities we are used to at the most modern Formula One venues. It presents a complete challenge to the cars with a range of faster and slower corners, as well as long straights that may make the compromise between downforce and straightline speed delicate to find. On the operational side, a new circuit levels the playing field somewhat between the teams and all of us must start from zero; however, it does provide an opportunity for our race team’s operational excellence to pay dividends. We saw some signs of promising potential in the early stages of the last race in Korea, although this did not ultimately translate into the final results. But we will be aiming to build on this potential in India, and our team will keep pushing at every race this year to extract the maximum from our current technical package.”

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