Vitaly Petrov: "My first race will be a big learning experience"
As the first Russian driver in Formula 1, Vitaly has a big weekend ahead. He sums up his emotions ahead of his Grand Prix debut.
Vitaly, how excited are you ahead of your first race?
asking me if I feel nervous, but I'm used to racing and I know what I need to do. Of course things are different in F1 and I'm still learning about the car and how to work with the team. But I feel good and I can't wait to go racing in Bahrain.
How tough has it been to get up to speed with Formula 1?
It hasn't been easy, especially because we had so much wet running during testing. You always want more time to test and more time in the car, but that's how it is. The problem is that I haven't had a lot of time to work on setting up the car in the dry. What I have found is that you need to be really precise with any changes you make to the set-up because even a little change can make a huge difference to the car's behaviour.
What do you think of the circuit in Bahrain? Is it a track you enjoy?
I know the track and raced on the old layout in GP2, but obviously the new section is a new challenge for all the drivers. I don't think about whether I enjoy tracks: all that matters to me is that the car works well and we can find a good balance. Bahrain is all about braking performance and, with the heavy fuel loads, this will be very challenging because it will be easy to lock a wheel and flat-spot your tyres early in the race.
What is your target for your first race?
It's hard to say because we still don't know where we stand compared to the other teams and I haven't driven the car with all the new updates. I need to be realistic in Bahrain because it's my first race and it will be a big learning experience. So my first aim is to build my confidence through the weekend, to finish the race and try to be as close to my teammate as possible.
Robert Kubica: "Performance is always the best medicine"
Robert sums up winter testing and reveals his hopes for the year ahead.
After four weeks of testing, do you feel ready to go racing?
I feel as ready as I can be considering that winter testing has been so limited. I've spent a lot of time with the team and we already have a strong working relationship, which means we can make the most of the time at the track. There has been a lot for me to learn and there are still questions to answer, but we got some good information from the tests and I tried to extract the maximum from every lap.
How do you think the R30 compares with the competition?
It's difficult to judge performance, but we're heading in the right direction. We also haven't run with all our new updates yet and there is another aero upgrade for Bahrain, which we hope will match the wind tunnel predictions and improve performance. Overall, it seems that all the top teams are quite close, but some have definitely hidden their full potential during testing and will also have more updates for Bahrain. So far, I think Ferrari and Mercedes look very strong.
What aims do you have in mind for the year ahead?
It will be a long season and our goal must be to develop faster than our competitors. There was a big gap to make up at the end of 2009 so we will have to take two steps forward if we want to catch the top teams. Performance is what we need -- it's always the best medicine.
Bahrain has a new layout this year. Do you think it will encourage more overtaking?
I don't think the layout will make overtaking easier. The biggest overtaking opportunities are still there in the old part of the track and the new part is quite twisty with a lot of corners, but no heavy braking zones. So the overtaking will happen in the usual places -- into turns one and four.
Set-up wise what's the secret to a good lap?
Bahrain is a circuit that requires good braking stability and traction. There are no real high-speed corners so the set-up work focuses more on the mechanical side.
Eric Boullier: "Our biggest strength is our people"
The Team Principal gives his verdict on winter testing and looks ahead to Bahrain.
Eric, how would you rate the quality of the team's preparations over the winter?
If we discount the bad weather, then overall our preparations have gone very well. We had a couple of minor glitches, which is quite normal for winter testing, but generally the car has run well and shown good reliability. Overall, considering that six days out of 15 were affected by rain, I think we have managed to maximise our mileage with the car. You can still learn a lot in the wet, especially for reliability, but the problem is that you don't push the car to the limits like you do in the dry.
What has been your assessment of the team's strengths since you were appointed?
Our biggest strength is our people. We have a very highly motivated team that is responsive and proactive in the way it goes racing. This was clearly demonstrated after the first test session when the factory made a big push to make changes to the car in time for the Jerez test.
How steep has your learning curve been as a new Team Principal?
It's fair to say that it has been a very steep learning curve because there is so much more to absorb and understand, even compared to GP2. It's much more intense, but I'm pleased with how things are going.
What feedback have the drivers given on the car, in terms of outright performance, driveability and potential?
There are a couple of things we need to change to make the drivers more comfortable in the car, but they like the general balance and how it responds to set-up changes. At the Jerez test, we found an excellent balance and both drivers said the car was easy to drive and gave them confidence. That was always the priority and it's a good basis for developing the car throughout the year.
What is the team's assessment of its competitiveness after winter testing?
It has been very tough to understand and unpick the details of winter testing and how we compare with the other teams because we don't know what approach they have taken. We took a decision to run with heavy fuel at every test because we believed this was the best way to understand and improve the car. In terms of outright performance, I hope we are close to the top four teams.
Robert Kubica is rated as one of the most talented drivers in F1. What does he bring to the team?
It's great to have Robert with us and it's good to see his commitment and work ethic at every level. During the tests he was always at the track, working late, looking over data and available to the team, which is just what we need.
Are you pleased with how Vitaly Petrov is adapting to F1?
Yes, so far so good. Vitaly has shown a level of confidence as well as calmness under pressure, which has impressed the Team. There has been so much attention on him from Russia, but he's taken everything in his stride and nothing seems to faze him. The only problem is his lack of dry running during testing, which isn't ideal for a rookie. However, we are doing everything we can to make sure he feels comfortable in the team as he continues learning about Formula 1. I certainly have no doubts about his ability because his results in the past have shown how quick he is.
The team announced a partnership with Lada last week. Can you tell us more?
Our agreement with Lada is symbolic of the desire in Russia to support its first ever F1 driver at the highest level of world motorsport. That is a very encouraging sign not only for us, but for the sport as a whole. It is also an important deal for the team, because Lada is the first major new brand to enter Formula 1 in a significant manner this year -- and we are proud to be the team that has made that happen. It's a successful first step for our commercial strategy.
At the launch of the R30 you spoke about an aggressive development programme. Is everything going to plan so far?
Yes, we have been working to very tight deadlines and there has been a huge effort from the guys in the factory. So far, we are on track with our plans.
What updates are available for Bahrain?
I won't go into details, but there is a big upgrade package for Bahrain, the main part of which is aerodynamic.
What are your expectations for this weekend's race?
It's not easy for me to say. I certainly have a dream result in mind, but I need to balance my expectations with reality. If we can have both cars qualify in the top ten and finish the race, that would be a great way to start the season.