Japanese GP - Friday - Team Quotes

Heikki Kovalainen, Japanese GP 2007

Heikki Kovalainen, Japanese GP 2007 

 © The Cahier Archive

McLaren-Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton (1st, 1:18.734): "It's obviously always a challenge to get to know a new track, but I have tried that three times this year already. The engineers and I walked the circuit yesterday, and I was really looking forward to getting in the car this morning. I stayed on the same set of tyres in the first session - just to get a feel for the layout. The grip levels increased throughout, but the challenge is when you don't have a real idea of when the levels will stabilise. I experienced no problems and we found a good basis and made continuous progress. In the second session we focused on some longer runs and everything seems to be going in the right direction."

Fernando Alonso (2nd, 1:18.948): "I walked the circuit with my engineers on Wednesday which always gives you an initial idea, but today was when the fun started. The track is very challenging but initially it was very dusty and the grip levels were low. In the first session I mainly focused on familiarisation and stayed on the same set of tyres throughout. The second session was when the work really began with tyre comparisons and set-up work. So far so good and we experienced no problems. Both tyre options seem to be working well, and I am looking forward to a competitive weekend."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "A welcome return to the Fuji race track where McLaren has fond memories of winning the 1976 World Championship. With only three races to go the entire team knows how important it is for us to leave Japan with a strong points tally. Today's practice sessions bode well for the rest of the weekend. We experienced no problems, and due to strong simulation work back at base we arrived with a competitive set-up on which we will continue to build in tomorrow's practice."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Today we were fast, consistent and have done all of our planned laps on this new challenging circuit. The organisers did a great job, the Fuji track and the facilities are first-class and we very much enjoy being here."

Renault

Heikki Kovalainen (6th, 1:19.789): "I am pretty happy after today's sessions. This was our first day at a new track, and I think we did a good job: we completed a lot of laps, there were no problems and the mechanics worked very well to get through the set-up changes in our programme. We made progress with the car all through the day, and I think that once we have gone through the data this evening, we will see that there is still a little bit more performance still to come. In terms of the track itself, I found it quite fun to drive. As we expected, it is very smooth so there are no big problems in terms of our comfort, but I think the key section is definitely the last five turns. They are very slow, and you are always tempted to over-drive this part of the lap. However, the car is very light on downforce because the speeds are low, so you have to be patient and really work hard on the mechanical grip and on being very smooth with the driving style. I think I got to grips with the circuit quickly, and I am looking forward to another competitive day tomorrow."

Giancarlo Fisichella (7th, 1:19.926): "The balance of the car wasn't fantastic this morning, but we made some good changes at lunchtime, and then carried on moving forward during the afternoon session. We did a lot of laps, explored some different directions with the set-up, and we know where we can improve for tomorrow. The track itself is quite nice to drive. We knew it was not going to be a match for Suzuka, but there are still some challenging sections: the final part where you can gain a lot of time, and even the quicker corners through turns 3/4/5, where you need to carry a lot of speed and get the perfect line to be quick. Overall, I think this was a good first day, and now we have to work hard to make more progress overnight."

Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "This was a positive first day for the team. As soon as we began running, we could see that our simulations had served us well, as the car was immediately well-balanced - and that meant we hit the ground running with our programme. We steadily improved the set-ups on both cars, and completed our normal tyre evaluation work. Both tyre types are working well, and we don't anticipate they will pose any problems in the race. Looking at our competitiveness, I think we are in our normal position, at the head of the midfield group. Our long run pace seemed encouraging, and we will work on fine- tuning our single lap performance tomorrow morning."

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "Our main priority today was to run a trouble-free programme and to complete as many laps as possible. The track and weather conditions were ideally suited to this, and we managed to collect all the relevant information. In spite of the long straight, this is not a particularly demanding circuit for the V8, but it demands plenty of fine-tuning as we have never run here before. We have the data we need to complete this work, and there is now a busy evening ahead to ensure we are fully prepared for qualifying tomorrow."

Ferrari

Felipe Massa (3rd, 1:19.483): "On this interesting track, it is not easy to find the right balance between the slower section and long main straight. This morning we were quick and the afternoon, our work was aimed more at the race. We improved the set-up during the day but there is still much to do. However, the first impressions are positive and I think we can be competitive."

Kimi Raikkonen (5th, 1:19.714): "A good morning followed by a slightly more complicated afternoon. It is quite difficult to find the best set-up on this track, especially for the final sector. This is a demanding track but at the same time it's enjoyable to drive. The car was well balanced; in the second session we tried a change to the set-up which did not produce the expected results and so we went back to the previous one. We have to study the data to find the best settings. Obviously, it is very early to say where we are compared to our main rivals. But in any case, I think it will be a very close fight."

Luca Baldisserri, Head of Trackside Operations: "It is always interesting to tackle a new track and compare the simulations carried out back in the factory to the reality at the track. Overall, we can say that our predictions proved to be accurate. The three hours of practice followed what we have got used to seeing on Friday in the last few Grands Prix. We are struggling a bit to do a quick first lap on new tyres, while our consistency of performance over a distance is good."

Honda

Jenson Button (14th, 1:20.336): "Everything ran pretty smoothly today as we experienced the new Fuji circuit for the first time. After trying some different set-ups on the car this morning, I felt more comfortable with the balance in the afternoon session and we understand where we are going with the set-up for the rest of the weekend. As for the circuit, I was really pleased with the flow and there are some tight challenging corners towards the end of the lap and a couple of potential overtaking places, so generally I was impressed."

Rubens Barrichello (17th, 1:20.889): "I have the same problem here as I had in Spa and the car is running short on aero balance. I just don't have the grip level and the balance that I would like, so we changed some parts on the car this afternoon to see if this helps with the issue. We have a lot of data to look at overnight to try to make some improvements for the morning. I like the circuit here, the only issue is that there are some blind corners so the marshals will need to react quickly with the yellow flags as you are not able to see when coming round some corners, which is what happened when I hit Yamamoto."

Jacky Eeckelaert, Engineering Director: "This morning, as is usual with a new track, we checked the required downforce level for the Fuji layout and it matches the prediction of our simulation programme. Both drivers worked to find a good balance on the car before we completed our race preparation in the second session with both prime and option tyres. Jenson is reasonably happy with the long run pace but we lack some performance on the first lap with new tyres. Rubens had some problems in the afternoon with braking stability. We are still investigating the issue and will make the necessary changes to find a solution for tomorrow."

BMW

Robert Kubica (10th, 1:20.069): "It is quite a nice track. I enjoy driving here though it is very tricky with a lot of blind corners, so you don't see the apex on four or five of them. There is also a lot of braking and acceleration. We have done some long runs this afternoon, and now we just have to fix a couple of set up issues and then we will be okay."

Nick Heidfeld (15th, 1:20.462): "The track is a lot of fun and is much nicer, wider and more fluent than I thought it would be after I saw the sketches. It is very uphill and downhill and on several corners you can't see the apex, in particular this is because we are sitting so low in the cars. I didn't like the car's set-up at all in the first session as the rear was very nervous. It was better in the second, but we still didn't get the balance right. Because of a problem when shifting into seventh gear, I had to stop driving 15 minutes before the end of the session."

Willy Rampf, Technical Director: "It is challenging to come to a circuit which you only know from doing simulations. We have slightly amended the set-up that we started with. Today we were focussing on the race set- up. Our "dry runs" were successful: our best lap time and top speed where only approximately one percent away from our estimated figures."

Toyota

Jarno Trulli (4th, 1:19.711): "Today was a positive start to the weekend. We put a lot of effort into our set-up programme, as well as looking at the tyres. It was a smooth day but we still need to do a bit of work on the car balance and, of course, we will be pushing hard to get even more speed from the car. The circuit did not have much grip today which was as expected but it is in a good condition and the facilities are great - everything looks good here. We are here in Japan for our home Grand Prix so we are working hard to have a good weekend. We are very motivated this weekend and I really hope we can get the best out of the car. I am confident about our chances and tomorrow I expect again to be fighting in the top 10 in qualifying."

Ralf Schumacher (9th, 1:19.969): "The afternoon session went well after a bit of a problem with oversteer in the morning. The track conditions were tricky because of the low grip but that did gradually improve during the afternoon and the situation was the same for everybody. I must say I am impressed by the circuit here at Fuji Speedway. As a track it is nice and drivable, with an unusual last section. It is a challenge to find the best compromise for the high speeds we need on the start-finish straight, and the grip we need on the infield section. The facilities are obviously very good as well and I particularly enjoy racing in Japan after I spent a season racing Formula Nippon here. I am focused on getting a positive result this weekend and confident we have the opportunity to do that."

Dieter Gass, Chief Race Engineer: "Fuji Speedway is a new track to Formula 1 and we are very pleased to be here, with such fantastic facilities. In terms of the circuit itself, what we found today was pretty much as expected from our simulations. It took a while to rubber in and it was evolving throughout the sessions which made set-up work a little trickier. In general it was a good day for us, we didn't have any issues on the car and we ran smoothly through our programme. Both drivers suffered from oversteer in the morning but we worked hard to get to grips with it and the rubbering in of the track also helped. It is normal on a new circuit to do a bit more running on the Friday and that's what we did, trying a few more things on the car to make it handle as we want. That all went smoothly and the team worked hard to complete the full set-up programme. I think we are in quite a good position at the moment but we will have to look at the data to work out exactly where we are because it seems people have been changing their fuel loads more than usual for a Friday."

Red Bull-Renault

David Coulthard (8th, 1:19.949): "There are tricky elements to the circuit and the last section is particularly difficult with very low grip, so the car was sliding around there. It's pretty challenging. Other than that, there's a very long straight, which there isn't so much to say about. We'll see what we can do in qualifying tomorrow."

Mark Webber (11th, 1:20.069): "It's quite a technical circuit, with a very long straight. The second sector has a nice flow to it - it's impressive, but it's difficult to continue to nail the lap through the last sector, which is tricky. It's a good new venue. We seem to be moving in the right direction with the car, we started to find a bit more lap time towards the end of the second session."

Williams-Toyota

Alexander Wurz (12th, 1:20.233): "As a new circuit, Fuji is very interesting. I think it is quite a tricky circuit, especially because in the last half of the lap you have to be very gentle with the car - if you make a mistake you lose half a second, which is really penalising. As a consequence, it requires plenty of discipline. Having worked through our tyre comparison and set-up options, I've got a pretty clear picture of what the car needs, but even with the car optimised, you cannot change the fact that this is a very tricky circuit, but this will make the weekend interesting."

Nico Rosberg (13th, 1:20.270): "The track here at Fuji is a lot of fun to drive, it's very cool. It has taken a bit of time to learn it, so even though we've had two sessions today, there are still some tricks to pick up. In terms of tyres, it is again pretty close between the two options we have, so it will be interesting to see what everyone else does, but regardless, it doesn't seem too complicated and both tyres seem to work well. The circuit has a whole range of demands - low downforce here, high downforce there, so we have been trying lots of options and I think we arrived at some good conclusions for tomorrow."

Sam Michael, Technical Director: "We had a good day today and worked through all of our programme. With this being a new circuit, the simulator proved quite useful in our preparation for coming here. Obviously, however, we had to do a lot of systems checks today to make sure we choose the right pit strategy and tyre choice for Sunday. We also investigated details such as pitlane loss times. We will work hard overnight to prepare for qualifying tomorrow."

Toro Rosso-Ferrari

Vitantonio Liuzzi (18th, 1:20.985): "It is a nice circuit with changes of gradient as it goes up and down, which is something I like in a track, although it is not particularly difficult. It's a really cool circuit and I particularly like the high speed section. It is also really wide, which means that you can try a few different lines although in the end the right line evolves where the rubber goes down. Overall it was a decent day, with a good run in the morning meaning we could understand what to do in terms of set-up and I learnt the circuit quickly too. On the second run, I did not get a clear lap on new tyres so I think we could have been faster. But I think we got a lot of good data from the long runs regarding set-up and tyre choice, which gives us plenty to work with for tomorrow. A decent Friday."

Sebastian Vettel (19th, 1:20.997): "It's a nice circuit and I prefer the first section that has quick high speed corners, while the last part is technically demanding. There are a lot of possible different lines and it is difficult to figure out which is the quickest, as all of them seem to produce similar speed. This makes it harder to set-up the car. Other than that, it has been a normal Friday so there is the usual question mark about fuel loads in the other cars. But my initial feeling is that I am quite happy with how it went today. There are two or three things we can improve. With some work from us and as the track improves, we can move forward."

Spyker-Ferrari

Adrian Sutil (16th, 1:20.736): "It was very much a normal day. The track is very good and it's a lot of fun to drive here with an F1 car. This morning I had a better feeling but we have a lot to do for sure. We had some problems with the harder tyre, they just don't seem to be able to keep their temperature or suit the track conditions. The softer tyre seems to be better and I set my fastest laps in both the sessions on this compound. Every team needs to find a good set-up, but hopefully we can find half a second or so."

Sakon Yamamoto (21st, 1:21.305): "It was the first day for my 'home' Grand Prix. In the morning I had an engine failure and had to stop, which was a bit of a shame as it was the first time we had run here and we wanted to put in as much mileage as possible. But in the afternoon I think we did quite a good job as it all went to plan and I think we have some good data for tomorrow."

Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer: "A very productive day with both cars. Sakon lost a little bit of time in the morning session with an engine problem but apart from that we had no real issues. The new aero parts we brought over here seem to be working well and we seemed to have taken another step forward in comparison to the teams around us. I hope we can look forward to a very good weekend."

Super Aguri-Honda

Anthony Davidson (20th, 1:21.007): "It was a different day for all of us who have not been to the Fuji Speedway before. I enjoyed driving the circuit a lot. It is a big challenge, especially the last sector, and it is a tough one for the engineers to work on as well, finding a good balance between top speed and enough grip around the tricky last sector. I think that we did some good work today with the long run pace and I am pretty happy with the balance on the car."

Takuma Sato (22nd, 1:21.352): "I had a mechanical problem during the first session which meant that I was only able to complete two outings this morning. We lost a lot of time necessary for the testing you need for a new circuit and because of this we were forced to rush and cut out some of our programme this afternoon. We had to evaluate the balance on long runs for the different downforce levels as this is very important, but it meant that I was not able to set-up the car as I would have liked to and it was more of a data collecting exercise. Hopefully though, with the work that we managed to complete today, we will be able to set-up the car more competitively and have a better day tomorrow."

Graham Taylor, Sporting Director: "Being a new circuit to F1 we had a lot of work to do. We ran through a number of different options which we need to investigate completely this evening. We lost quite a bit of running time with Taku in the first Free Practice session this morning when we had to change the rear end. The circuit conditions changed through out the day and we were chasing that a little bit. Anthony was happier with his balance at the end of the second session this afternoon, certainly happier than Taku is with his, and I think that we have a good deal of work to do."