Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
2011 Qualifying - 1st, 2011 Race - 1st
“Testing has been busy over the last few weeks and I think we have made a decent step with the car. You never really know where you are until we get to Melbourne and even then you don’t really see what everyone has got until qualifying - so I’m looking forward to getting started. Australia and Malaysia are different circuits so they are hard to compare. Australia is not a permanent race track, it’s quite bumpy and it’s tough for the car. Malaysia is smoother, as it’s a permanent race track with fast corners, but both are good tracks and Australia is one of the best places we go to. It’s good to know we’re going racing again, I can’t wait to get on the flight and get down under.”
Mark Webber, Red Bull
2011 Qualifying - 3rd, 2011 Race - 5th
“This will be my eleventh Australian GP and I can’t wait to get started. The Grand Prix is one of the best sporting events that we have in Australia. It’s great to see the support and Australian flags in the crowd. I’ve incorporated more of an Australian theme into my helmet, which I’ll be using for the whole year, not just in Australia. It’s been an extremely intense few months for the whole team and it’s incredible when you count up how many sleep-deprived hours have gone in to preparing the car as best we can - from pit stops to reliability to driver comfort in the cockpit - you name it, we’ve always been looking to improve. There’s always a huge amount of interest in the first race; this year is no different and there’s no better place to have it than Australia.”
Jenson Button, McLaren
"My first Grand Prix was here way back in 2000 - it was just a buzz to be in Formula One: it was pretty intense, the whole weekend just flew past pretty quickly. I had pole here in 2006 - another good memory. But I think the two most significant memories for me were, in 2009, winning from pole for Brawn GP. It was a momentous race for the entire team and it felt so sweet to give them such a reward. And winning here in 2010… just an incredible day. Going early for the dry tyre, then almost losing the car at Turn Three, putting the others off following my example, and then finding a rhythm and having a fantastic car underneath me. That was my first win for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes - it was completely unexpected, but a really significant result for me personally. It is a special race - you step off the plane after a long, cold European winter and it’s usually very sunny and the people are incredibly welcoming. I think the circuit is a nice challenge too - it’s not a particularly technical track, but the surface is always rubbering in across the whole race weekend, and it’s a place that encourages nip-and-tuck racing. For a street track, it’s got a really good flow, you can really find a good rhythm - and it’s got some fast corners too, which is unusual for a road course.
"I think the new rules have definitely made it a more competitive place - it’s easier to pass here now than it ever was. And I think the potential of a second DRS zone will be a real benefit -last year, along the start line wasn’t quite enough for overtaking - I think we’ll get more benefit from a second zone. Finally, the walls around here are close enough to keep your mind focused. I can’t remember a race here that wasn’t eventful or surprising in some way - so it’s the perfect place to kick off the season. I’m happy with our preparations. You always want more laps and more time in the car, but, unlike last year, we’ve had a very solid start to our pre-season. It’s been very difficult to read pace over the winter because a lot of teams have been playing their cards close to their chests: I think it’s going to be extremely close, and I can’t wait to find out where we sit in the pecking order.”
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
“Melbourne is a city that has sport running through its veins - and the crowd lives and breathes it. It’s a great place to start the season. For me, Melbourne means sunshine, smiling faces, a great paddock - a bit compact but very friendly, a great city with a really positive vibe - and a racetrack that’s really made for racing. A place where you can really get the back-end of the car moving around quite nicely yet still feel like you’re fully in control of the car. The track has got a nice flow to it - I love the fast sweepers behind the pits, it’s awesome when you get them right - and it’s a place where, the more you can attack, the faster you go. My kind of place! I actually feel more relaxed and ready for the new season than I think I’ve ever done. Everything has gone smoothly with the car - which is more than we can say for last year! - and it just seems to be a responsive and reliable package. My final day in the car - with the aero package we plan to run next weekend - also felt good: the car was a useful step forward. Of course, we haven’t tested it in competition yet, but there’s plenty to feel optimistic about. It’s a bit weird to have driven the car for a whole month and still not done a really fast lap - I guess we’ll really find the limit next Saturday. Obviously, this is always the time of year when you’re feeling positive, but we’ve got plenty to look forward to. I’m going to get off the plane in Australia with a big smile on my face.
“I have a realistic aim: to score some useful points and use the race to kickstart our challenge for the world championship. That might sound like we’re aiming low - we’re not - but, at this time of year, it’s good to remember that it’s going to be a very long season. There’s no point putting all your eggs in one basket - I’d love to win in Melbourne, sure, but there are 19 races afterwards, so it’ll be important to get some points on the board. As long as I can leave Australia feeling confident that we have a car that’s able to fight for the title, then I’ll feel happy. It’s as simple as that.”
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
“I’ve never lost my enthusiasm, optimism or motivation for the start of each new Formula One season - and this year is no exception. As is often the case, you can complete thousands of kilometres of testing, analyse hundreds of thousands of lines of performance data and read pages of web and magazine editorial and still not have a clear idea of overall form going into the first race. I think that’s an intrinsic and fascinating aspect of Formula One: the resetting of the bar at the end of each season and the relentless, and often invisible, quest to emerge on top at the start of a new year. I think Australia will be fascinating: the winter’s testing has been so finely balanced that it’s particularly difficult accurately to judge who’ll be the quickest. And that’s fantastic for Formula One fans across the globe. At Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, we’ve had an extremely productive winter - I’ve never seen Jenson and Lewis looking so healthy, committed and prepared for a new season. There’s a real hunger within the whole organisation - I’ve witnessed it in conversation with our heads of department, our engineers and our mechanics: we want to win more than ever and we’ve left no stone unturned in our quest for performance. Make no mistake, this will be a long, arduous and difficult campaign, and I’m naturally reluctant to stick my neck out and make any predictions, but my greatest hope is that we go to Australia and put on a world-beating show to demonstrate to the world that Formula One is back, and back with a bang!”
Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham
2011 Qualifying - 19th, 2011 Race - DNF
"After three pretty solid weeks of testing we're heading to Melbourne in good shape. We've clearly moved on from where we started in 2011, and are a long way ahead of where we were in 2010 but we're still all staying very realistic about what we can do this season. Apart from a few issues in the second test, which were all sorted out for T3, our reliability has been good, and both Vitaly and I put in laps that showed we are close to the pace we want to be. But as everyone knows the tests don't really tell you anything about where you are against everyone else, so we won't really know anything until Saturday in Melbourne. Whatever happens when we get there, I just want it all to start right now. I've had a great winter, worked hard and am heading into 2012 feeling fitter than ever. I've made a couple of changes off track that will help me focus even more on my job with the team and with the step forward we've taken with this year's car, I'm more keen than ever to get out on track and see how we've progressed again this year."
Vitaly Petrov, Caterham
2011 Qualifying - 6th, 2011 Race - 3rd
"Melbourne is obviously somewhere that will always be very special for me. Last year I scored my first F1 podium there and was given a really good welcome by all the Australian fans so I'm sure it will be the same again this year. I think it's pretty clear we won't be in a position to fight for a podium again but I think the goal will be to push the midfield teams as hard as we can and who knows what could happen.... Usually there are quite a few retirements in Australia, and there are a couple of areas of the track that don't leave any room for error, so I hope we're there at the end of the race and able to take advantage of whatever's happened ahead. It will also be a good weekend for me generally as I'm really enjoying life with my new team. It's still early days, but I've been given a great welcome by everyone and I'm starting to build a good relationship with my engineer, so i think we have a good year ahead of us, whatever happens. We spent quite a lot of time in Barcelona looking at how to fine tune the setups specifically for me, and while we do have more work to do in Australia we definitely made some real progress at the last test which puts me in as good a position as we could hope for when we get to Melbourne."
Mark Smith, Caterham technical director
"The Melbourne event poses the usual challenges of a race held on a circuit using public roads which are used once a year for the Grand Prix. This means that the circuit grip evolves significantly throughout the weekend and can therefore make it tricky to target the optimum balance in advance of the race. The tyres being used this year are the soft and medium compounds which we gained some useful insights into during pre-season testing, albeit in very different conditions on a different type of circuit. The ambient temperature in Melbourne can be expected to be somewhere between the high teens and the low twenties, so not that far off what we saw in Spain in February, but the nature of the circuit is different and places reasonably high demands on the brakes and consequently on entry stability. Equally, maximising traction out of the lower speed corners is generally an area of focus. Whilst the cars will have a high average speed at this circuit the aero setup will still be relatively high downforce. Overtaking here is difficult so KERS and DRS will be valuable tools and of course for Caterham F1 Team this will be the first opportunity to use KERS in a race environment. In terms of updates since pre season testing we will have a new front wing and bodywork cooling option available to us. The front wing is simply a logical step in aerodynamic development and has been an integral part of the aero package for a while, but will be introduced for the first time in Melbourne. The cooling option gives us more opportunity to optimise cooling requirements versus aerodynamic performance which is a further step forwards from the package we ran in Barcelona last week and gives us more options to work with at the first race."
Tony Fernandes, Caterham team principal
"Melbourne 2012 is a very important race for us and one I am possibly more excited about than any race we have participated in our two short years in F1. We shed the new team tag at the start of 2011, but for most of last season we were racing in what felt like no-mans-land. We were comfortably ahead of the two teams that made their debuts at the same time as us in 2010, and for a large part of last year we were what felt like inches away from the teams just ahead. Now it is time for us to take our place as a midfield team, and we have everything in place to do just that. If we do, and find ourselves racing teams like Williams, Toro Rosso and Sauber I think that will be an incredible achievement, from a starting point of an empty factory in September 2009 to racing teams who have decades on us in terms of establishment and development. If we are not quite there at the start of the season it will not be for lack of effort, and we will keep fighting all year to bridge the gap to what will be a very tightly packed group of teams just in front."
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes
"Finally, we can stop trying to read the tea-leaves from testing and actually go racing. Melbourne is a perfect location, and the ideal place to start the season. The city loves Formula One, the fans create a great atmosphere and obviously, as drivers, we feel that too. And because we've already got a buzz about what's to come, it just makes you want to get out there and start driving. During winter testing, we completed lots of miles and built up a really complete set of data, which should put us in a good position for the first race and to develop the car even further in the right direction. We're ready for the 2012 season to begin..."
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
"I'm really looking forward to the start of the new season in Australia next weekend. I had a perfect winter break with plenty of rest, a good training camp and a successful pre-season test programme where we were able to put a lot of mileage on our F1 W03 car. So we are really ready for the first race. I always love the atmosphere in Melbourne; it's a great city and the fans are fantastic. After all of the hard work, and all of the speculation, it will be really interesting to see where we are on Saturday afternoon after qualifying. Before heading to Australia, I will be in New Zealand for a bike training camp to help me adjust to the time difference and the climate 'Down Under'."
Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal
"The build-up to the start of a new season is always an exciting time, no matter how many times you have experienced it, and everyone at the team is looking forward to the action getting underway in Melbourne next week. We are well prepared, both at the factory and on track, as a result of our structured development and testing plan, and I am confident that we are in a good position. How this translates to our performance relative to the competition is, of course, the key question and it will be interesting to see how it all shapes out next weekend. My thanks to all of the team at Brackley and Brixworth for their hard work and dedication over the winter months and I hope we will be able to reward them with a strong season. Melbourne has always been one of the atmospheric races on the calendar, and certainly one of my favourite cities to visit, so I look forward to a good week ahead."
Norbert Haug, Vice-President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"It's only a little over 100 days since Formula One was in Brazil for the final race of the 2011 season, but now we are ready for the 2012 season to begin and to get back to what we love best: going motor racing. Starting the third season with our Silver Arrows works team, we think we are better prepared than the two years before, which indicates that our learning process is heading in the right direction. The Mercedes F1 W03 has run reliably since its first run on 16 February, completed 4,450 km during pre-season testing, and achieved an average daily testing mileage of 472 km: this equates to an average of more than one and a half Grand Prix distances during each of the nine test days. Nico and Michael are both excited about the new season and highly motivated, while our team members back at base in Brackley and Brixworth and on track are working extremely hard to deliver both performance and reliability at the opening race. The whole team has done a good job in both areas this winter. After testing, we know we have a solid basis to work from and a good platform for development. Understandably, there is much speculation about the pecking order of the new season, and finally we will get a first answer on Saturday afternoon during qualifying in Melbourne, when everybody has to put their cards on the table. Before the first race of this long season, I would like to thank all our team members who have worked so hard and with dedication during the past months, with our clear target which is making the next step in improving our performance compared to our competitors. We aim to show that we have taken this step forward as the first part of a continuous process of improvement."
Narain Karthikeyan, HRT
"I’m feeling positive ahead of the Australian Grand Prix after having completed 10 laps with the new F112 last Monday. Of course this was only a first contact and we didn’t push it to the limit but the important thing was to get the ball rolling. It’s not ideal to miss testing but we must look forward now. The new management have done an incredible job putting everything together and we’ll do the best we can to continue progressing. We’re in the right direction. Last year we only managed to complete five laps in the third practice session and failed to qualify for the race, so I’m looking to etch out that memory.”
Pedro de la Rosa, HRT
"After a long winter of hard work, we’ve finally made it to Australia and are really looking forward to trying the car out and continue learning. We need to try and make the most of our time on Friday and Saturday morning to make it to qualifying and the race in the best possible conditions. We would have liked to have come with more mileage but I think it’s an achievement to have made it with a 100 percent new car and a practically new team. Our aim is to do things well, with seriousness and patience. Albert Park is a circuit I like a lot because there are many overtaking opportunities and hard-braking areas, besides various chicanes. It’s a track where you have to drive aggressively and know how to ride over a lot of kerbs. The most important aspect of the car is braking, traction and its top speed, which is why the DRS will play an important role.”
Luis Perez-Sala, HRT team principal
"It doesn’t seem true but the first race of the season is already upon us. We’ve spent three months working relentlessly, but the team and the car are ready for the great task ahead of us. We have done a lot of things since the last race of 2011 in Brazil and I’m very proud of the entire team but, without a doubt, the hardest part comes now. We know where we are but also where we wish to be and with the team spirit and sacrifice that we have shown, I’m convinced that we can achieve it.”
Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber
“I am very much looking forward to what will be my third season in Formula One, and at the same time my third season with the Sauber F1 Team. We had promising pre-season testing with the C31 and the car feels pretty good. This, together with the experience I gained last year, makes me a lot more confident now. For me the main target is that we are more consistent this year. In 2010 we had a difficult first part of the season, and only recovered in the second half. In 2011 it was vice versa - we had a great start but struggled later in the season. If we can consistently display our best potential, we could score consistently. It must be like this. Personally I did a lot of training during the winter break and feel very fit now. Melbourne is a great place to start the season because the people there really like racing and Formula One. The city is very much alive and, as soon as you get there, the atmosphere tells you: Yes, here we go again, it’s time to start! I hope the weather will still be nice and warm during the Grand Prix weekend, as there the summer is almost over. The Albert Park Circuit itself has a very nice lay-out. The fact it isn’t a permanent race track, and therefore very slippery at the beginning of the weekend, doesn’t make the set up work for the first Grand Prix any easier, but to adapt to the improving grip level is a challenge for everyone.”
Sergio Perez, Sauber
“I just can’t wait to go racing again. My feelings ahead of this season are quite different to last year, when everything was entirely new to me. Now, with one season in Formula One under my belt, I feel physically and mentally capable of doing the job. One year of experience isn’t that much, but even this will allow me to focus more on performance than I was able to last year. I got used to a variety of circumstances which come along when you are a Formula One driver. This goes for procedures and communication inside the team, but it also includes that I found a good personal life balance with all the travelling. My target for 2012 is to make the most of the car in every given situation and to fully establish myself in Formula One. We have made really good progress during testing and learnt a lot about the new car. Nevertheless, the track in Melbourne can still come up with surprises. Last year, for example, we would never have expected it was possible to get away with only one pit stop for the race distance because testing suggested higher tyre wear. So we will see how we manage the first Grand Prix and, although the track in Melbourne is a special one and not that representative, we will get a first indication of where we are with the C31 in terms of performance.”
Peter Sauber, Sauber team principal
“This coming season is the 20th for the Sauber F1 Team. Having said this, you might expect that the first race of a season would be routine by now. But this is by no means the case. I even have the feeling that this year the excitement is special. The winter tests left the impression that the competition could be tighter than ever before. Apparently the midfield teams have reduced the gap to the top teams. I am really pleased with the progress we made during testing and I think we are well prepared. We have to be because we have set ourselves quite high targets for 2012. We want to score points on a regular basis and significantly improve our position in the constructors’ championship. We are well aware that this sounds very ambitious, but this is what we are working on.”
Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Sauber head of track engineering
“Following the three pre-season tests, everybody in the team is excited to start racing and keen to see where we really stand compared to our competitors. As a team we feel well prepared. Sergio is not a rookie anymore, and both drivers will continue to work with their race engineers from last year, which will enable us to start from a higher level. The Albert Park track features mostly stop start corners and changes of direction, so good traction and braking stability are needed. Since Albert Park is not a permanent race track it changes its grip level considerably during the weekend. This is something to consider when setting up the car, as well as the fact that this circuit tends to be harder on the rear tyres than the tracks where we have been testing prior to the season. Track temperature will also be important, but can vary quite significantly depending on the weather. Historically overtaking has been difficult in Melbourne, but this time there will be two DRS zones. With regard to tyres, Pirelli is supplying the medium and soft compound. Both versions are more aggressive compared to last year which will result in a higher number of pit stops. Technically we will basically use the same specification car which we were running during the last test in Barcelona with just some minor refinements. Looking at the results from the final test, we are confident we can have a strong start to the new season.”