In recent races, the M16 has been a regular contender for the top 16 in first qualifying, and Christijan Albers made it through again in France, demonstrating once again the level of progress the team has made. The team website asked him for his...
In recent races, the M16 has been a regular contender for the top 16 in first qualifying, and Christijan Albers made it through again in France, demonstrating once again the level of progress the team has made.
The team website asked him for his thoughts on the season so far and prospects for Hockenheim this weekend.
Q: The team has looked really strong in the last few races. Are you pleased with the way things are going?
Christijan Albers: "I am quite pleased, because the team is pushing really hard. Of course, I also give them quite a lot of push, which sometimes they like, but sometimes they don't! But I think it's part of my job to push everybody. I have to say I'm quite happy with the way we are working. We do a good job for the amount of testing we do. We work really hard and we're making progress all the time. Bridgestone is also pushing us in the right direction by helping us with the right choices, and we give them good feedback, so working together gets easier and easier all the time."
Q: In France you spent much of the first qualifying stint in a group that included a Honda, a BMW, and so on. How was the weekend for you?
CA: "Qualifying was good. In the first session, we did a lap time of 1:16.9 and were really competitive. In the second qualifying, we had a wheel speed sensor failure, and that's why we dropped to 1:17.1, so that was a shame. In the race, I think I lost some positions at the start because we had to start with used tyres - we wanted to save a new set for the middle stint. So it took me about two or three laps to get temperature in them, while everybody around me was on new tyres, which they hadn't used because they didn't get through to the second qualifying. Throughout the race I could follow Liuzzi, although I couldn't get too close because I lost downforce."
Q: And then you had a gearbox problem?
CA: "I lost first gear during the first pit stop, and that's why we lost so much time getting back out. It also meant I had problems in corners five and 13, where you have to use first to accelerate out of the hairpins. That's where I lost a lot of performance, especially when the tank was full of fuel. We were forced to use an emergency programme, which meant there was a long delay in shifting up, and shifting back, we had a throttle push that made it more difficult to go into the corner and made the car less stable, with more understeer. But in the last couple of laps, I could easily keep up with Rosberg, even without first gear, so I think that we had a good basic package of performance and speed at that race. It was just a shame that we ran into the gearbox and electronics problems, because otherwise we could have been even stronger."
Q: It must have felt good just to get through the first lap in one piece!
CA: "Well, we all know what happened at the two North American races... It was a shame for the team, I think, and that's the most important thing. I couldn't do anything in those two races - I was just a victim. In France, I said I wanted to finish the race. OK, it's not like I was going to fall asleep at the start, but I also wasn't going to take too much risk and be off. But anyway, at the next race we'll go maximum attack again, full throttle! I like Hockenheim quite a lot, so hopefully we'll have it together there, also."
Q: You must have good memories from your Mercedes DTM days...
CA: "Yes, and I like the German people, as well. It's always great to be back there with the fans and everything. Everybody is really enthusiastic."
Q: Do you really feel that now you can push for the top 16 in qualifying every time?
CA: "Yes, but you have to push really, really hard. We have to get everything together, and we have to find a really perfect set-up to get the performance out of the car. Then, we have to hope that the others are not performing like they should be. I think Barrichello and Speed were lucky in second qualifying in France that we had a wheel speed sensor problem. If we didn't have that, I think we could have been in front of them."
Q: Is the team stronger now than you could have ever expected at the start of the year?
CA: "Not really, because I had very high expectations to begin with. The problem early in the season was that our new car, the M16, was finished quite late and it took us a while to get the most out of it. But we're starting to make progress now and I think the team is doing a fantastic job. We can still improve everywhere, but I think everyone is doing the maximum they can do with what they have. That's the most important thing in life sometimes, atmosphere. This team has a good atmosphere, and with that, you can work your way to the top. That's what you see with the big teams. Some of them have it, some of them don't have it, and then you see the performance is not there."
Q: We're past the halfway point in the season, and you're running out of chances to score points. Is that a bit frustrating?
CA: "It's not frustrating, because we know we're not at the level of the top teams yet. But as I said, I'm satisfied with the progress we've made with the car so far. We're getting better every day, despite the fact we're not testing very much. For the amount of testing we do, the performance we get out of the car is excellent."
Q: So you're really excited about the last seven races?
CA: "We are pushing really hard but much of our success will depend on how well the other teams develop. Formula 1 is extremely competitive right now, perhaps more than it's ever been. You have so many manufacturers and big companies investing a lot of money in the sport. But we are getting there, step by step. Toyota is also doing a really good job with their engines and I am hoping and praying that they can keep pushing on like they do now, because I think they can help us take big steps to get to the midfield. Everyone is working together smoothly and nicely, and like I said, it's a really positive atmosphere in the factory and the garage. We're a team on the rise, and that's an exciting place for a driver to be."