After 21 test days with the Sauber Petronas C23 the team is ready to compete with its rivals at the season's opening race, the Grand Prix of Australia in Melbourne, on Sunday, 7 March. Willy Rampf (Technical Director): "The most significant ...
After 21 test days with the Sauber Petronas C23 the team is ready to compete with its rivals at the season's opening race, the Grand Prix of Australia in Melbourne, on Sunday, 7 March.
Willy Rampf (Technical Director):
"The most significant regulation change for 2004, the single-engine rule, will make everyone quite conservative when running on Friday in order to keep the engine at its best for Saturday's qualifying and the race. We will still have to do our tyre comparison and selection then, however, as this must now be decided before the first session of practice on Saturday morning."
"The new qualifying rules - two sessions on Saturday afternoon - also mean that nobody has any reason to do low-fuel running any more, so everyone will concentrate on race preparation work instead. The first session will really just be a warm-up, with nobody wanting to risk their cars, and the second session, which will form the grid, will obviously be the primary focus."
"The rule change limiting the upper rear wing to only two elements instead of three has resulted in a reduction in downforce, and this in turn means that most circuits now will require maximum downforce. Melbourne's Albert Park is one of these. It is also very hard on brakes, so you aim for brake stability as a priority. The track is also quite dirty first thing on the Friday, and it takes several laps for the grip level to improve."
"As for the performance of the Sauber Petronas C23, we can only really look at our recent Imola test, where the car performed well. We will run the car in Australia in the same configuration as Imola, and we believe that will give us a good baseline for first practice on Friday. We have done a lot of test kilometres so we go to Melbourne with a level of confidence that the C23 is reliable. We have no unsolved problems. It's going to be a hard race, and above all it will be important to finish."
Giancarlo Fisichella (123 GPs):
"I like Australia and I like the city of Melbourne. It's always a nice Grand Prix weekend there, especially as it is the season opener. Some of the parts of the track are quite challenging, and it's one of those races where, if you can finish, you can usually take some points. You need a really reliable car there."
"I have a good feeling with the Sauber Petronas C23, especially after our latest tests in Spain and Italy where we did a very good job on set-up and tyre development with Bridgestone. We did a very good time at Imola, using the latest Bridgestones. So I'm feeling optimistic that we can qualify in the first five rows and hopefully score some points straight away."
Felipe Massa (16 GPs):
"I'm so happy to be racing again, especially in Melbourne where I made my Grand Prix debut in 2002. There are some new rules since I was last here, notably single-lap qualifying, but that will be okay. I have done some simulation work on that during our tests, and it has gone well for me."
"Melbourne is a good track and I qualified well there in 2002. I believe that the Sauber Petronas C23 has a lot of potential. Of course it's always hard to know just where you are after all the winter testing, and Melbourne will give us our first true indication of our position overall and then we will really know where we are."
"But we have a good car and the latest Bridgestone tyres, which incorporated the new construction and compound, were good at our Imola test. Bridgestone has been working really hard, and it showed there. I'm encouraged by that, and am looking forward to scoring some points in Australia."