After a three week 'summer holiday' the FIA Formula One World Championship returns to action with the Turkish Grand Prix on 26 August, round 12 of the 17-event series. The challenging 5.338km Istanbul Park Circuit, designed by...
After a three week 'summer holiday' the FIA Formula One World Championship returns to action with the Turkish Grand Prix on 26 August, round 12 of the 17-event series.
The challenging 5.338km Istanbul Park Circuit, designed by circuit constructor du jour Herman Tilke, stands on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, the first time the championship has returned to the Asian continent since the Bahrain Grand Prix back in April. The 14-turn track is the first anti-clockwise circuit of the year with a thrilling combination of undulating straights and corners and long sweeping bends.
The Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One Team has continued work apace during the break, with work progressing on its new B-spec challenger. Following a successful test of the new rear-end suspension and gearbox between the German and Hungarian Grands Prix, Adrian Sutil conducted a productive 50km shakedown last week. On a more public note, the team also participated in Bavaria City Racing, where the Spyker F8-VII was run round the streets of Rotterdam.
The team now goes to Turkey with a renewed determination to continue its progress this season.
Colin Kolles, team principal and managing director
Q: It's been a busy few weeks for the team.
CK: It's not been so much of a break for our team; work has continued on the new B-spec car, both in the factory, wind tunnel and also on the track. Under the current testing regulations we could only complete a 50km shakedown with the new car, but we were able to gain a lot of information that should help us in our ongoing development cycle. We also completed a demonstration run in Bavaria City Racing in Rotterdam and an aerodynamic test with Fairuz Fauzy. All in all, not too much time to take a holiday!
Q: Christijan Albers drove the Spyker F8-VII in Rotterdam. Is this an indication of an ongoing relationship with the team?
CK: Christijan is a very popular driver in Holland and the demonstration would not have been the same without him. He was a complete professional in the event and everyone, the team, Christijan himself and the fans all benefited from his appearance, but this should not be taken as a sign of any change in the situation. For 2007 we are now committed to our driver line-up of Adrian Sutil and Sakon Yamamoto.
Q: Do you think the combination of Adrian Sutil and Sakon Yamamoto is working well?
CK: Yes, I was very pleased with the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend. As we have seen, Adrian is pushing very hard and is now blending that speed with a greater maturity. To out-race a works team needed a lot of concentration and focus and he didn't put a wheel wrong. Sakon also did a very good job in difficult circumstances; he came into the team at short notice, got on with it and got closer and closer to Adrian over the weekend. Ultimately he made a mistake in the race, but as his confidence and experience in the team grows I am sure these mistakes will be eliminated.
Q: Have you made any decisions about 2008 driver line-up yet?
CK: For us it is too early to finalise the 2008 line-up. At present we are focused on finishing the 2007 season with Adrian and Sakon and working hard to ensure the B-spec is successfully introduced.
Q: There were some strong rumours in the press regarding Roldan Rodriguez being signed for the team for 2008.
CK: Yes, I read them too. Roldan is someone we are watching since Adrian Campos introduced him to us some time ago and now, after his podium in the GP2 race in Hungary, we are looking at the possibility of testing him fairly soon. But we have no concrete plans for 2008 and it is too early for us to make any decision about next year.
Q: Will the team be in a stronger position in 2008?
CK: I believe so. We said at the start of the year that 2007 would be a foundation year for the team, both financially and technically. I think after the changes in ownership we needed to set a firm grounding so the team could move forward and this is what I believe we are doing now. We have a 50% wind tunnel and a further wind tunnel in Italy working for us, which brings the team in line with the top teams, and we have the B-spec car that is a very important part of our development cycle.
Q: Has the news that Spyker Cars N.V. is conducting a strategic review of its own affected the team?
CK: The ongoing financial and strategic review of Spyker Cars N.V. is not a new development. The company started the review in May 2007 to consider how best to re-structure to safeguard its future. One option available is to (partially) sell the team, but this should not be taken as a sign that the team will close, fold or change hands completely. The review has not affected the team's day to day running in any way, we're still working on competing in the championship and the team still has the necessary means to complete this season and beyond.
Q: Will the team change hands?
CK: Spyker Cars N.V is investigating the option of selling some or all of its shares in the team, but this is just one option available to the company. For the F1 team back in Silverstone, they have seen out many storms and stayed alive; if this is the option that Spyker Cars N.V. follows I do not think this will be any different. We'll still be here in 2008.
Q: Now two weeks on from your Spyker debut in Hungary, how would you review this weekend?
SY: As the Hungarian Grand Prix was my first time with the team, and the first time I had driven a Formula 1 car since I decided to go back to GP2, I needed to learn the car and get to know the people involved. It was good for me, first of all I really appreciated everyone's work to support me, and I was happy with the progress I made. I didn't feel any issues when I stepped into the team, everyone is very professional and knows what they should do, which made it very easy to concentrate on my job.
Q: How did you find the F8-VII?
SY: We know we have issues on the car that we have to improve but generally I didn't get any strange feelings from the car and I felt it was basically good. I'm now looking forward to the B spec.
Q: You said you had a bit of discomfort in the car in Hungary, have you made any changes to feel more comfortable?
SY: Of course every time I drive a new car, whether Formula 1, Formula 3 or GP2, the seat fit is very important, but it takes tim e to get it right. We tried to have the best seat possible before going to Hungary but after we ran, we knew we would have to make some small modifications so after the race I came to Silverstone to make a new seat, which should help in Turkey.
Q: How have you spent the break between Hungary and Turkey?
SY: I went back to Japan for a few days to catch up with friends and family and then went to the factory to have a seat fitting. The team also shook down the B-spec car in Silverstone, although I didn't drive.
Q: How has the reaction been back at home in Japan?
SY: Everyone was very happy and told me congratulations, you've now got to do your best to get the best result in your career. Everyone cheered me very strongly, which is a good help for me.
Q: You've raced at the Istanbul circuit before. How do you find the track?
SY: Last year was the first time I had raced in Turkey when I ran with Super Aguri. On Friday I got used to the track and the racing line, then in Qualifying I was in front of Takuma, so it was an amazing result for me at that time as I had just joined the team and it was only my third race in F1. Unfortunately though I made a mistake in turn one after the pit stop and didn't finish. There was a safety car, I pushed and the lap times were really good but in trying to catch up and stay in front of the others, I made a mistake. This time I will try and push but not make a mistake. I made one in Hungary, that's finished now!
Q: You did push hard in Hungary though and many in the team were impressed with your approach.
SY: I got quite close to Adrian in Qualifying, which I was pleased with as I think Adrian has a very good level with his driving, so his time is always the target. I first tried to be as close to him, but I just tried to push and use the car potential 100%. I don't know exactly how much we can improve with the new car, but my target now is going to Q2.
Q: Hungary saw a turning point for both you and the team. Were you pleased with the result?
AS: I think Hungary was one of the best results of the season as we finished in front of a works team. For sure we have had some other good races this year, for example Indianapolis, where we have been able to get and stay close to the others but this last race was one of the best.
Q: Did you feel any extra pressure having a car chasing hard behind you for most of the race?
AS: No not really. I knew that I had a little bit more speed than the Honda and I could always keep a three to four second gap. At the Hungaroring it's always difficult to overtake too so I knew that all I had to do was keep concentrated on what I had to do and not make any mistakes.
Q: Have you ever driven in Istanbul before?
AS: No, this will be the first time I have been to the circuit. As usual I have been studying the data trying to learn the track and doing laps on the PlayStation to try and get the right lines. In the end learning a circuit is not so difficult as there are always come corners that are similar to other tracks you've driven on. I'm looking forward to turn eight though - I saw it on the TV last year and it looks really tough. On a quick lap you're going really quick through there, perhaps 260kph, there's a lot of g-force - it's pretty spectacular.
Q: How have you spent the summer break?
AS: I didn't take a holiday - in fact it was the busiest week of the year for me! I went to Silverstone, Rotterdam and many places in Germany on PR and sponsor visits so I spent most of the time travelling around. I had a lot to do, but I did enjoy it and feel well-prepared for Turkey. I can take holidays later!
Q: You tested the new B-spec car in Silverstone, what were your impressions?
AS: It was difficult to get a feel for the car as it was raining very hard, we only had 50km and we were using the short version of Silverstone, which has about four corners! I also knew that we had to take care of the car, stay on the track and not take any risks. We tested the engine temperature and set-up over longer runs and everything seemed to be working well.
Q: How was Bavaria City Racing last weekend?
AS: It was a great event, really fun and the first time I had done something like that. There was a huge crowd, all cheering whenever you went past or did donuts. I did two laps, but both were very enjoyable!
Q: What are your aims for this race?
AS: I don't go to Istanbul with many expectations, but hope that we can continue to have good races like we did in Hungary. We need to race other cars now on a more consistent balance. If we can overtake other cars and race? We'll have to see how it goes, but I hope so, definitely.