Robert Kubica: "Monza is a circuit that can throw up surprises" Robert, Monza is an important weekend for you. Do you think of it as a home race? In a way, it is. Poland is my home country but in go-karts, Formula Renault and Formula 3, I...
Robert Kubica: "Monza is a circuit that can throw up surprises"
Robert, Monza is an important weekend for you. Do you think of it as a home race?
In a way, it is. Poland is my home country but in go-karts, Formula Renault and Formula 3, I always raced for Italian teams and spent over a year living close to Monza, so this whole area holds good memories for me. Looking at my F1 career, this was also the track where I scored my first podium finish in 2006, so it's certainly a very special circuit and weekend.
What are the characteristics of the circuit for the drivers?
You have a lot of high-speed sections, like Ascari and Parabolica, plus the low-speed chicanes and it's difficult to balance these sectors so the car performs well in all of them. It's the quickest circuit on the calendar, which means we use a very low-downforce, low-drag configuration. In previous years, we tested at Monza the week before the race so we could get used to the feeling of the car, which is much lighter than normal. Now, we don't have that test, so it becomes a bit of a tricky weekend. The other important factor is good mechanical grip for braking stability into the chicanes, and good traction on the exit.
Is it an enjoyable circuit to drive?
I think so because the feeling is so unusual -- it's like being at the wheel of a completely different car. At the start of the weekend, you think that the rear end is very unstable, but in fact that's how it stays all the time, and you never quite find the grip and stability you're used to at other circuits. That makes it a bigger challenge for the drivers, and I also enjoy the fact that there's a lot of heavy braking, where you approach the braking points at very high speed and need to be extremely precise. It's not easy to pick them up or to hit the apex of the corners.
After a strong podium finish in Spa, what are your expectations for this weekend?
It's hard to say and I think this will be a very interesting weekend to judge the performance of the cars. Spa was a good example of how powerful the f-duct can be and we were immediately more competitive and closer to the front when we fitted it. The effect will be less powerful in Monza because the cars run with less drag, but there will be still be an advantage, so we need to see which teams use it and if we are able to as well. This circuit can sometimes throw up some surprises, so I prefer to stay cautious when it comes to predictions. But if the car feels as good as it did in Spa, then there's no reason why we won't be competitive in Monza.
Vitaly Petrov: "Monza is a great track with some famous corners"
Vitaly, you did well to score points at Spa, but do you feel you could have got even more from the weekend?
Yes, it was good to score some points, but we could have done better. Because of my mistake in qualifying, I only started from 23rd on the grid, but we made a good recovery and it was a good race. However, we know that we are capable of finishing much higher. It's good to finish in the points, but we know that sixth place could have been possible.
You had some good battles in the race -- especially with Rosberg. Did you enjoy that?
It's always a good feeling to be battling with the strong guys in the field, with Mercedes and Rosberg, who is an experienced F1 driver. Our car was very quick on the straights, so I waited for Sutil to pit in order to have a good slipstream and I was then able to pass Rosberg before Les Combes. It was a little bit risky because it was on the outside and it was really at the limit, but overtaking him was a good feeling.
The car took a step forward in Spa -- how did it feel to drive?
The car was good to drive and it was quick on the straights thanks to the f-duct. We were able to use more downforce so it definitely was a big improvement.
How did you find racing with the f-duct? Was it easy to adapt to?
We used it all through Friday practice to first check it and then to practise using it. After that it was all good. I was able to use the f-duct without any difficultly, even through Eau Rouge where it was a little challenging to drive with only one hand.
How will you approach the final six races of the season?
Apart from Monza, I will need to learn all the other circuits where we will race in the last part of the season because I have never been to these places. I will study videos and maps, and look at data for those circuits.
Have you got any special memories of Monza from GP2? Do you enjoy the challenge it presents?
I was on pole position for GP2 in Monza last year. I was leading for the majority of the race, but finished second because I had to slow down when there was an accident in front of me and I lost the lead. Despite this, it remains a good memory for me, although now in Formula 1 I will need to learn it again and adapt my driving style. Monza is a great track with some famous corners like Parabolica and the Lesmos. What is important is not to make any mistakes, because even if you lose a few tenths, it could cost five places or even more. It will be interesting to race there and I look forward to it.
What is your target for this weekend?
My target again is to be in the top 10.
James Allison: "Our Spa performance bodes well for the remaining races."
James, the team was back on the podium at Spa and both R30s were in the points. What was your verdict on the race?
It was obviously a great way to come back after the summer break. It was a very encouraging weekend and bodes well for the remaining six races. Robert was quick right from the start of the weekend and was able to match the pace of the leading cars. To finish on the podium was a great effort and a fitting reward for the whole team. Vitaly also had a strong race and did well to recover from a disappointing qualifying session. He drove aggressively, had a memorable battle with the Mercedes, and managed to pull himself up from the back of the grid to score some valuable points.
The R30 appeared to take a big step forward in Spa - how much was down to the f-duct?
Spa was a big weekend for us because the f-duct is a significant upgrade that we have been working very hard to get right. And we knew Spa would be a track where an f-duct would bring considerable gains. I would say that it was worth more than half a second per lap at Spa.
After all the effort of designing and manufacturing the f-duct, it must have been especially satisfying to see it work on the car straight away...
We started looking at f-ducts way back at the start of the year and, although the gain was evident right from the start, it was also clear that it would be a difficult device to get right. We also knew that we had a very substantial set of conventional improvements that were much easier to implement with less technical risk, so we chose to prioritise these over the f-duct. However, from as early as the Bahrain Grand Prix we had a small group of aerodynamicists establishing what we would need to do to put the concept on our car. Once we had a concept that we felt had a good chance of working properly straight out of the box, we committed to manufacture. It was therefore extremely pleasing to see that the device worked correctly from the first free practice runs in Spa.
Let's look ahead to Monza, the fastest track of the season. Can we expect to see a new aero package on the car?
Yes, Monza is very different from all the other circuits and so we have had to prepare a bespoke package that we will not use anywhere else. Monza has such long straights and so few corners that it requires much smaller wings than any other track. To add further complication, the f-duct is a potential alternative option for Monza. Like several other teams, we too are evaluating whether we can make the device work in the particular, low-downforce environment of Monza
What is the development strategy for the rest of the season?
By this stage of the season any sensible team will be spending most of its time working on next year's car, and we are no exception. However, we've still got a few more upgrades to come before the end of the season, although it's fair to say they will not be as significant as those we were brining to the car at the start of the year.
And what is the team's approach for the final part of the season and the close battle with Mercedes?
We're currently 23 points behind Mercedes so we've got to take four points off them in each of the remaining races. We only managed to take three points out of their lead in Spa, but I'm hopeful that, if we can maintain our current level of competitiveness, we can start finishing ahead of Mercedes with both our cars. If we can achieve that, and race effectively with no reliability issues, we stand a good chance of catching them by the end of the year.
What are your expectations for the weekend?
Monza is very different from the mainstream bunch of tracks that make up the calendar, but generally speaking the cars that are good at one track tend to be good everywhere, regardless of the downforce levels. The performance of the R30 in Spa therefore gives me confidence that we can compete for similarly good results at all the remaining tracks, including Monza. We will be aiming to get both cars well inside the top ten both in qualifying and the race this weekend.