Eric Boullier: "We can expect an enthusiastic welcome in Korea" What was the team's mood after the Japanese GP? The first feelings were obviously of immense frustration and disappointment. When you start third on the grid, and your race lasts...
Eric Boullier: "We can expect an enthusiastic welcome in Korea"
What was the team's mood after the Japanese GP?
The first feelings were obviously of immense frustration and disappointment. When you start third on the grid, and your race lasts fewer than three laps, then it cannot be any other way -- all the more so when a genuine chance of a podium finish slips away. But there were positives to take from the weekend, too. Robert did an exceptional job in qualifying -- probably one of his best laps this year -- to put the car fourth; and our general level of competitiveness was much better than in Singapore. Our challenge now will be to try and repeat that level of performance again before the end of the season.
What are your thoughts ahead of the first race in Korea?
It's always exciting to visit a new venue and, following our Roadshow in Seoul earlier this month, we know that Formula 1 can expect a very warm and enthusiastic welcome from the country's fans. Any new track brings with it plenty of unknowns, and the potential for surprises up and down the grid. The circuit presents a variety of challenges, some well-suited to our car and others less so. As always, our aim will be to extract the maximum from the car and to make the most of every opportunity that presents itself to us.
The team is now 43 points behind MercedesGP in the Constructors' Championship. Is fourth place still a realistic goal?
With three races to go, it's now very much an uphill struggle -- but this is F1, and anything can still happen. We have a huge amount of respect for Mercedes as competitors, they are the reigning world champion team, and they have had a strong second half of the season where they made the most of their opportunities. Even if we don't overhaul them in the standings, we can be very proud of our achievements this year. From a low point twelve months ago, we are the most improved team of 2010 and, in the second half of the season, we have been taking the fight to the teams at the front of the grid. That's a real tribute to the quality of the people we have at Enstone -- and a very promising sign for the future.
Vitaly Petrov: "The top ten must be my target this weekend"
What have you done to prepare for the next race in Korea?
It's hard to do any special preparation because it's a brand new circuit and there have not been any races there yet. This means there is very little information available. All I have done is some simulator work to help me learn the track. Because it's a new circuit, I think this makes life a little bit easier for me because everybody will be in the same situation and will have to learn the track.
Talk us through your usual approach for learning a new circuit?
The best thing is to walk the track and see it for yourself. Then, I like to do some laps on my bike to understand as much as I can. You have to look at things like the kerbs and the run-off areas. All this is helpful, but you obviously learn the most during the first free practice session. It's important that you know the lap by the end of this first session.
What are your initial thoughts on the layout of the track?
It looks like a tricky circuit. The third sector looks quite a challenge because it's low-speed with most corners probably taken in second or third gear. Turns seven and eight will be quick corners and there are three long straights where it's important to use the f-duct. Overall I think it will be quite a good circuit for our car. There should also be some opportunities for overtaking.
With just three races remaining, what targets are you setting yourself?
I always try to be in the top ten and that must be the target this weekend. I think we had the potential to do this in Suzuka, but I need to make sure I don't make any mistakes. Scoring points is important and that will be my aim in Korea.
How excited were you to hear news of a Russian Grand Prix in Sochi from 2014?
I'm very proud that my country has made this decision, which will make F1 even more popular in Russia. Almost all the drivers already have a home race so I hope that I can experience the same special feeling of racing at home in a few years' time.
Robert Kubica: "It's very difficult to predict what will happen in Korea"
Robert, the dust has now settled following the race weekend in Suzuka. What was your verdict on the weekend in Japan?
I was positively surprised with our level of performance. I was hoping that we would be more competitive than in Singapore, because Suzuka is a circuit more like Spa, but I didn't expect to be as quick as we were. It was a big effort in qualifying, and I was surprised to be so far up the grid, but ultimately it didn't pay off. But that's how racing is: problems can happen, and I haven't thought about it since.
Korea will be a new challenge for everybody. What do you know about it?
I have seen the videos on You Tube and collected as much information as I can with the team. I will do some virtual laps to learn the layout before we walk the track with the engineers on Thursday. To be honest, though, the first installation lap gives you more information than most of the preparation you can do.
What do you think of the circuit?
The track looks pretty interesting. There's a bit of everything: long corners, high-speed and low-speed sections, and the final sector seems quite challenging. A lot will depend on the level of grip that the asphalt has. If the grip is high, then some of the corners will be easy flat; if it's low, they will be a big challenge. We have seen already this year, at races like Hockenheim and Canada, that the grip varies a lot with new tarmac. And that makes it very difficult to predict what will happen this weekend in Korea, and how competitive we can be relative to our rivals.