Giancarlo Fisichella Giancarlo, you enjoyed a strong weekend in Montreal but left empty-handed. You must have been pretty disappointed on Sunday evening? Naturally, yes. The race was going well and the car was quick, but everything ended badly.
Giancarlo, you enjoyed a strong weekend in Montreal but left empty-handed. You must have been pretty disappointed on Sunday evening?
Naturally, yes. The race was going well and the car was quick, but everything ended badly. I could have finished on the podium and it is frustrating to miss out on an opportunity like that. The positive thing to draw out of it all, though, is that the car was clearly competitive in Montreal. We were fighting with Ferrari in the race. That's encouraging for this weekend in Indy" and hopefully we can round it off with a better result.
The race is held at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What is the atmosphere like at the circuit?
It's incredible to be honest. There are lots of real racing fans, it is a legendary circuit, and that makes it very special to be competing in a Grand Prix here. And it is all the more special because I managed to finish on the podium here last year"
What do you think of the circuit itself?
Contrary to what you might think, it's not an easy circuit, and it's very difficult to find the good set-up. You have to find a good compromise between having enough grip through the infield, and being fast down the straight. You need a stable car with a good change of direction for the twisty section, but good top speed to be able to overtake or defend your position on the straight. It's not an easy balance to find.
And how does it feel to drive round the famous banking?
It's an enjoyable part of the circuit, but it's not a very difficult section from the driving point of view. In a Formula 1 car, it's practically like a straight because the car has so much grip that we can easily take it flat out"
Finally, what are your expectations for the car's performance this weekend?
We have to go into the race weekend feeling positive. This has always been a good circuit for me, and I think that our pace in Canada was quite good. Our fight in the championship is with BMW at the moment, so our target has to be to try and out-score them this weekend. They were very competitive in Montreal as well, so we will have our work cut out. But that will be what we are aiming for.
Heikki, you had an extraordinary race in Canada, going from P22 at the start to fourth place at the finish.
I have to say that the way things turned around after two difficult days was pretty amazing. We finished so close to the podium after a tough weekend, and I think we can be satisfied because it wasn't just down to luck: we had the right strategy, I drove well and the car was quick" That was a good boost coming into this race, and I will be aiming to keep the momentum.
What lessons did you learn from the weekend in Montreal?
Well, the first one was a repeat of what I saw in Melbourne: it is crucial not to lose track time over the weekend. When I went into qualifying, I had no feeling for the performance on the soft tyre, for example. So clearly I need to do the sessions to find a good balance with the car, and build my confidence through the weekend. But the other lesson was about the attitude you need. I had a tough weekend, but I stayed positive and kept on working hard. The team worked for me too, supported me all the way, and I did the best for them on Sunday. That's what you have to keep on doing if you want to be successful: stay confident, and stay positive.
What will it be like to race at Indianapolis for the first time?
It's a mythical circuit, that everybody in motor racing has heard of. It's a spectacular sight when you go through the tunnel for the first time, and find yourself in the infield. The oval is huge, and makes the F1 circuit look very small alongside! I think it is an interesting circuit for us to race on though. The section on the oval is very high speed, while the infield offers some interesting combinations of corners. I am looking forward to discovering what it feels like from the cockpit.
What areas will you have to focus on with the engineers to find the best set-up compromise?
The straight is very long, and it includes the banked section because we stay flat out all the way through, so you need a good top speed -- which means relatively low downforce. On the other hand, you have to get the best mechanical and aerodynamic grip for the infield. That makes it hard to find a good balance because you need opposing characteristics from the car. The car needs to work well on both halves of the track though, and that is what we will be concentrating on during Friday practice.
In terms of results, can you build on the fourth place from Montreal?
I think I have some good momentum from the race in Canada, and my target will be to build on that this weekend. I believe we have a top ten car now, so I need to make sure I get the most out of it in qualifying. Once you make it through to the third part of qualifying, then it opens up many more opportunities in terms of strategy for the race. I am learning all the time about how to improve my performance, and Canada was another good lesson for me. I was aggressive, and didn't make any mistakes. That will be the first target in Indy and if I do that, then I am confident that the results will start to come.
Indianapolis Tech File
The Formula 1 circuit constructed within the boundaries of the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway may look simple on paper -- but as always in Formula 1, appearances are deceptive. The tight, technical infield layout is combined with one of the longest straights of the year, and this demands opposing characteristics from the car: impeccable low speed grip and handling combined with low downforce levels and a strong top speed. The famous banking and yard of bricks lend the circuit a unique flavour, but a good lap-time is built in the twisting infield, where the drivers need to be neat and precise in their driving throughout the 73-lap race.
Downforce: Indianapolis is a circuit composed of two radically different halves. Ideally, the teams would run higher downforce levels than they do in reality, in order to improve grip through the twisting infield, particularly under acceleration and braking. However, the long straight leading to turn 1 represents a legitimate overtaking opportunity, and this complicates the choice of downforce level. The car's top speed must be sufficient to allow the driver to pass competitors in front, and indeed to defend his position against competitors behind. Wing levels are therefore calculated to provide a competitive top speed of around 320 kph (similar to that achieved in Canada), while generating sufficient downforce to be competitive through the infield. The engineers will tune their choice of downforce level during the weekend, according to the top speeds reached by other competitors.
Mechanical: Much as in Canada, the car's in-corner performance is dictated primarily by the mechanical set-up of the car, rather than dominated by aerodynamics. This is because many of the corners are taken at low speed, in second or third gears. The long sweep of turns 3, 4 and 5 is taken as a single corner, and requires good front-end stability to give the driver confidence, much like in turn 11, where the exit is the critical factor as the drivers do not lift off again afterwards until they begin braking for turn 1.
Strategy: The Canadian Grand Prix marked the first time in 2007 that a car running anything other than a two-stop strategy reached the podium (Wurz did so by making a single stop). This was thanks in large part to the unusual circumstances of the race, with numerous safety car periods. At Indianapolis, teams are likely to adhere to this pattern, aiming to spend the greatest possible percentage of the race on the most race-worthy compound. Like in Canada, fuel consumption and the lap-time penalty for carrying additional fuel are relatively low at this circuit, meaning it is possible to run a 'rearward-biased' strategy (stopping later than the 1/3 and 2/3 distance) without overloading the tyres, or incurring too great a time penalty in qualifying.
Tyres: The Bridgestone Potenza tyre compounds available for this weekend are the 'soft' and 'medium' options from the 2007 range. This is the second time these compounds will be raced, the first having come in Melbourne. The compounds are a step harder than those used in Canada last weekend, reflecting the higher lateral loads encountered on the infield and on the banking, which require the tyre to work harder than in Montreal.
Engine: The engines spend just 59% of the lap at full throttle, below the season average, which might induce people to think that this circuit is relatively easy for the engines. However, the track also includes a full throttle period which lasts for around 22 seconds (from the exit of turn 11 to the braking zone for turn 1). This is the longest of the season, and continuous periods at full throttle put the engines under particular strain. The engine also needs good torque characteristics to launch the car out of the numerous slow corners, and this is an area in which the RS27 is particularly strong.