Fernando Alonso –
We come to the start of this championship with the team having had twelve days of testing, while as a driver I’ve had six. A few more days would have been useful given how much has changed for this season. With every lap of testing we learned something and improved pretty much constantly. I think that will still be the case in Australia, especially on the first day and then actually in the first few races.
The new Formula 1 rules are very different to what we were used to. I think the concept of what constitutes a Grand Prix will actually change this year, with Saturday and Sunday being very different from one another. In qualifying, one will be able to get everything out of the car, pushing the new power unit to the limit, trying to get the absolutely best result. But in the race you won’t get anywhere near that level. Last year, towards the end of the races, on new tyres, you could do very quick lap times, whereas in the closing stages this year, you will have to bear in mind how much fuel you have left, the state of the batteries and that of the tyres. You will need to be very clever to manage these parameters and the new race strategies could see drivers being unable to go flat out to the end.
As drivers, we will get used to it quickly and so I hope these rules aren’t immediately overturned and that they stay unchanged for a few years. Otherwise the spectators could lose confident in this new Formula 1 which is very complex, even for the viewer.
Kimi Raikkonen –
I remember very well my first win with Ferrari. It couldn’t have been a better start to my seventh year in Formula 1, with a dominant win from pole. Winning always feels great for me. Nothing could be better. Last year, we also managed to win, which certainly surprised people because unlike 2007, at Lotus we weren’t favourites. So, if I had to compare the two Australian wins, somehow, winning it last year for the second time felt even a little bit nicer after such a difficult pre-season testing period.
Australia is a great place to start the season, Melbourne is a wonderful city and, for us Europeans it always feels a bit special to be in this different part of the world. Only the weather is not always that nice: I can remember only one GP here where there was sunshine all the time. Of course, I’d prefer dry and hot weekends, especially this year with a completely new car and so many technical aspects still to be understood completely.
The track is not that difficult and it’s a combination of a street circuit and a permanent race track and the event is very well organised. Sure, if your car is not well balanced then life can get difficult because you can lose a lot of time compared to those have got it right. If it rains, then the track is very, very slippery and the white lines can be really treacherous.
Making predictions has never been my habit and this year there is even more reason not to. We are heading Down Under with brand new cars and I reckon it is wide open and anything can happen. In Maranello, we have worked hard and the F14 T seems to be a good car, but the track will tell who is quickest. When we start running to see where we are, we will at least have some data to give us a starting point.