Vodafone McLaren Mercedes new driver line-up for the 2008 season, Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, will make their race debut as teammates in Australia this weekend.
The Australian Grand Prix will take place in Melbourne for the 13th consecutive time. It is also the 12th occasion the race has opened the new season, with the 2006 race moving to an April date due to the Commonwealth Games.
With a length of 5.303kms, the track is the eighth longest on the 18 circuit calendar. Spa-Francorchamps is the greatest distance, at 7.004kms, with the streets of Monte Carlo the shortest, at only 3.340kms.
In 1997, the McLaren Mercedes Partnership achieved its first victory in Formula 1 when David Coulthard won the Australian race. This Grand Prix also saw the first win for Mobil 1's SuperSyn lubricant technology in Formula 1, which has now transferred from track to road use. Last year Albert Park saw the debut race of the new Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Partnership and heralded two podium finishes. Lewis began his Formula 1 career in Melbourne by taking third place. It was the start of nine consecutive podium finishes, which he achieved up to and including the British Grand Prix in July.
What are your expectations, and also your motivation, for 2008, your second season in Formula 1 and with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team?
"I generally don't ever demand or have expectations of myself or anyone else, I am more focused on targets. Obviously the targets for the team and for myself are to win as many races as possible, improve on my performance from last year, finish all the races and for the team it is to win the Constructors' Championship as well. My motivation is even higher than last year, but in a slightly different way. I would say last year was an uncontrollable determination and excitement and just not really knowing what was coming up, just going into the deep blue. Now I know what to expect, I know about my preparations so I am storing energy. To some people it might appear that I am quieter or something along those lines, but I am saving all this energy for the first race, and I cannot wait to get out there."
In the shorter term, what is your aim for the Australian Grand Prix?
"We need to go there with total confidence in the car, which I have and to get off to a really good start, it needs to be the best start possible. So I am going there with the aim of winning the race, and we will all work hard to try and achieve that."
You had a sensational start to the 2007 season at Albert Park last year, what is the outstanding memory of the race for you?
"I think the first corner has to be one of the best memories for sure, I will never forget that moment. Also finishing on the podium for the first time and only just finishing third, so close behind second position. It was my first race and all the expectation was riding on my shoulders from everyone else, but I just focused my targets and got a great result."
What are your feelings about the MP4-23 prior to its competitive debut?
"I feel very positive about it, I think we have made some mega steps forward and the reliability is even better. The car feels stronger than last year, and despite the removal of areas such as traction control, it is also very similar in certain ways. I think we have come a really long way already before the first Grand Prix, and I am confident we will be able to compete with the other teams"
What are your thoughts ahead of your debut race with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team?
"I am looking forward to my first race with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, I think I have prepared well and I hope I can have a better start to the season than last year. This is my target, but I am aware that I still need to learn many things, I am still in a learning process with the team and I know there are things I need to improve. But I believe I have a solid base and we are ready to get out there and start the season."
And what are your aims for this season?
"At the moment for me the focus is just on the first race and trying to start it better than last year. Hopefully we can finish the race and have a good start to build on. Then later on in the year, trying to improve the performance all the time. To be honest, for me it is better not to think too much about anything but the first race"
MELBOURNE, 14 MARCH 2008
The 2008 season got underway in Melbourne today with the first two practice sessions for this weekend’s curtain-raiser, the Australian Grand Prix. Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello were upbeat after concluding a solid day of set-up work to fine-tune the RA108 to the demands of the Albert Park circuit conditions. The ambient temperature soared to 37°C with the track peaking at 48°C, the high temperatures giving the RA108 its first hot weather test of the year which it passed with flying colours. Jenson and Rubens ended the day in 11th and 14th positions.
JENSON BUTTON (RA108-02)
Friday Practice 1
Friday Practice 2
Q. How is the RA108 performing so far?
A. “Today has been a good day for us. We focused mainly on tyre work and getting the best out of the car in the very hot conditions. Everything went smoothly and the car feels much as it did at the Jerez test, which is pleasing. We won't know our true relative position compared to the competition until later tomorrow, but at the moment the priority for us is focusing on our own test items and adapting the set-up to the requirements and conditions here.”
Q. How does Albert Park compare to the circuits you’ve been testing at during the winter?
A. “It’s very different to the Spanish circuits we have been using during the pre-season testing so we are starting from scratch in terms of setting the car up to suit these track conditions, particularly as Albert Park is much bumpier than the test circuits.”
Panasonic Toyota Racing heads to the opening round of the 2008 FIA Formula 1 World Championship in optimistic mood and with a new driver line-up eager to get the racing season underway. GP2 champion Timo Glock has joined Jarno Trulli behind the wheel of the promising new TF108, which arrives in Australia with the updated specification tested so encouragingly in Barcelona last month. This updated package includes revised bodywork as well as other mechanical improvements. For Jarno, this weekend marks his 12th Australian Grand Prix while Timo will line up on the Albert Park grid for the first time, although he does have experience of the Melbourne streets, having completed Friday practice in 2004. After all the hard work from the team and the drivers to get ready for the racing season, Toyota is excited and optimistic, with a strong points finish the clear target for the weekend.
Jarno Trulli (Car 11): “I am always excited by the start of a new season and this year I am probably more motivated than ever. Testing has gone well with the new car; we have made good progress and we know the right direction to work in so I am optimistic. This year’s car is a big improvement; it is very different to the TF107 and we have a lot of potential to continue the improvement we have seen in testing. I really enjoy visiting Australia and Melbourne in particular so I am looking forward to good weather and another enthusiastic crowd, as we always seem to get at Albert Park. The circuit isn’t the most challenging but it’s nice to drive and I hope we can be competitive. I am totally focused on getting a strong result this weekend and I think we have a good chance to score points.”
Timo Glock (Car 12): “The Australian Grand Prix will be my race debut for Toyota so I am very excited. The Albert Park track is a very picturesque street circuit but it is not the most challenging circuit on the calendar for a driver. It’s a quite an unusual track because it is only used for the Australian Grand Prix; there are no other motorsport meetings there during the year. This means that every time we go there it is a green track, so there is no grip at all to start with, and that makes it sometimes quite difficult to find the right direction in terms of the set-up. But this is the same for everyone and I have an experienced team-mate in Jarno so that should help me a little bit. The Australian fans are always very enthusiastic so I am looking forward to racing in front of them. My goal for the year is to consistently fight for the points and I hope to make a strong start to the season in Melbourne.”
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