After a four-week hiatus, the longest break between races in several years, the FIA Formula One World Championship returns to action with the Spanish Grand Prix from 11 - 13 May. After three 'flyaway' races it's the first European race of the year, and an event teams know well from pre-season testing programmes.
The Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One Team now looks to carry forward its momentum from the first three races. After difficult races in Australia and Malaysia, the team achieved its first double finish of the year in Bahrain and with new developments honed in a three-day test at the Circuit de Catalunya earlier this week, there's reason to hope the upward trend will continue.
'We're getting there,' commented Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One team principal and managing director Colin Kolles, 'Getting two cars to the finish in Bahrain was good, but we've got to do this at every race now. We're not as much at a disadvantage this time round in Barcelona as we've tested there before, so we should be able to close the gap to the back of the grid just that little bit more.'
We're back in Europe after three challenging flyaway races. Will the Spanish Grand Prix be a new start for the team?
Mike Gascoyne, chief technical officer: The start of the season was difficult for us as we only had very limited pre-season testing, then we didn't do the two tests in Malaysia and Bahrain. We also introduced updates in Malaysia that were hard to do in the field, so it was always going to be tough. Barcelona however will be a much more representative demonstration of what we can do compared to the teams in front.
Is this because you've tested a lot more at Barcelona?
MG: I think certainly for Barcelona the amount of testing we've done will be an advantage. We did a pre-season test there when other teams went to Bahrain, which we've now followed up with a further three-day test this week. Although the running was limited by the weather, we still got a couple of days of decent running and had more time to work with the new parts we introduced for Malaysia. Especially on the last day with Christijan we made some progress with the set-up of the car that I think that will translate into a far more competitive weekend for us.
So would you say you are on the same level with the other teams now in terms of testing?
MG: Obviously other teams have more mileage than us, but specifically for Barcelona, we're on a par with the others now. We're certainly not at the disadvantage we were in the last two races where the other teams had tested at the circuits and we hadn't. The drivers also know the track, Adrian has now got some more mileage under his belt - it's a definite advantage for him going to a track he knows.
Adrian and Christijan have been pushing each other hard - this must surely be good for the team.
MG: I think it's always good to have two drivers who are pushing each other as long as they respond positively and it doesn't spill over into accidents on the track! It's good to have two drivers who are close - it can only be good for the team.
You've raced at Barcelona twice before in F1, in 2005 and 2006, plus have the experience from testing too - does this help your confidence going into the race?
Christijan Albers: I drove here last year and the year before, but in F1 everyday is different. Don't expect it to ever be the same, although of course the experience helps when you get to the track at first. You've just got to find a good base set-up and then go from there to Qualifying. But we did some good work this week at the test that I hope we can apply next week.
How much information were you able to gather from the test that you can use in the race?
CA: I tested for the final day. We started out quite well in the morning where we worked on some race set ups. I was quite happy as we improved the car's handling, I did a lot of laps and over the longer runs the car's balance was better, but unfortunately we weren't able to try it out with new tyres as we had a problem at the beginning of the afternoon that meant we had to stop running. I tried to push really hard and got some information that I hope we can expand on for next week.
We're now back in Europe after three difficult flyaway races, do you view this as the chance to kick-start the season?
CA: We should think like this. It's been a tough start, but it has been quite hard for everybody in the pitlane, but we're just doing as best as we can. Adrian, myself and the team are all pushing really hard, but as you've seen, it's not easy. We've had some bad luck, but now it's time to draw a line under that and really look forward to the rest of the year. I think we will grow through the season, we missed some testing at the start and now we're getting closer and closer everyday. One day we will be competitive with the other cars and finally get that fighting spirit.
You tested at Barcelona this week, but unfortunately only with a limited programme. Were you able to get any sort of information for next week?
Adrian Sutil: It was slightly frustrating as we didn't run until late and then it was very, very wet so the team made the decision to stop running. It was the right decision as conditions were very bad and we couldn`t risk any problems. It was difficult to get any sort of information when the track was that slippery, but I did 11 laps and got a feeling from the car. I've driven in the wet before in a Formula 1 car - last year in Suzuka free practice - but it's always useful to get some more experience, especially if we get more rain during the Grand Prix next week.