After 12 intense days of testing in Jerez, Spain, and Sakhir, Bahrain, the start of the 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship is near. From 14th to 16th March the new V6 turbo era will get under way at Melbourne's Albert Park with the Australian Grand Prix.
Following a short winter the Sauber F1 Team and its drivers, Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil, have worked hard to get the Sauber C33-Ferrari prepared for the first race, facing three challenging tests with a tough programme.
Esteban Gutierrez: "It's quite special to be back in Melbourne, as this is where I had my Formula One debut last year. Now we are returning to Albert Park, and it's a new era for Formula One. This is an opportunity for everyone, and it's my role to extract the most out of the tools I'm given by the team. It has been challenging to adapt to the new cars and rules, but now we come to the first race and everything has to settle down. The track is a bit bumpy, because it's a street circuit, but I like the layout and enjoy driving there a lot. I like Australia, it's a nice place, and I usually arrive a few days earlier to enjoy the city. The fans are also very enthusiastic every year - it's a great event."
Adrian Sutil: "Melbourne is always a great place for the first race of the season. I am looking forward to it. The city is beautiful and the track always good for a surprise. The weather plays a role there as well, as a bit of rain is likely. In addition, we have the new cars, which are still at a very early development stage. Everything is new. Driving in qualifying will be very different to the race, because the cars will have more power than in the race. Less downforce and more power will be a challenge for us drivers. Higher top-speed and less grip on a street circuit like Melbourne will be exciting. Also the 100 kg of fuel will see nervous faces on the pit walls. We were able to gain experience regarding the fuel management during testing, but over a race distance everything has to come together flawlessly. It will be a lottery as to who will finish the race in front, and the excitement will be extremely high."
Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering: "Barely two months ago we started into a new era of Formula One. After 12 days of intense and challenging testing we come to the first race in Melbourne. On one side the team has done a very good job in terms of reliability and operations, on the other we are not yet happy about our performance level, and particularly with what we have achieved with our straight line speed. Our best efforts are in place to give our drivers the possibility to race where they deserve to be. On the strategy side, the power unit management is going to influence the tyre strategies, making it all more interesting. However, pre-season testing suggested that the tyre compounds will still play a major role when defining the strategy. For the first race Pirelli has allocated the medium and the soft compounds, and this appears to be a rather conservative approach."