Formula One: 2016 Australian Grand Prix Preview.
Lewis Hamilton: “Testing was just incredible – the best I can remember in my career. The car feels even better than last year’s from both a performance and reliability perspective, which is saying something. It’s all so refined in every area and we can be really proud of what we’ve achieved over the winter. I was at the factory last week and it was humbling to stand in front of everyone that has worked so hard to get us to this point. I’ve been with this team for four years now and, despite all the success, everyone just keeps raising the bar every season, which is super impressive. I know that the guys and girls will keep pushing for more top results, so it’s up to us drivers to go out there and nail it for them on track.
People keep asking me about motivation – but I just have to look at the faces of all those people to know what I’m fighting for. Together, we’re always searching for perfection. But that target is always shifting and you’re constantly faced with new challenges to reach it.”
Improvement in every area.
“Just as you think you’re close, suddenly you fall further back – like someone dangling a carrot on a piece of string and whipping it away just as you reach for it. It’s tough mentally – but that’s a good thing, as it forces you to be resilient and seek improvement in every area. I know there’s still more to come from me – I think I’ve shown that in the past two years. There certainly needs to be some extra in my tank, as the competition will be stronger than ever this year. There are a few things that will make it even more challenging for all of us this season, too.
The changes to the radio rules will have a big impact. The engineers now can’t give you prompts or reminders that might affect performance during the race, so you have to remember so much more. This even applies to strategy, so when it’s shifting throughout the race you won’t be in the loop. It will be tough – but hopefully it will make for more exciting races. Now we head to Melbourne and the first to chance to see how all this plays out on track. I can’t wait to get started.”
Nico Rosberg: “This is always a massively exciting time of year. Testing is important, of course. But what every driver really looks forward to is unleashing a new car flat out for the first time. I’m already itching to get back out there – getting to know our latest Silver Arrow and pushing on, making progress with it. Limited testing gives everyone a big challenge, as you have to be efficient and make more of that time than anyone else. It’s even tougher when you’re the benchmark, as you need to invent while others can invent and copy. But we’ve done our homework and I think it looks set to be a good year again for us. The level of build quality in the car – how it all fits together and all the little details – is just awesome.”
“It’s so impressive how the team keeps on pushing, aiming to be better all the time. Of course, we all know that Ferrari are right there with us and maybe some of the others will be up there too, so we have to keep pushing. But it’s good to have that competition. With the team we have I believe we can keep them behind. I’m really hoping to bring back a couple of wins from the first flyaways to reward everyone at the factories for their hard work.
There’s such a positive vibe in the team and everybody gets so excited. I know they’ll be cheering us on at home every weekend, so it’s our responsibility to deliver for them. I’ve had a great winter and done a few things differently for this year. I’ve never felt more ready to go. It’s going to be a great battle.”
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “It seems like we’ve never been away. Although the season starts later than usual, the work has been non-stop over the winter. Under stable regulations you are not looking to re-invent the wheel and you cannot expect huge development jumps. But looking for small, carefully evaluated steps forward in every area is equally challenging. There is always room for progress and we have found some interesting developments. It gives me great pride to see how the team continues to innovate in exciting ways. Motivation is crucial to performance and you need to set ambitious targets to keep that drive high. These change from year to year. When I first arrived, it was becoming a front running team. Then, it was winning the title.
Then, proving to ourselves that it wasn't a one-off. And now, it’s creating sustainable success – building the team and the organisation as a whole. We’re realistic with ourselves. We know we won’t win every race and every Championship. But we want to be up there fighting for it every year and putting on a great show, so that’s the target.”
“We expect the competition to be tougher than ever this year. Expectations are high, both internally and externally. But Ferrari look confident and there will likely be other teams involved in the battle. Testing is about clocking mileage and understanding the car, so there is no clear order at this point. But if it were to be this way, that’s something we would enjoy. We are racers and we love a challenge. Having an enemy pumps you up for a battle – and having strong competitors motivates us to push even harder. This is not a sport where you can relax. The minute you start being complacent you lose out, so you have to keep the energy in the system and we are doing this all the time.
Likewise, the drivers need to keep raising their game. They are major competition for each other in the same car, which is not always going to be easy to handle. But with others also in the mix, it will be interesting to see how the dynamic evolves. We’ve shown in the past two seasons that there are no team orders – and this does not change. Formula One is a sport – but it is also entertainment. Controversy, both on and off track, makes headlines. That’s not a bad thing – it’s part of the world we live in. But we can think about that later. For now, I can’t wait for the flag to drop in Melbourne: let battle commence...”
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical): “Firstly, congratulations to the team at Brackley and Brixworth on an incredible achievement in the delivery of this car. We saw an unprecedented level of reliability during pre-season testing, with over six thousand kilometers completed. That’s almost the same mileage in eight days as we achieved across twelve days last year, demonstrating clear progress in our ability to prepare for a new season. However, it’s still early days, and there are no Championship points for testing. What’s equally pleasing is to see evidence of continuous innovation. Innovation drives us forward – and it’s clear to see on our car that nobody in the team is resting on their laurels. But while we were pleased with our performance in Barcelona, we have no definite sense of how we measure up relative to the competition. This creates tension – but mainly excitement to see where we stand.”
Cars and drivers on the limit.
“The first qualifying session of the year is, for me, the most exciting hour of the whole Formula One calendar. This is where you get your final exam marks for all the hard work over the many months needed to put together a new car. It’s the first time we see all of the cars and drivers on the limit – gloves off, flat out. Once you get through qualifying and see where you stand, good or bad, a lot of that winter tension is relieved and translated into plans for the future. Whether it’s maintaining a gap or closing on a target ahead, the objective becomes clear.
After an intense winter, the team enjoys arriving in Melbourne. There is a great buzz as the paddock gets back to work, with new kit, some new faces and this year even a new team. We also have some significant new sporting regulations concerning tyre compound choices, driver communications in the race and qualifying format. Put together I am expecting these changes to create far more variation, uncertainty and excitement for the fans, while testing even further the ability of Nico, Lewis and the race team to perform under pressure. We're looking forward to it!”