F1: Q&A with Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya

As the Team McLaren Mercedes test programme with the MP4-21 got underway today in Barcelona with Pedro de la Rosa at the wheel, race drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya discussed their test programme prior to the start of the 2006 season in Bahrain.



1. The Team McLaren Mercedes MP4-21 ran for the first time in Barcelona today, what are your feelings about the car?
For sure it is too early for me to say, as I have not driven the car yet, but it is good that the team and Pedro had the first shakedown today. There is a lot of work to be done before the start of the season, I think that we have just over 20 track days before the start of the season, and we are all totally focused on making the most of these days before Bahrain.

2. Are you looking forward to getting back to testing?
I have not driven a Formula One car since 16th October in China, so for sure I can’t wait to get back to it this week, where I will be in an MP4-21. I will be driving on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th, and I am looking forward to seeing what the team have done. I have been to the McLaren Technology Centre a few times recently to catch-up with the team and I saw the MP4-21 in car build, so I am really excited to be getting behind the wheel next week.

3. What is your scheduled test programme leading into Bahrain?
I think that the test team will be on track every week between the start of the year and Bahrain. I have two days in Barcelona next week, and then the same the week after that in Valencia in MP4-21, and I will also be testing in February. As always in pre-season tests, work is focused on developing the new car and also getting used to it. After the first days, we will start to look at set-ups for the first few races and also the various upgrade packages that the team has already planned to bring on line in the early part of the season.

4. What are your expectations for 2006?
For sure it’s the same as every year, I want to win races and World Championships with Team McLaren Mercedes. We had a quick car last year, and I guess there is no reason why we will not have that again as we have the same strong design team. I can’t sit here now and say that will happen, until we race for the first time it is not possible to say how competitive the different cars will be. Also this year, because of the new regulations for tyres and engines, it will be even more difficult to say. I can sit here and say that everyone at Team McLaren Mercedes is fully focused and pushing hard to try to achieve it. Everyone in the media seems to think that it will be us, Renault and Ferrari again this year, with me, Juan Pablo, Fernando and Michael battling it out. For me that would be great and I hope so for the fans that it is another exciting year like 2005, although with a slightly different end result! But you know people are forgetting the Honda’s, the Red Bull, the Toyotas and so on. There were a lot of teams really getting strong towards the end of the season, so I think that we will have to wait and see.

5. What do you think the main challenges will be?
The two main challenges with the car will be the new V8 format with the engine and the tyre changes at pit stops, but you know that is the same for everyone.

6. How is your knee following your minor post season surgery in the last week of October?
It is fine, I recovered well and was back training at the end of November. It was a small operation to repair a minor rupture to the meniscus, so you know no big deal. The bulk of my main training and the time when the focus is to increase my fitness level, is between November and March, so I have been working hard over recent weeks with my trainer.


1. How did the first run of the car go today at the Circuit de Catalunya?
It was good, there were a couple of minor issues, but you expect that with the new car, and you know this is why we go testing! I am in the new car tomorrow and Wednesday and I am really looking forward to driving it for the first time, it is always exciting you know to see what your office will be like for the next 12 months! Also it means that I can really start to have an input and work with the team on developing the new car. At the moment, I am scheduled for 11 days in the car before it leaves for Bahrain.

Because I will be driving MP4-21 for the first time, I will spend a few days with the team completing systems checks, getting used to the car, you know just generally breaking it in. Pedro will have completed some of the the initial checks already today. As testing continues this week, Pedro and Gary will continue to work on the same areas in the MP4-20s alongside me and Kimi with their focus remaining on tyres with Michelin and engines.

2. What are your thoughts on MP4-21?
It’s too early to say, as I have not even driven it yet. The work rate that has been taking place within McLaren Racing and Mercedes-Benz has been amazing and we learnt a lot of positive things from last year’s car, so you know we hope that can be continued into MP4-21 and just have to wait until Bahrain to see!

3. Have you spent any time at the McLaren Technology Centre since the end of the season working with engineering team?
I like to try and go to the McLaren Technology Centre as often as I can, which is difficult because of my schedule, but it is good to catch up with the team and everything. Between the end of the season and Christmas, I spent four days at the facility working with the engineering team and having a look at the on-going development of MP4-21. On Tuesday 10th January I had my seat-fitting in the new car and my last visit was last Thursday and Friday.

4. What are your expectations for 2006?
I want to be on the top step of the podium many more times than in 2005, and to be battling for the World Championships with Team McLaren Mercedes. I am a racer and I want to win and I am with the team that I can do that with. I think it has the potential to be another great year for the sport, things got really interesting last year and that will hopefully continue. Because of the changes to engines and tyres, there might be some teams doing better than expected and some doing worse, but until we have raced rather than just being on the test track it is all speculation.

5. What do you think the main challenges will be?
For everyone there are the two big changes I guess, to V8s and tyres in pit stops. For me specifically, I am just looking forward to an exciting second season with Team McLaren Mercedes.


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