People from the Nordic countries living in Malaysia or visiting from Southeast Asia and beyond can look forward to the 2015 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix (27-29 March) with great anticipation as there are now no less than four Nordic drivers involved in the Formula One World Championship auto racing. If all goes well in the qualifications three of them will be on the starting grid at 3.00pm on Sunday, March 29: Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari), Valtteri Bottas (Williams) and Marcus Ericsson (Sauber.)
The Dane Kevin Magnusson, meanwhile, is as reserve driver this season for McLaren-Honda, but he was on the starting grid in the first race of the 2015 season in Melbourne, replacing Fernando Alonso who could not start due to a pre-season injury.
“Today was frustrating for me – I really wanted to race the car – but it’s been good to get out here this weekend. I’ve really enjoyed it,” Kevin commented after the race in which he retired.
“Even though I couldn’t make the start, the team can learn something from my car’s problem. And we can take positives from Jenson finishing the race, too – we came here to learn, and that’s what we did. Finishing is a small victory for the team – I don’t think we expected to be able to do that.
“Now we can get a car to the finish line, we can start to accelerate our learning. We got 56 valuable laps under our belts today, and that’s a great way for McLaren and Honda to start our journey together.”
“As for Kevin, he was very unlucky to have his race ended by an as-yet-unspecified power unit glitch before it had even begun,” commented racing director, McLaren-Honda Eric Boullier
“In two weeks’ time we’ll be racing in Sepang [Malaysia], where the weather is bound to be extremely hot and humid. I’m not going to be rash enough to predict a form upswing in so short a time frame, but we’ll be working flat-out between now and then to make performance and reliability gains in any and every way we can, of that you may be 100 per cent certain.”
Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas was also unable to race in Melbourne due to a lower back injury sustained during qualifying.
“I have done a lot of work since the issue with my back came in qualifying to get myself ready, starting treatment immediately, so the news that I couldn’t race was obviously disappointing. I now have two weeks until the next race to receive further treatment to ensure I will be back to full fitness and even stronger in Malaysia. I’m very eager to get back in the car and race because the FW37 is looking competitive and I’m confident we can fight for podiums,” commented Valtteri.
His experienced team mate Felipe Massa meanwhile finished fourth in the Australian Grand Prix, bringing the car home with 12 points to start the 2015 season.
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering commented on the result: “It’s always difficult to compete with only 50% of your armoury with Valtteri having to miss the race, so today was about damage limitation in the Constructors’ Championship and we have managed to come away only a few points behind Ferrari which is a decent result. The team worked very well as a unit all weekend; the pitstop was good and so was the work on the pitwall. We are in a really competitive battle with the teams around us so this race is a marker for the rest of the season. We need to continue improving the car and getting maximum performance from what is a strong package.”
Bottas was assigned test driver for the Williams in 2010 and would continue as such for the 2011 and 2012 while in 2013 he returned to racing along teammate to Pastor Maldonado and scored his first points finish at the United States Grand Prix (8th.) He continued alongside Felipe Masa in 2014 when Bottas qualified 2nd at the Austrian Grand Prix, his best grid position in Formula One, and achieved his first podium in the sport, finishing third. He continued with another success finishing second at the British Grand Prix. At the German Grand Prix, he qualified second and ended the race in the same position.. After achieving three more podiums in Belgium, Russia (where he set his first fastest lap of a race) and Abu Dhabi (part of Williams’ first double podium since the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix), Bottas finished 4th overall in the championship.
Up to this year Williams has won 16 FIA Formula One World Championships (nine for constructors, in partnership with Cosworth, Honda and Renault, and seven for drivers. The team has scored 114 victories, 306 podiums and 128 pole positions.
Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson meanwhile, was off to a flying start of the season at Sauber F1 Team where he has been given a new chance to succeed as an F1 driver. He finished in eighth place in Melbourne, while team mate Felipe Nasr finished fifth, so while 2014 was a season Sauber easily forgets 2015 looks much more promising – also for its new Swedish driver.
“First of all, the team has done a great job over the winter. It is amazing for everyone in the team here in Melbourne and also back home in the factory to get this result in the first race weekend of the 2015 season. We have seen good progress during pre-season testing, and with this achievement I am really happy for everyone. For me as a driver, I have scored my first points in Formula One, which is a big goal achieved. Now, we can build on this for the next race,” commented Marcus in Melbourne.
Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn praised his whole team for a great achievement: “We already saw during qualifying that we are competitive, but being able to achieve these positions by our own efforts is a bit of a surprise. It is a confirmation of our hard work and a great reward for the team that had to deal with unfavourable circumstances. This applies to the crew in Hinwil as well as to the team at the race track. It was an outstanding achievement which we have to be proud of. Obviously, I am very happy about our two drivers who both put in a great performance, and in the end they made this great result possible for us.”
In the history of Formula One there are not that many Swedish racing drivers. Last year Marcus Ericsson became the tenth driver from the Scandinavian country, making his debut with the Caterham F1 Team.
“2014 was a difficult season for me, but also a great year as my dream to be a Formula One race driver came true,” said the 24-year-old and look forward to the new challenge. “Getting the chance to drive for the Sauber F1 Team is a great opportunity. With my experience from last year I have a solid base, and I am willing to learn as much as I can.”
Finally, F1 veteran Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) had to retire in this first race of the season: “Shortly after the start, someone hit me from behind. Then I felt another contact on my right side, but I don’t think it was Sebastian’s car. The impact activated the anti-stall system and did some damage to the floor of the car. We were very quick in the race, able to catch the Williams and to fight for the podium: but then there were problems at both pit stops. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I know I lost something in terms of downforce. However, my team-mate’s podium is a great result for the team. Already in qualifying, despite my mistake on the quick lap, we knew we had a good car. And in the race, the gap to the Mercedes seemed less than on Saturday. It’s simply that, today, everything happened to me.”
“Kimi’s race was complicated by a problem with the left rear wheel, during his pit stop on lap 16. Unfortunately, there was a problem at his second pit stop, again with the left rear, which resulted in the Finn having to park his SF-15T at the side of the track. Sebastian Vettel’s third place is a great reward for all the hard work over the winter and a great incentive to learn lessons from the weekend and mount an even stronger challenge in a fortnight’s time in the heat of Malaysia,” said Ferrari’s race report.