The opening race of the 2011 season is now just one week away, with teams and drivers already arriving in Australia ahead of next Sunday’s grand prix. They’ve been giving their thoughts on the big event, as well as expressing their sympathy for Japan following last week’s earthquake, with today’s first pre-race preview coming from the Force India, Sauber and Hispania drivers.

All images courtesy of Octane Photos

Adrian Sutil

“We have a reliable car, which is positive, and this will help us during the first few races. But we still need to look for more speed and we require a little more time to understand the developments and aero side. The first few races may be a little tough in that respect, but for sure we shall pick up our race pace soon.

“I hope that I will be able to finish the race as last year the gearbox let us down. It is always a good feeling to finish the first race, as you then know that the season has really started. It was a crazy race in Australia last year when the rain came in; I think only ten cars made it to finish. This is also why I think it is so important to finish the race in Melbourne – there are usually points to be won if you see the chequered flag.”

Paul Di Resta

“The winter was a continuation of last year; I have been fully focussed on fitness and working with the team. I started working on this year’s car on the simulator last year and this prepped me in the best way possible for the coming races.

“I am open minded and will be concentrating on performance, getting the best out of the car on the Friday and Saturday to see what areas we need to improve as a team for the race. As for my personal expectations I am going to be realistic and gauge how it goes over the weekend and focus on the job in hand.”

Kamui Kobayashi

“Of course I was very worried about my country and so went to Japan after the Barcelona test. I must say the situation is really, really bad. So many have lost their lives, become homeless, are without food and water in the cold winter, and have lost their loved ones. It is difficult to believe that a scenario worse than in any movie has become reality.

“I feel I have to do something, I want to help – but in fact there is nothing I can do by myself. I think at least for the time being what I can do is to be focused and fully concentrate on the season’s opening race in Melbourne. Originally I was looking forward to this with great joy. Now what I really want to do is my very best to achieve a good result, which perhaps can at least give the people in Japan a little bit of hope and positive news.”

Sergio Pérez

“Without a doubt I am also worried about the people in Japan, and I really wish them all the best. At the same time personally a dream is about to come true. I have dreamed for many years of competing in my first Formula One Grand Prix, and now it is going to happen. I am excited and I am very much looking forward to it.

“I cannot imagine yet how it will be for me when the lights go out on Sunday, but I can’t wait to find that out. I have never been to Australia before. Of course, I have checked the circuit lay-out and other things. I understand it is a tough track, very challenging and not easy to find the limit, so it will be hard.”

Narain Karthikeyan

“Even though it was disappointing to not be able to drive the new car in Barcelona, I’m sure the car is a significant step forward from last year’s. It certainly looks the business, we just have to wait until Friday morning in Melbourne to put it all into practice.

“I think Albert Park will be a great place to start off with the new F111 since it’s not a very demanding track. For a new and unproven car such as ours, I think that reliability is something we need to work on before we can start to extract the maximum performance, so I believe that if both cars finish the race, we will have had a satisfying weekend.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi

“Albert Park is a track I like, especially the first three corners where it is difficult to overtake but not impossible; you have to be impeccable in that section in order to do a good lap.

“It’s difficult to predict how the car will respond here since we didn’t get to test it in Barcelona, but I’m sure the areas we concentrated on developing will prove to be a significant improvement from last year’s car. The aim for the weekend is to come away with a clear picture of the car, making sure that all the new regulation items work well. If both cars make it to the checkered flag at the end with good pace and reliability then the weekend will have been a great success. Hopefully in this 2011 season we will take a giant leap forward and set some solid basis for the future.”