Q. What is the latest on the availability of the HRT seat?
Christian Klien: My manager Roman Rummenigge is in permanent contact with the team’s management. Needless to say I would love to drive for HRT. I am convinced the team will make good progress and surprise a few people. In Geoff Willis and chief designer Paul White they have engineers who know very well how to build competitive racing cars. I would love to develop it further. And they are masters of efficiency like no other team on the grid.
Q. Do Liuzzi or Mondini have an advantage, now that they have tested for HRT?
CK: All test were done with the 2010 car, which I have raced on five weekends last season. Together with the race engineers I did a lot of setup work on it to improve performance. At the end of the season we were able to close the gap to the other teams although there was not a single new part all year long. Other drivers like Tonio or Giorgio Mondini have no experience in this car. From a team’s perspective it is only justified to get as much feedback as possible and test other drivers’ work.
Q. It is not the first time you and Tonio are up against one another…
CK: Yeah, funny, isn’t it? At Red Bull we were both members of the groundbreaking ‘seat sharing’ model. But Tonio and I have remained good friends over the years. As usual we phoned after his HRT test. Last summer I was given an extra ticket for the football Champions League final in Madrid. Of course I invited Tonio to come with me, which he did happily. No matter who gets the drive, it will not change our good and respectful relationship.
Q. HRT has no experience with its new F111. Is one test at Barcelona sufficient?
CK: Each day matters. But if you look back how this team rose from the ashes of another operation at the beginning of 2010, you will have no doubt HRT will make the most of its limited resources in 2011. They have a solid and analytical way of facing challenges.
Q. It looks like the team will be on the back of the grid again. Would that be any fun at all?
CK: Wait and see! Premature forecasts can sometimes be wrong. And yes, Formula One is still fun. It is the highest privilege a racing driver can earn himself. Who loses the ambition when good results don’t come easy may just as well go looking for another job.
Q. What is your view on the pay driver problem?
CK: Formula One’s economic situation has changed dramatically. The top flight teams still have good sources of income, but once you go down to the midfield teams, everyone seems to be struggling for cash. In all my years in F1 and sports cars I have never paid for a seat but I was paid for my services. And this is how it will remain in the future. But then again, there are hardly any real pay drivers. A pay driver digs into his very own pocket. All others bring their sponsors and partners onto the market place. This is how it works for about two thirds of the current field.
Q. Do you have a ‘plan B’ ?
CK: Currently my focus is on F1 only. The only alternative to the seat at HRT would be a third driver role with a clear perspective of a race seat some time soon. If neither works out you will certainly find me racing elsewhere. There are many interesting international series which offer a high level of professionalism, technological challenges and many miles in the car. Luckily, once you have established yourself as a driver in F1 the door to other series is always open.
Q. After the first tests: who is hot and who is not?
CK: Despite all usual question marks: Red Bull and Ferrari look very strong. But all teams seem to be struggling with the new tyres.
Q. Bernie Ecclestone recently spoke about artificial rain to improve the show. What is your opinion on that ?
CK: Funny idea, I must say. Bernie always seems to be very creative in the winter period. Personally I think we should test the current rule changes like the moveable rear wing and see how it works. A lot has been done already to improve the show. And statistically we do have a few wet races every year anyway. Things always look a little different from the cockpit than from a tv viewer’s perspective.