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Christian Klien: Formula 1 ice start more difficult for Europeans

Christian Klien
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Three outings in the 2010 season. Do you feel like a 'real Formula 1 driver' again?
K lien: Of course. Even if it was not always easy to be ready for four years as a test and replacement driver and to pack your bags again on Sunday without any effort. Nevertheless, I was always fully involved in what was happening during all this time. This know-how in car development and test work can only be acquired in Formula 1.

Do you feel a little malicious joy towards the doubters?
Klien: No. It makes perfect sense to question a driver's career when he loses his cockpit, as I did in 2006. However, I am very pleased. Because only very few drivers make it back to Formula 1 afterwards. My big bonus was and is my age. It was clear to me that the combination of youth and Formula 1 experience is a good argument. Accordingly, we carefully designed the career plan. The apprenticeship years at Honda and BMW-Sauber were also valuable. Specifically, I don't have any negative feelings towards Red Bull Racing. Why also? On the contrary, I'm happy for the many good guys there who were still working on my car. You have earned the world title.

What were the highs and lows this year?
Klien: High points were those moments when I moved the car forward in the short time could bring. Nothing went right in the Friday test in Barcelona. In such a short time there is actually nothing that can be done. You're in a car that you've never driven. You have no feeling for braking, turning, the response of the engine and so on. A pure blind flight, which is also not entirely harmless. At the end of the session I was still faster than my team-mate, who has been driving the car since the beginning of the season. That was pretty good to start with. Because from then on some people greeted me again in the paddock who had barely noticed me in previous years. That's just how it is in Formula 1. When you're away for years, nobody will believe that you still have the speed until they see it for themselves.

And the low points?
Klien: When I had to park the car in the second race in Brazil at the end of the installation lap because the fuel pressure had plummeted. There of all places! We werereally close to Virgin and Lotus for the first time in training. We had a realistic chance of beating them in direct combat for the first time. And then I don't get to the starting grid. But the HRT engineers are fantastic at troubleshooting. I was then able to start out of the pit lane four laps late. Unfortunately I missed the samba dancers in the main stand. So it went twice as stupid.

Why was the internal team balance different in Abu Dhabi?
Klien: It was a difficult weekend from the start. Friday went well, but then I got brake problems. At the last minute, right up to the start of qualifying, we rebuilt the entire braking system. The brake problem was fixed, but the setup was by the devil. But after qualifying you are no longer allowed to work on the car. And so it became damn hard to keep the car under control. The radio was soon gone, so we worked with pit boards. But they were barely legible because the wall is in the braking zone of Turn 1. For example, I had no idea how many laps I could still do. And the drinking bottle was broken from the start. It wasn't fun in this heat. All in all, things could have gone better in Abu Dhabi.

Were the three races at HRT worth missing out on a possible Le Mans victory?
Klien: Peugeot issued the clear order: If you want to drive at Le Mans, you have to concentrate 100 percent on it. As the only one in the squad, however, I had this chance to get my feet in Formula 1. So with a heavy heart I had to cancel Olivier Quesnel for this year. I take the fact that I was taken along as a substitute pilot as a sign of great confidence and I am very grateful for this appreciation. After all, I've been able to collect many kilometers at Peugeot in recent years and also win races. And the feeling of standing on the podium among 200,000 people at Le Mans is not so easy to convey. But Formula 1 has a clear priority.

How does it look for 2011?
Klien: The example of Nico Hülkenberg shows that there are none Guarantees. Nico is having a great debut year, pole position in Brazil and still thrown out. In my case, I see a few options. The most obvious, of course, is HRT. Of course, I also rate the races as an early test for 2011. The team is about to establish itself as a serious competitor in Formula 1, even if there are occasional setbacks. But it looked worse. In February there were just a few boxes, mechanics and a few engineers standing around there. And I would not have believed that I would be contesting three more Grands Prix this year. There is still some time until mid-March. My declared goal is to drive all 20 Grand Prix in 2011.

Why is it so difficult to get a place inFormula 1?
Klien: There have always been times when it was extremely difficult. Today it is relatively difficult if you come from Central Europe. Because Formula 1 is internationalizing at a rapid pace. You used to have good cards as a British, Italian or French. There are almost as many cockpits today as there were ten or 20 years ago. But the driver market today is fed by many more countries: Russia, India, the whole of Southeast Asia, and soon Korea and China too. It is clear then that the battle for the cockpit is getting closer mathematically. And if you are the eighth German today, it will be very difficult. See France and Italy - twenty years ago there were a good ten French and ten Italians in the starting field. And today?

Will 2011 be another year of the paydriver?
Klien: Anyone who today has a state oil company behind them or a large mobile operator from an economically interesting one Many doors open for the market. The economic factor has become disproportionately important in the last two years. Even big names like Kimi Raikkonen in the World Rally Championship depend on partners to secure their cockpit. But you learned something new in Formula 1. Because not all the promised funds always arrive. There were some quick shots. And if a Paydriver destroys a few chassis a year and scores a few points on top of that, the calculation can quickly look different. Because every better place in the constructors' championship brings a lot of money for the team. The teams are under enormous cost pressure. The only solution would be to reduce the costs for Formula 1 significantly, as has been discussed several times.


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