Christian Klien joins Jaguar Racing for his first year of Formula One in 2004, stepping into one of the hottest seats in the sport following the brief residencies of Justin Wilson, Antonio Pizzonia, Pedro de la Rosa and Luciano Burti.

The Austrian, who finished as runner-up to Toyota test driver Ryan Briscoe in the inaugural F3 Euroseries, has few qualms, however, and is looking forward to getting his hands on the new Jaguar R5 following its launch in Barcelona.

Q:
You'll be just 21 by the time of the first race in Melbourne. Can you believe what a fantastic opportunity you have been given?

Christian Klien:
Hardly. It has always been my ambition to race in Formula One, ever since I began in motorsport, and to start in F1 with a team as prestigious as Jaguar is just unbelievable. I am very happy! This is the best thing to happen to me in my whole life.

Q:
What does it mean to be driving for a team whose motorsport heritage extends back so many decades? Is it daunting?

CK
Daunting? No. Special? Yes. For a driver, it is very special to have the name Jaguar on your overalls. There aren't many names that are known around the world like that. It might mean there is more pressure away from the track in terms of media work and other responsibilities but once you are driving you can forget about that.

Q:
Dr Mark Gillan, the team's head of vehicle performance, says he is very impressed with the way you have handled your early test runs. How would you rate your first time in an F1 car?

CK:
It's not important how fast you go the first time out. What matters is the way the driver and the engineers work together, and I was very pleased when I met the team for the first time. Everyone was very friendly and they helped me a lot. Working with people who have so much experience is so good for me and I just have to try and learn day by day what the team and my engineers expect of me.

The step from F3 to F1 is a big one, and I still have to learn some of the technical aspects of the car. Obviously, I can't totally set up an F1 car until I understand how it all works, so I will rely on the team's judgement until I have done a few more tests.

Q:
Mark Webber, your team-mate, is very highly rated after two good seasons in F1. How have you found working together?

CK:
I can learn a lot from Mark. He is a fantastic driver and just watching how he works with the team is really useful for me. I don't mind saying that, as a young driver, I look up to people like him because he is so professional. I should be able to benefit from being with such an impressive team-mate.

Q:
Last year, all but one of the team's points was scored by Mark Webber. Have you talked about working together to get more points in 2004?

CK:
Yes, absolutely. From the day I joined, the team have reminded me that it is not enough just to drive quickly. What is important is the way we work as a team. They use the phrase 'team player' a lot here and I think they expect to see us being that in 2004.

Q:
What has the reaction to your appointment been like in Austria?

CK:
Everyone at home has been brilliant. The whole of Austria seems delighted that they have another driver in F1.

Q:
There are some pretty impressive Austrians in F1 history - names likes Gerhard Berger and Niki Lauda. Have they helped you in your career?

CK:
I've not met Niki Lauda yet, but Gerhard has given me advice - especially recently. I've been to see him in Monaco and we have spoken about the demands of F1, and how to handle the pressure. He told me that whenever I needed help or just had a question, to give him a call. That sort of support is great.

Q:
Both Berger and Lauda were famously relaxed when they were in F1. Do you think you are like that?

CK:
Yes, I think I do have similar characteristics. All Austrians tend to be quite laid back, and I think that might be a useful way to feel when the pressure starts to grow.

 

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