Christian Klien was a busy man in Melbourne. Being new to the circus will always bring a lot of attention - everybody wants to get to know the new guy in town, to be able to package up his strengths and weakness and proclaim loudly 'this is who he is', and with Mark Webber under constant bombardment by his home media in his first year as the official lead driver there was always going to be a lot falling onto the Austrian's shoulders. Klien (pronounced Clean) seemed to be constantly bemused by the attention. Certainly he looked like he'd rather be doing something else most of the weekend, something more useful towards his pending Formula One race debut, but he allowed himself to be led through interview after interview seemingly without protest. And they stacked up - media briefings were planned and then pushed back, from Thursday to Friday to Saturday and on.
Throughout it all he remained stoic, remained slightly aloof from the distractions, as though he was thinking through the hundreds of decisions to come that needed to be made to move his car, and the team, forward. On Friday, just before his second ever race weekend session, he sat in the Jaguar paddock impassively, the eye in the German media hurricane, for half an hour or more without complaint.
By the time the English speaking media had their turn with Klien there were only a few minutes available for questions. It was a distraction he could have done without presumably, but he bore it with as much good grace as he could manage, something he has clearly already learned from his teammate. Klien certainly seems a good fit as a teammate for Webber - they seem to have a similar demeanour in and out of the car, despite the difference in experience.
So how is he handling all the attention? "You sit in your car and I mean, when you come out of the pits you can see all the spectators and the TV and everything, but when you are in your car and on your qualifying lap you forget about all that and you just go, go; you just push." Remarkably he doesn't even consider his friends and family back home watching from afar: "No," Klien laughs, "you don't have time!"
Formula Three Euro series doesn't teach you about this. Last year Klien was winning races around Germany (he ultimately came second to current Toyota tester Ryan Briscoe), driving around in front of crowds that could comfortably fit into the front grandstand in Melbourne. Won four races and Zandvoort. Won German Formula Renault 2002 - five wins.
DC: You've finally had your first session on a Formula One race weekend - how do you feel?
Christian Klien: I feel quite good; this is a fantastic feeling to go out now and drive around the circuit where there are a lot of spectators and TV and everything. It was a great feeling to go out in the pitlane, and there were all the spectators and people; it was a great feeling. A good situation, but you can't expect that reaction - it's crazy! Then a part of the track here was very dirty, very, very bumpy, and you don't expect that. And it's very, very difficult to learn on a bumpy, dirty track. So today was just like a test day to learn the track, to just drive around.
DC: Do you feel ready for it? I don't know how much testing you've done.
CK: Oh yeah - I've done about 6,000 km of testing, and that's quite a lot, so I'm good and prepared for a four day race weekend.
DC: You've also sat in the simulator at the factory - how much did that help?
CK: It helps a lot; you've got all the buttons on the steering wheel in the simulator, and the engineers and everything, and they can tell you on the radio what you have to do, to change channels on the engine and things like this so you can practice. And also to learn the circuits.
DC: I guess the new engine rules help a guy like you because no one expects you to set a time today, so that gives you a chance to work up to speed.
CK: It's been a bit more difficult, the new engine rules, because you have to save the engine miles so you can't do that much laps that you want, so it's actually been a bit more difficult.
DC: How much is that going to affect you, because you don't have that much testing on the tracks and it's unclear how much testing you'll have away from the races.
CK: I do have quite a bit of practice before the qualifying, and normally we can do quite a lot of laps; in fact with the new engine rule we have to practice the engine the whole weekend, although you have to save the engine a bit so you can't do so much the laps that you want; you have to save it. You have to get on the track quicker, and you have to find the set up quicker, so it's all more difficult for a new driver.
DC: Are you working with Mark to achieve set-ups and that kind of thing?
CK: Yeah - we work together, and normally both teammates have to work together because we're a team; it's the same in testing, and it's the same in racing.
DC: How did he welcome you into the team?
CK: Very good; he is a very friendly guy, and good, so he is easy to work with.
DC: There is a lot on you shoulders right now - you have a very quick and well respected teammate, plus you have the demands of learning the car, the tracks, everything that happens in Formula One...
CK: Yeah, but to have such a good driver as Mark is helpful because you can learn a lot from him, and if I have any question I can ask him because he's very friendly and he will help with my question. I think you can learn a lot from him, because he's a very good driver.
DC: Has Jaguar told you that they have any expectations of you?
CK: For the first races it's just to finish the race; that's my expectation and also for the team, and I think that's the most important thing for this weekend.
DC: And over the season?
CK: Yeah, sure maybe to get some points - that's the expectation.