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2003 San Marino second preview 18 Apr 2003

Mick the Jordan mechanic moves tyres around the paddock.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Preparations, Imola, Italy, 17 April 2003

The San Marino Grand Prix weekend is now up and running, with private practice under way. The official title of the Imola track is the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, in honour of Enzo Ferrari and his son. It is steeped in the folklore of motorsport and opened in 1952. It was dedicated to Dino Ferrari in 1970, and his father's name was subsequently added upon his death in August 1988.

Imola is in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and forms part of the province of Bologna. The track is 4.933 kms (3.066 miles) long and, like Interlagos, is unusual in running anti-clockwise. The race runs over 62 laps or 305.609 kms (189.937 miles).

All of the teams have retained the basic designs they took to Brazil, even Ferrari, which had hoped to bring a pair of its all-new F2003-GA contenders to its home race. This is because poor weather in Mugello last week hampered the final stages of the car's assessment and race development programme.

Generally, all of the cars feature revised aerodynamic packages to suit the specific nature of the Imola circuit. Honda has also brought along an uprated specification engine for BAR.

Imola is a relatively high downforce track. It has several slow chicanes and a mixture of medium-speed and high-speed corners, as well as changes in elevation. The latter demand plenty of horsepower, especially the climb up the hill from the Acque Minerale chicane. The chicanes also demand excellent braking performance and stability, and even on grooved tyres the drivers regularly see peak decelerations in excess of 4G.

The flowing variety of Imola's corners can make it a very tricky circuit for which to set up the cars. Good mechanical grip is essential to provide the traction into and out of the slow corners, but the aerodynamic set-up is a continually evolving compromise between pure downforce and low drag.

The drivers enjoy the track not just because of its changes in elevation but because it demands precision, particularly under heavy braking and turn-in for the chicanes.

All of the teams who do not participate in the Friday morning private practice sessions have tested prior to the race. Ferrari went to Mugello; Sauber Petronas to Monza; BAR, Toyota, BMW Williams and McLaren Mercedes to Paul Ricard, where the weather did its best to spoil their running. All of them have evolved further nuances to their aero packages, though BMW Williams may have slightly more changes than usual as it took several new aerodynamic components to Brazil but was not really able to quantity them to its satisfaction because of the inclement weather. Once again this weekend the team has its pukka 2003 gearbox and rear suspension on its FW25s, together with a new floor, new bodywork and a revised front wing.

Despite their recent disappointments the Ferraris remain the firm favourites with the partisan crowd - the tifoso - but are expected to be challenged strongly again by McLaren Mercedes, BMW Williams, and Renault. Much will depend on the individual performance of the tyre manufacturers, Bridgestone and Michelin.