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Imola - the engineer's view 22 Apr 2004

Mario Thiessen (GER) BMW Motorsport Technical Director 
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 4 April 2004 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Sauber Petronas C23.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 2 April 2004 (L to R): Geoff Willis (GBR) BAR Technical Director and Takeo Kiuchi  (JPN) Honda F1 Project Leader.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 3 April 2004 Giorgio Pantano (ITA) Jordan.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 3 April 2004

Brakes among the crucial factors for San Marino race

Formula One racing’s top technicians explain the unique challenges they will face this weekend at Imola, one of only two races on the Grand Prix calendar to be held on an anti-clockwise circuit.

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director, Williams:
“Imola requires relatively high downforce and has several uphill sections. Both factors combined make the circuit particularly challenging for the engines. Our focus at the moment is the continual development and reliability of the BMW P84 engine. Regarding performance, our goal is to be able to attain our qualifying maximum revs and output throughout the entire race distance.”

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer, Williams:
“San Marino can be quite cold at this time of year, so we have been testing at the Paul Ricard circuit in France this week to simulate - as closely as possible - the conditions we will experience in Imola. Following a disappointing result in Bahrain, we have also concentrated on rectifying the gearbox problems we've experienced.

“With medium to high speed corners, a couple of chicanes and plenty of heavy braking, the circuit is a big challenge for the drivers. It is also important to achieve a set up on the car which allows the drivers to ride the kerbs without compromising high speed stability.

“We have made some aerodynamic improvements to the cars which we will run in Imola and we hope these will improve our competitiveness. We will also have two new tyre choices from Michelin. Strategy seems to have come full circle recently, with the teams running for only short distances, I suspect Imola won't be any different.”

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director, BAR:
"The first three races have highlighted the competitiveness of our overall package, with the car performing well at each of those circuits. As we move into Europe, the challenge is to not only maintain our current level but to further strengthen our challenge, and to that end we will be introducing a revised aero and engine package for the forthcoming San Marino Grand Prix, together with a further step from Michelin. We have been evaluating these developments extensively in testing during the three-week break.

"The Imola circuit presents its own challenges, as a result of its stop-start nature between chicanes, so there is a premium on traction and braking performance. We introduced a revised braking system in Bahrain, which we were very happy with, and the Michelin tyres are well-suited to circuits with high traction demands. Generally speaking, we have every confidence that we will be able sustain our challenge next weekend."

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director Chassis, Toyota:
"The San Marino Grand Prix will mark the next development step of the season for Panasonic Toyota Racing. We have concentrated mainly on reducing the weight of the car, whilst lowering the centre of gravity. As a result, we are heading to Italy with a car that should be easier to set-up and more adaptable during the weekend. We also have a new front and rear wing, specifically designed to cope with the demands of the maximum downforce Imola track. The key to a quick lap time around Imola is use of the kerbs. This has been a weakness in the past, so we have carried out kerb simulations at Paul Ricard tests, which we hope will pay dividends. Everyone knows what we have to do to make the car go quicker and the changes we have implemented for this weekend should be another small step in the right direction."

Dr Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance, Jaguar:
"As the Imola circuit is traditionally quite hard on the car, for example the kerbs can be very hard through the chicane and the brakes are used excessively we have been concentrating on set-up and also working with AP and Brembo on braking performance. We are pleased with our progress in these areas, but as with many of our minor changes, until you get out on to the track and start racing you don't see the results. We have also been making some other minor changes to the car but as always we are continuously developing the car and just because you can't see a visible changes does not mean we have not taken steps forward. I am looking forward to seeing the cars on track on Friday, as all drivers know this circuit it would be good to see some friendly competition in the time sheets."

David Pitchforth, Managing Director, Jaguar:
"Returning to the European circuits signals a return to the tracks that we all know well. The engineers, the mechanics and the drivers all feel comfortable back in European territory and since we have a lot of simulation information for Imola, this makes it easier for us to focus on making the car faster from the first minute we are out on track for Friday testing. The track requires relatively high downforce and we are looking at about 65- 70% throttle, coupled with the high kerbs and corners the car is given a good shake, along with the driver! Imola is not an easy track to score points at, there are few overtaking opportunities so as always, qualifying will be crucial.”

Willy Rampf, Technical Director, Sauber:
"Imola is a track that demands good traction and brake stability - it is even heavier on brakes than Melbourne. It requires maximum brake cooling, and the big challenge is to find the right brake balance and temperature for the one-lap qualifying as well as for the race. Brake balance and performance are crucial for a good car performance.

"We were able to continue our wind tunnel programme and will have several new aerodynamic components on the car in Imola. In Bahrain we made use of our power steering for the first time in a race. We were able to improve it further at our recent test in Barcelona and from Imola it will be used at every race."

James Robinson, Head of Race and Test Engineering, Jordan:
"Imola is about engines, brakes and kerbs, if you’re good on all three and can get the power down, then you’ll be up the front. It’s the only circuit, other than Brazil, to run in an anticlockwise direction and that, combined with the track gradients, poses its own challenges for the drivers and their fitness levels – which should be a strength for Jordan. After three exciting ‘fly away’ races, we do look forward to returning to Europe as we are able to use our own trucks and motorhomes. The reduced travel time means factory staff are working to tight production schedules to get new car parts ready in time to be used at the track. The circuit has changed quite a lot in recent years for safety reasons although it is still a very exciting track, especially with the very special atmosphere among Italian fans. With Ferrari’s dominant start to the season I imagine the buzz at this race will be as thrilling as ever."

Norbert Haug, Vice-President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, McLaren:
“The Imola circuit features a combination of fast sections, tight chicanes and slow corners which are hard on the brakes. More than 60 per cent of a lap is run under full throttle. In Imola our first target has to be to finish the race and everybody in the team is focused on improving reliability and speed of our package. The reasons for the engine failures in Bahrain have been thoroughly investigated. On Friday a failure of an inlet valve damaged Kimi’s engine. The reason for his engine failure in the race was a piston cooling jet not functioning properly. David had to retire from the race with seven laps to go due to a loss of pneumatic pressure.”