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Preview - Sato excited and unrepentant 11 Jun 2004

Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR Honda 006.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Nurburgring, Germany, Practice, 28 May 2004 Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR celebrates a career best second position in qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Nurburgring, Germany, Qualifying, 29 May 2004 Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR Honda 006 fights with Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R24 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Nurburgring, Germany, Race Day, 30 May 2004 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, Preparations, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, 10 June 2004 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) tests the new McLaren Mercedes MP4/19B for the first time. Formula One Testing, Silverstone, England, 1 June 2004.

BAR star confident, even without super-quick Honda

Takuma Sato, the driver currently enjoying a reputation as a man who will go for any gap in an attempt to overtake, says he is unrepentant about his move on Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello in the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring a fortnight ago.

And that is even though it damaged the front wing on his BAR and ultimately led to his retirement when the prolonged resultant pit stop for a new nose created a fatal heat sink on his Honda V10 engine.

“My feelings never changed. I was totally on, that move,”Sato said yesterday. “I was confident and had an opportunity because the Michelin tyres work really well on the out lap and the first lap with new tyres. I had a new set with massive grip on it. You know, with that distance, yes, you could see I was significantly driving deep but I never locked up and never went sideways. I was totally controlled so, to me, at the end of the day we touched, unfortunately, but I was very, very happy with that manoeuvre.

“To me it looked like Rubens was totally surprised when I was there because it looked to me like he braked quite early and there was obviously a big gap inside his car. I saw the opportunity and just went for it because I was totally confident. But it looked like he was just driving as normal.”

Much of the pre-race talk this weekend has centred on BAR’s chances of beating Ferrari on a power circuit where Honda have a further uprated engine for Sato and team mate Jenson Button. Sato said he is feeling very excited about the team’s prospects, especially after they did 80 percent of the tests they proposed recently at rain-affected Silverstone and Monza, but also revealed that the new engine won’t be quite the one that was expected. That may now be held over for Indianapolis next week, another power circuit where drivers are on the throttle at maximum for longer than anywhere else.

“I think we have developed a lot since the beginning of the season and we were going to have a lot of further steps here for Canada, but because we had a few problems in the last few races we are looking more at reliability. So we probably won’t have as massive power as we expected but, to be honest, reliability is going to be a lot higher than the last few races, I believe.”

Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen said he was very pleased with his first tests in McLaren’s evolutionary MP4-19B, and that he thought the reason why it won’t be racing in the two north American events was because of lack of spare parts. The new car is quite different in many areas to the old, and the team have not yet built up a sufficient arsenal of spares to service the new one over two ‘flyaway’ races.

“Hopefully once we go back to Europe we take it to races,” the Finn said. “But I think that all depends on how quickly we can get all the spare parts and I think that’s the main thing. It was nice to drive the 19B and everything went well. We really didn’t have any problems, apart from a small one with cooling the brakes.”

He also said that Mercedes-Benz believe that they have solved the problems that caused the engine failures at Nurburgring, which engine designer Mario Illien initially put down to piston breakages.

Speaking of his motivation, Raikkonen said: “Of course it’s harder and not so much fun when you have bad races and you don’t get any results. I think we are getting better speed-wise but we’re still struggling with reliability and, for sure, once we get those things right we should be okay. Hopefully with 19B we can start fighting for podiums and hopefully also for wins, but so far it has been a very difficult season for me and for the whole team and we are just trying to work harder and turn things around.”