Preview - Michael, Ferrari confident 18 Jun 2004
Champions bullish, while Pantano returns for Jordan
This may come as a surprise, but going into the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Michael Schumacher and Ferrari are feeling pretty positive about the weekend ahead...
Not invincible, I dont feel that way, the world champion said yesterday. I just feel pretty normal. I just do what I can. And I just want to keep enjoying things.
I dont know why I have this good feeling this year. The matter of fact is that straight from starting with the testing I was on the pace, everything was going well, and I felt well. Last year, for whatever reason, here and there, there was a problem with the car. I couldnt run, and it was all a little more difficult. Sometimes you have those moments where things are difficult, and now theyre back to what it used to be. More normal, and everything goes my way.
We didnt anticipate to win as many races as we have. Going back to January testing, we were very pessimistic on this season. We thought it was going to be a very, very tough one; its not going to be the way it has gone. So were obviously very happy.
You cant put it down just to the tyres. We have done a beautiful car, which at the presentation everybody felt was not really a big obvious step. It just looked sort of similar to the old one, but on the circuit it performed very well. And the tyres Bridgestone have done their job well, so both together are responsible for the success.
Team mate Rubens Barrichello, the winner here in 2002, is also feeling up after the Canadian Grand Prix, where he was able to race Schumacher very hard.
I don't know if it's a particular change, recent change of philosophy, admits Ferrari sporting director Ross Brawn. It's been an open situation, I guess, for a couple years now since the FIA made it clear that they wanted the teams to take a different approach. So since the FIA clarified the situation, we've had an open approach between the two drivers. The instructions are clear, they're not to knock each other off, but you're free to do what you can that's sensible.
I went to the Ferrari day in Mugello last year, and there were four Ferraris circulating, and they all came back with all dings in them and bodywork damage, and I figured what they were doing on Sunday was nothing compared to what they did in Mugello last year, so I wasn't too worried.
It made me a little bit anxious because you could see all the scenarios and the drivers had tangled, then two lead Ferraris out of the race, that would have made a good headline. So you get a little bit anxious, but yeah, the drivers knew each other's strategies, and they were free to race each other.
Barrichello said: After every, after all the years I've had with Michael, like Ross said, he's very enthusiastic and he's doing so well. It makes me proud to be racing against him because I'm racing against the best. And I'm only getting better, as well.
The mood at Williams is slightly less upbeat after the disqualifications in Canada, where Ralf Schumacher initially finished second and Juan Pablo Montoya fifth before falling foul of the regulation covering the maximum dimension from the inside rim of the wheel to the inside face of any brake duct - 120 mm.
Sir Frank Williams took that one on the chin, and the team is naturally determined to avoid a repeat. Having put down the upturn in performance in Montreal to the characteristics of the track suiting the characteristics of his car, Williams said: I'm not dying to talk about it [the error], but obviously it is a subject that has to come up. How does that sort of thing happen? Well, you can say the responsibility stops with me at the end of the day. But we're a large organisation, there's a chain of events that has occurred, which I'm not going to dissect here. But we were very clumsy in that particular area, with that part. I hope you all believe there's no implication whatsoever of seeking an aerodynamic advantage with that by cheating. We made a mistake, we paid a heavy price, and we have no quarrel with that.
We all were disappointed, especially the mechanics, it was a result we desperately were looking for, Ralf said, but that's the way it is. I mean, in my time at Williams we have never had a problem, and it was just an unfortunate incident. As Frank just said, I mean, we have never and will never cheat, and it was not our intention. It doesn't change the fact we had a great race, I think everybody saw that. The car fitted very well to Montreal. We can have another good one here, but it is certainly a bit more difficult. Obviously, yes, we didn't get any points, but hopefully we'll catch some here.
Elsewhere, Sauber have built up a new car for Felipe Massa to replace the one destroyed in Montreal and Giorgio Pantano is back in race harness at Jordan, where his management issues have been resolved sufficiently for him to return to cockpit duty.