Preview - who can stop Michael? 27 Aug 2004
Rubens Barrichello would like nothing more than to score Ferraris 180th Grand Prix victory in Spa-Francorchamps this weekend, which will mark the legendary Scuderias 700th start. But the Brazilian is only too aware just how strong team mate Michael Schumachers record is on everyones favourite circuit.
The German made a sensational debut here in 1991 for Jordan (even though his race went no further than La Source), before his controversial switch a race later to Benetton. With the latter he scored his first Grand Prix victory at Spa only a year later, and he has since won five more times at the Belgian venue (six if you count the 1994 triumph that was taken away from him on a technicality). Ayrton Senna and Jim Clark are the closest to him, with scores of five and four respectively.
Its clear that Im most happy that Spa is back on the calendar, Schumacher said. I love this track, the atmosphere, it is with real pleasure that I drive an F1 car here. Most of my best recollections in F1 are linked with Spa, and it would be great to take another title here. Some claim that at Ferrari we would prefer to take it in Monza, but I can tell you that the quicker I get it, the better. After all, Rubens is still able to take it away from me.
That is unlikely, given that Schumacher has won 12 of the previous 13 races, but anything can happen, as 1999 proved when Schumacher broke his right leg at Silverstone. But the champion needs only two points more than the Brazilian to clinch his seventh world championship title and his seventh Belgian Grand Prix victory would do that very nicely.
I hope I can make him wait until Brazil, to be honest, Barrichello said. And if we get there, then I hope he can wait until next year. But in all honesty I have to be realistic about the chances. I still havent beaten him fair and square this year, as I managed to do so many times last year. But you know, my life is all about positives, its all about being focused and doing my job. Spa is a place that I like very much. Im not winning, so Im looking for that win, over here. I would love to win the race here.
While all the drivers love Spa, David Coulthard said that he was disappointed yesterday to see the effect of the changes at the Bus Stop chicane. Besides the loss of trees all the way from Blanchimont to that corner, which has taken away a little of the circuits atmospheric appeal, he also regretted the nature of the track changes. In the past it was good there. Now, the entry to the corner is tighter so the car is more loaded up under braking and the track is less flowing, and because it is so narrow I think that we may well have lost a great overtaking opportunity, the McLaren driver said. However, the removal of the high kerbs in the corner is definitely an improvement.
Antonio Pizzonia also suggested that Eau Rouge will be less of a challenge now that it has been resurfaced, with tarmac run-off areas. Time will tell.
It will be a challenging weekend nonetheless, given a weather forecast that now suggests rain at times every day. Yesterday brought intermittent showers and sunshine in Spas own unique micro climate, and that promises to make setting the cars up even harder on a track where the compromise between downforce and drag is even more crucial.