2003 San Marino Grand Prix Preview 17 Apr 2003
Welcome to the start of the San Marino Grand Prix weekend here in Imola, where the paddock is already beginning to buzz as FIA president Max Mosley and the team principals have met to discuss proposed changes to the 2003 regulations. Mosley is later due to address a press conference to outline what (if any) changes will be implemented.
In past years the early talking points in the paddock at this first European race of the season were the opulent motorhomes of Jaguar and Renault (nee Benetton). This time it is Toyota's smart double-fronted facility that catches the eye, together with the new silver grey Mercedes-Benz support trucks.
The busiest man has probably been Giancarlo Fisichella, belated winner of the Brazilian Grand Prix in Interlagos of fortnight ago, who has found himself besieged by photographers, all of them anxious to capture his expression now that he has (figuratively speaking) reached the top step of the podium.
"San Marino is like my home Grand Prix," the 30 year-old said, "and it is also where I won my first Formula Three race and scored my first points in Formulas One with Jordan in 1997, so I hoped it will bring good fortune. I am coming back to Italy as a Grand Prix winner, 11 years after the last Italian driver won a Formula One race [Riccardo Patrese at Suzuka in 1992] so I am very excited to return to this circuit.
Elsewhere, the teams will run their cars in broadly similar specification to Interlagos, allowing for changes to their mechanical and aerodynamic set-ups, and the big news is that Ferrari will continue to rely on the tried and trusted 2002 championship-winning F2002 rather than the all-new F2003-GA which it had hoped to debut on its home ground.
Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt confirmed: "We will race the old car, which has shown itself still to be very competitive. Unfortunately, circumstances in testing last week did not allow us to achieve the desired results with the new car, so we will keep it to one side."
The problem was rain during testing at Mugello last week, which prevented the team from completing its scheduled programme of development.
"We have a lot of roads to go down with the new car," Rubens Barrichello said. "The rain stopped us completing the work we had expected to do."
Nevertheless, advanced ticket sales suggest that the race will once again be a sell-out as the tifoso flock to the Autodromo Dino e Enzo Ferrari to watch their beloved red cars.