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Italian Grand Prix - selected preview quotes 10 Sep 2003

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Jordan.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, German Grand Prix, Preparations, Hockenheim, Germany, 31 July 2003

Giancarlo Fisichella, Jordan:
"Monza is in Italy and a grand prix in my country makes the event special. One of my dreams has always been to finish on the highest step of the podium here. I do not think that this particular dream will come true this year, but I was thinking the same on the eve of the race in Brazil, so you never know. One dream which I wish to materialise, though, is for everything to be reliable and give me the chance to have a shot at scoring some points."

Ralph Firman, Jordan:
"After the disappointment of missing last week's test, I will have a lot of work to do to learn the circuit on Friday morning. But I'm really looking forward to it because Monza is such a famous venue and a quick track, which I like. I know it's a very important weekend for the team coming on the fourth anniversary of their win here and also for Giancarlo on home ground. But for myself I just want to put in a solid performance, qualify and finish as well as possible and it would be just great to score a point or two at this critical part of the season."

Olivier Panis, Toyota:
"Monza is a very high speed circuit, in fact the fastest on the calendar, and one I enjoy racing on because in the past there have been some good on-track battles. We did some good work at the test in preparation for this weekend's race after an unrewarding race in Hungary. At Monza, it is very important to get a good compromise between mechanical grip and low downforce levels. We need good mechanical grip over the kerbs but at the same time you need to have minimum downforce to be quick in a straight-line. I think we should perform reasonably well at the Italian Grand Prix, but the picture will be clearer by Friday lunchtime."

Cristiano da Matta, Toyota:
"The three-day test in Monza was my first time around the track in an F1 car, and whilst it is a very fast track, I don't find it as technically challenging as some others on the calendar. Even so, I am looking forward to this weekend's race. I completed over 200 laps at the test, which means I can get down to business immediately on Friday without having to spend free practice learning my way around the circuit. With only three races left, our objectives still remain to get in the top half of the grid and to score more championship points. We are determined to end the season on a high note."

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams:
"Monza is a good track for me. I've been on pole twice and I also achieved my first Formula One victory there. We looked quite strong while testing at Monza this week, which makes us quite confident for the race weekend.

"I like being in Italy and I spent some time there in 1990, when I was racing in the Kart Junior World Championship in Lonato, near Brescia. I learned the language and I can understand Italian quite well now. The people are so friendly and passionate about Formula One that the atmosphere at the Autodromo is really special! There will obviously be a lot of Ferrari fans at the track so it would be very nice to score another victory at their home circuit, but Ferrari are also looking good for the race.

"My main focus now is scoring points and finishing the remaining races in front of my main rivals, Michael and Kimi. It's going to be a very, very interesting race."

Ralf Schumacher, Williams:
"After my accident at the test in Monza this week, the most important thing for me now is to concentrate on getting back to one hundred percent fitness. The accident as such does not bother me and I do not have any concerns that I will not be fit for the race next weekend.

"I love the race at Monza, not only because the BMW engine gives us an advantage for the several long, full throttle sections, but also because I find the changes between the fast and slow sections quite interesting. It is necessary to drive through the chicanes with absolute precision in order to gain as much momentum as possible to take with you onto the faster parts of the circuit. This includes driving over the curbs properly, if you don't your car jumps and you lose time.

"For this race, my goal is to try to keep my slim chance in the Drivers' Championship alive. However, it is even more important to perform as a team and to defend our lead in the Constructors' Championship."

Nick Heidfeld, Sauber:
"I remember that it was at Monza that I first fulfilled myself as a budding Formula One driver. In one of my very early tests for McLaren I set the fastest time of the day after only five laps of a session, which was tremendously satisfying.

"Monza is a special place. Now that Hockenheim has changed it is the last track with very high-speed straights where you run very low downforce, and as a result you have good overtaking chances under braking.

"I don't understand why people are anti-chicane, because chicanes are part of motorsport and there are three of them at Monza. I preferred the old layout of the first one, but the new one is safer. Those at Monza are a good compromise and you have to jump over the kerbs a bit at the second one. They have smoothed the kerbs off a lot, and that has made things more comfortable for both the driver and the car.

"The speed at Monza is something that you immediately adjust to, but the braking always requires maximum concentration. It's a great challenge that you really look forward to, and I hope that the changes we have made to the car for the race will pay big dividends this weekend."

Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Sauber:
"Power and aerodynamic efficiency are the keys to performance at Monza. But because the layout is relatively simple and less demanding than some other places, you can really concentrate on what you are doing at the wheel, trying to be very precise. And when you are running very little downforce you have to be very delicate because the car is moving around a lot. It's a huge difference to the Hungaroring, say, where you are running maximum downforce.

"We have a lot of aerodynamic modifications for the C22 for this race, and after our recent performance there in testing I am looking forward to a competitive weekend."

Jacques Villeneuve, BAR:
"Monza is one of the places I know best in the calendar because I used to race there when I was in Formula Three. The people are very passionate about racing and it's a special place to compete. The track itself is very different to most other circuits. There are long straight lines between the corners, so you are almost less active and have time to relax. The last corner, Parabolica, is quite special. It's very difficult; visually you don't want to go there as there is a real danger element, and it's a difficult corner to get right. You can always go faster there than you actually do. Technically, you need support for the high-speed corners, but a set-up that can ride the kerbs at the tight chicanes. It's the only track which has very low downforce and so the car is lighter than the rest of the year."

Jenson Button, BAR:
"Monza is one of the original tracks and is obviously very historical. It's very high-speed, and very different from most on the calendar today. For those reasons, it is a race that I really enjoy. The Italian fans are great, they always really get into the spirit of things and give the race a special atmosphere. For me, the best part of the circuit is the last corner, Parabolica. It's a great section to drive and is really fast and flowing. The most difficult part of the circuit is the left-right-left corner, Ascari. The car looked good on the track this week at the test and we've just got to work a little more to get the set-up right for race day."

Mark Webber, Jaguar:
"Another three-week period between races is frustrating when we are this near to the end of the Championship and the positions are so close. However with that said, we have made the most of the time available and we have been testing in Monza in preparation for the race weekend and I have also been working on my fitness. The team has been working hard at the factory in preparation for our last European race and it will no doubt be exciting for us the drivers and the spectators. The circuit at Monza is a great track to race on and we know it fairly well. There are some good long straights and some challenging chicanes which all make for an entertaining afternoon of racing. Although we managed to test there last week we will also be looking to make the most of Friday-testing, as you can never have too much data. During the test last week we spent some time on the Monza set-up and of course we are also looking at the last two remaining races. I am looking forward to getting back on the track and racing and let's hope we can keep on challenging BAR and Toyota for fifth position in the Constructors Championship."

Justin Wilson, Jaguar:
"It's hard to believe that I'm on to my third race with the team already. I spent last week in Monza testing with them so it was certainly good to get a few more miles under my belt before the race. I like Monza it's a challenging track and I managed a podium there when I was in F3000. The team has been working really hard over the three-week break and I in turn have been working hard on my fitness. I am enjoying my time with the team and we are making steps forward. I know they had a podium here last year but to be honest, if I can finish the race I will be a happy man."

Jarno Trulli, Renault:
(Q: For an Italian, what does it mean to be racing at Monza?) "I'm definitely looking forward to this year's race. First of all, racing in Italy means lots of my fans can get to the race, and it is always nice to see your supporters in the stands! As well as that, I think we have a good chance of running well this year: the car is very competitive at the moment."

(Q: Generally, you are a fan of the more technical circuits, while the layout at Monza seems relatively simple. What is it like to drive?) "You need to be comfortable with the car, and get it well-balanced under braking and in the changes of direction. Good straight-line speed is critical. At Monza, though, the low levels of downforce mean we have to drive more smoothly: we are usually right on the limit in terms of grip, and any small sideways moment can be more difficult to control."

(Q: Last year, you raced from the back of the grid to fourth place. Can we expect as strong a performance in 2003?) "It is always difficult to make predictions, but I know for sure that I hope we don't start from the back this time! The car has been very quick recently, as we have seen at the last few races: the circuits in Germany and Hungary were very different, but we were fast at both. I think the whole team is confident of getting a good result."

Fernando Alonso, Renault:
(Q: You spent a lot of time in Italy when you were starting out in racing: is it a special feeling to race at Monza?) "Sure - I have spent a lot of time living in Italy, and I even started my F1 career with an Italian team. I love the culture, and the people: I really feel at home there whenever I go back. Monza is a unique circuit to race on, and the passion of the fans makes the weekend even more special."

(Q: And what does it mean to be going there with you first Grand Prix win under your belt?) "It's a fantastic feeling, but that was three weeks ago: we are focusing on the job ahead now. The win was a big boost for the team, because they have been working flat out all year, at Enstone and Viry, and now we have a real reward to show for it. For me personally, it was a great achievement... but we are looking forwards, and Monza is going to be a tough race."

(Q: So, after testing last week, how competitive can you be?) "We had a good test last week, and managed to do lots of work on tyres and set-ups. Nobody is going there expecting to repeat what we did in Hungary, but we are confident of scoring points at every circuit this season. We have found a good compromise on set-up, the car is good through the high-speed corners and well-balanced. There are still two extra hours to fine-tune some things on Friday, so I think we can have a strong race for sure."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
"After almost four days of testing at this circuit, I am confident about this weekend's race. Last week's testing was very promising and I think I can fight for the win. The layout is very similar to Montreal, where we won and also the F2003-GA goes very well on high speed circuits. Obviously, we cannot promise anything and given the competitiveness of our rivals the race is bound to be very close. But I can say that we will do our utmost so that our fans can celebrate with us."

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari:
"Bridgestone has done a lot of work and I am confident we have taken a step forward on this element of the package. The results mean I am quite optimistic for the end of the season. Having said that, I think it will be a good fight between the top four teams, which are all very close now in performance terms. This will be especially true at Monza, where the characteristics of the track will make the competition even closer between us. It's going to be an exciting race."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
"I am looking forward to getting back to racing at the Italian Grand Prix this week following the result at Hungary, which has totally closed-up the Drivers' Championship. The whole team is working very hard and will be giving 100 per cent for the rest of the season. The last three races of the year are going to be very exciting and they all take place at good circuits. Monza is a great high speed challenge and is a fun track to drive. The main features of the circuit are the bumps, the quick chicanes and the long, fast straights. These characteristics mean we run with very low downforce, so you will see very small wings on the cars at Monza. This means we can reach top speeds of 220mph / 350km/h along the main straight. There is usually an incident at the start of the race as the grid blasts along the wide start-finish straight at these speeds and then brakes sharply for the right Rettifilio Chicane, so hopefully we will qualify well to avoid this!"

David Coulthard, McLaren:
"Monza, or the Autodromo Nazionale as it is known to the locals, is a circuit that always provides good racing. It has a number of genuine challenges, for example the awesome Parabolica, which is perhaps the most crucial section of the track. It is important to blend into the main straight carrying as much speed as possible as you sling shot out of the sweeping right hander to ensure that valuable tenths are not lost. The race has traditionally been a one stopper, however the current regulations may see a change to this trend. Monza is the home of the tifosi and although we are not the main focus of their attentions, they are a very colourful and lively feature of the race and help to create an enthusiastic atmosphere. Kimi, Alex and myself were testing last week at Monza in the MP4-17D, with work focusing on set-up and general preparation for the race, along with some new developments for the car. It was a good session and we are now looking forward to the race and securing valuable points for Team McLaren Mercedes' Championship challenge."