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San Marino - selected driver preview quotes 21 Apr 2004

Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 2 April 2004 Giorgio Pantano (ITA) Jordan.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 3 April 2004 Christian Klien (AUT) Jaguar.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 3 April 2004 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari meets some girls.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 2 April 2004 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Sauber.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 19 March 2004

The Formula One field looks ahead to this weekend’s San Marino Grand Prix at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, the fourth round of the 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams:
“The San Marino Grand Prix marks the start of the European rounds of the Formula One season, which is always nice for the teams as it means less travelling and greater comfort, as we can bring our motorhomes with us! From a technical perspective, Imola is a demanding circuit, with a layout that requires both high downforce and a good engine. In addition to this, when it comes to setting the car up, we always have to take into consideration Imola's high kerbs which can unsettle the car's balance. The colder weather in Imola will make a change from the first three races this season and could affect our rivals' performances. I think the FW26 should perform well, despite the fact that last year's San Marino Grand Prix was not a good race for me. Due to a problem with the fuel rig, I only managed to finish in seventh place, but I'm hoping for better luck this year!"

Ralf Schumacher, Williams:
“I won my first ever Formula One race at San Marino three years ago, so I always like to return to Imola. However, we need to concentrate on this year. At the moment, it is much more important for us to completely focus on improving our package in order to gradually reduce the gap to Ferrari. Miracle should not be expected from us in Imola, but the circuit has always suited our car. During our most recent tests at Barcelona and Paul Ricard, we have made improvements, so I believe we will be able to close the gap to the front runners.”

Cristiano da Matta, Toyota:
"We have had two reasonably productive test sessions since Bahrain, at which we have been working hard to get the most out of our revised package for the San Marino Grand Prix. We ran some new aero parts at Barcelona, but what we are counting on is that a number of small modifications will work well together to give us another step forward. Imola has never been a track that suits our car, particularly with the kerbs, but we did some valuable running at Paul Ricard last week, learning how to adapt the car better to different situations and conditions, so I remain hopeful that our upward curve will continue in Italy this weekend. We are not where we want to be at the moment, but we are working on a race-by-race basis to rectify that and gradually move up the grid."

Olivier Panis, Toyota:
"Our aim for this weekend's San Marino Grand Prix must be to build upon our performance from Bahrain, where we were again unlucky to miss out on championship points. Performance-wise, we have struggled at Imola in the past, but everyone has put in a lot of effort to improve the car since the last race, so we simply have to try and make the most out of the package we have. The positive thing is that everybody is now working very well together as a team. Stability is critical, so together we must keep pushing. From a personal point of view, I have never really enjoyed going to Imola because of the tragic weekend in 1994. This year's event is the 10th anniversary of the accidents of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, so I'm sure their memory will be especially strong this weekend."

Ricardo Zonta, third driver, Toyota:
"We recently completed some tyre tests for the San Marino Grand Prix at Paul
Ricard, so I am sure we have chosen good tyres for this weekend's race. I also did two days at Estoril last week, where we simulated wet weather running together with Michelin. We totalled over 250 laps, easily completing the programme and that could be advantageous for us in Imola, where we are likely to face damp or wet conditions. Obviously there are many pieces to the puzzle, so we have to make sure everything works together. We've come so close to getting points in the last two races, so we just need a bit more luck and I'm sure they are within our reach."

Jarno Trulli, Renault:
(Q: What are the keys for car set-up at Imola?) “The objective remains the same as anywhere else: setting the car up so that it is comfortable for the driver, and as quick as possible. Getting the car to ride well over the kerbs is an important factor at this circuit, and you need to take account of them when getting the car set up, but that is just one factor: you also need good braking stability, and obviously a set-up that enables a good change of direction in the chicanes. The set-up compromise changes according to the circuit conditions, sometimes you will focus on extracting maximum speed from the car, sometimes maximum driveability, but it is always a big technical challenge - maybe not the most exciting circuit for the drivers but technically, it is always tricky to get things exactly right.”

(Q: You have tested the new engine step since Bahrain: what are your impressions?) “The new engine specification is a good development in all areas: there is more power, better torque and overall it is more driveable. We also have some chassis developments - it is harder for a driver to feel those small steps in aero performance, but the stopwatch has confirmed the wind tunnel readings in testing. It is definitely a step forwards.”

(Q: The team comes into this race second in the championship: can you look to build on that position?) “For sure. When we ran at Imola in February the car felt quite good, but we were not running against any of our major rivals at that test. In Imola, we will certainly be looking to maintain the level of competitiveness that we have shown at the first three races, but to do so, we will need a trouble-free weekend. If we can achieve that, then we will be fighting for the podium again.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault:
(Q: Qualifying at the last two races hasn't gone to plan for you: does that change anything in your approach?) “Not at all, no: you have to push to the limit on every lap, especially at a circuit like Imola where overtaking is difficult and grid position crucial. We know what happened in the last two races, but that is over now and all I am concentrating on is the race ahead. When I go out for qualifying this weekend, I will be thinking about how to drive my lap, where I can make up time, how to extract maximum performance from the car; I won't be focusing on what happened three weeks beforehand.”

(Q: From the driver's perspective, what challenges does Imola present?) “Mainly, you need to be very aggressive to get a good lap time: you have to really attack the kerbs with the car in order to be quick. My style is usually quite aggressive, so that suits me well and I have always enjoyed racing at Imola, since I was in F3000. The race itself rewards consistency and you need to be able to get the most out of your car in a few short bursts around the pit-stops to make up positions.”

(Q: What are your expectations for the race?) “I think we can be pretty optimistic going to Imola. We haven't performed to our full potential so far, and to be able to say that, when the team is second in the championship, is very positive. I had a strong race at Imola last year, and our performance was encouraging when we tested there in February. In the last race in Bahrain, I set the second-fastest lap, so that gives an idea of how strong the package is in race conditions. If the weekend runs smoothly, then we can expect to fight strongly for the podium.”

Jenson Button, BAR:
"It's nice to start our European campaign following a couple of podiums and points finishes. We will be hoping to keep the momentum going in Imola. The team are feeling confident and we are making good progress in testing. Our car has shown good reliability at the tests in Barcelona and Paul Ricard which is important. This week in Ricard we achieved 150 laps in a single day, exceeding the total number of laps the team has ever completed in a day's testing. In addition, the speed we have shown is very positive, so I think that we should be quite competitive in Imola. I'm sure that the top teams have also made a good step forward as well. It will be an interesting race weekend.

"Imola is a special place. It has a mix of different types of corners and a few chicanes, and the circuit is quite challenging. I always enjoy racing there and hopefully it should be another good weekend for us."

Takuma Sato, BAR:
"My test plan for today was to complete the preparation for Imola, but I haven't been able to set any timed laps today because the weather hasn't been very good in Paul Ricard. It's disappointing for me as I have only raced in the San Marino Grand Prix once before, in 2002. Having said that, Jenson has had good conditions in which to conduct his testing here, and he has set some good lap times with the package we will be using next weekend, so it looks promising. In addition, from the testing that I conducted in Barcelona last week, I can see that we have taken a good step forward since Bahrain.

"Imola is a unique circuit; a good challenge with lots of high kerbs. The track is quite narrow and there are some tricky corners. I'm looking forward to it."

Mark Webber, Jaguar:
"The first three races were not as rewarding as we would have liked them to have been and so I am really keen to get out onto the European tracks to start showing what the R5 is really capable of. I was pleased with our first Championship point as the Bahrain circuit was very challenging both on the driver and the car and it was much deserved. The track at San Marino is one I know much better, I won there with F3000 in 2001. It's always special as it signals our return to Europe, which after our three fly-aways is very welcome and for me personally I really like Italy and the surrounding area of San Marino. Since Bahrain I have been testing with the team, first in Barcelona and then at Paul Ricard. We have been focusing on the tyres and the general set-up of the car and I am pleased with our progress. Testing is a crucial part of the process and it is often frustrating doing the long-haul races when you can't really get back to work on testing during the week. The team has been doing a good job in the last few weeks working at Milton Keynes (UK) and in Northampton (UK) at Cosworth Racing. I know that people are looking forward to getting back out on track and seeing what progress we have made. Michelin have done an outstanding job over the last three races and we are expecting good things from them on European soil."

Christian Klien, Jaguar:
"I am really excited about going to San Marino and getting the R5 out on track. The circuit is one of my favourites, if not my favourite. I know it quite well as I have done a lot of races there and it really makes a difference when you know the track. The first three races were very demanding and insightful and I am pleased that I managed to finish them all, but when you are always arriving at a new place you spend a lot of time familiarising yourself with the circuit as opposed to preparing the car. Since Bahrain we have been doing extensive testing at different tracks and every lap I do helps me understand more about the R5 and how I can extract the best from it. Now that we have one point for the team I am looking forward to seeing what I can do to add to that total."

Bjorn Wirdheim, third driver, Jaguar:
"I am feeling more and more comfortable with the team as we progress through the season and I am pleased that the European races are now approaching. I know the European circuits because of my F3000 experience. This is going to make my job a lot easier as with my testing role I need to be testing the car not the tracks and the last three race circuits were all new to me. The San Marino track is going to good for us as drivers as we all know the track and this will take a lot of the pressure away, particularly from Christian and I who had been trying to drive and learn the track as quickly as possible. I have been spending some time with the team in Milton Keynes since Bahrain and I have been working alongside my engineer to understand how we are progressing with the R5. Both Mark and Christian have also been testing so it has been a case of all hands on deck in preparation for the next race. We are capable of more points and I will be doing what I can this Friday to support the team in this goal."

Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber:
"Naturally, as an Italian, I love racing at Imola, but it goes deeper than that. It is my home race, I won my first Formula Three race there, and I scored my first Formula One points there with fourth place for Jordan in 1997. And, of course, although my first Formula One victory came in Brazil last year, it was not until Imola that I actually received my trophy! That was a moving and deeply satisfying moment for me. So it is a place that has some good memories for me. There are a lot of fans there, and the atmosphere is very special.

"It's a tough circuit on brakes and you have to use the kerbs a lot, but we have a reliable car and I believe that we will be in good shape. I'm really looking forward to it."

Felipe Massa, Sauber:
"Having raced Formula Renault and Formula 3000 in Italy, and been a Ferrari test driver, I naturally feel a strong affinity with the country and Imola is a track I like. But overtaking there is very, very difficult. That means that doing a good qualifying is super-important, and so is your race strategy.

"It's a very hard circuit on brakes, but that's okay for the driver even though we feel very high G forces under braking, because you do it in a straight line. It's not like places in Sepang, for example, where lateral load is also a factor. What is tough on you at Imola, however, are the kerbs, especially in the chicanes, because they are high and you have to ride over them."

Nick Heidfeld, Jordan:
"The test we had in Silverstone was very positive and I’m pleased that on the days I was driving we were able to do a lot of laps. We concentrated mainly on tyre evaluation and also a few new things on the car - as always you want to test these things more and for longer but I’m fairly happy with how things went. I feel quite positive going into the San Marino Grand Prix and hopefully we will be as competitive as we were at the Imola test earlier in the year, when we were quite close to some of our rivals. It’s a nice track and a special circuit in the calendar. You have to make more use of the kerbs more often than anywhere else and I hope the car will cope well with that. My experience so far this season has been an upwards curve, with the problems that stopped me finishing the first races and then spending much of the third race working to understand the tyres. It seems to be going the right way so I hope this weekend we will continue to move ahead.”

Giorgio Pantano, Jordan:
“The test was good as it helped me with more time in the car. I am glad we are about to start racing in Europe, where I know the circuits a little bit more. San Marino is like my home race and I have tested at Imola in the Jordan Ford EJ14 before in both wet and dry conditions so this should be better for me than the first three races. With the right conditions and the right set-up I know I can find the pace. We understand the car better and we can get further up the grid like we did in practice in Bahrain. If we find a good balance, I feel good with the car and that is improving all the time."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
“We always do well at Imola and I hope that we are able to live up to our billing as favourites. We shouldn’t be too relaxed. Testing took place when it was very cold and this contributed to us setting fast times. Also, I think that the other teams have improved a lot since then and so I don’t think that the difference between us and them will be that great. However, if things turn out as they did during testing, I sure won’t be complaining!

“Resting on our laurels serves no purpose; it will only lead to defeat. We always have to look a few steps ahead and continually improve and this is something that regards everyone. Even at Ferrari there is a lot that we can still improve. The European stages begin now and it is from here on that teams develop more consistency. We certainly can't relax in a period like this.”

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari:
“I’ve had a busy schedule since Bahrain, carrying out sponsorship duties for the team in Rome and Lisbon and of course I have also been involved in pre-San Marino testing. In Barcelona, the test was slightly inconclusive as I had a small problem with the F2004. But later at Fiorano, I got more running – one day in the wet and one in the dry - and the car felt good and we were able to evaluate new parts that we will use in Imola.

“I really enjoyed the first three races, but the big plus of being back in Europe is having less travelling time, especially when it comes to Monaco! This weekend of course is special, as Ferrari is racing at home in front of all its fans and I am looking forward to that. I am excited at the prospect of this race, even though it is a weekend when everyone is going to be talking about Ayrton. But as I have said before, I just hope that people will be celebrating his life and remembering all the good things about him. Imola is the place where he got killed, but we have to remember his achievements and I am going there in a positive frame of mind. Also, we should not forget that Roland Ratzenberger lost his life that weekend too.

“Imola was a track with very fast, nice corners, with a long straight that provided plenty of overtaking. We have seen some great dices there in the past, with Pironi and Villeneuve or Ayrton and Prost. But today, you need at least a half second per lap advantage to be able to pass another car. However, the track is still very challenging, as there is no other circuit where you have to be so aggressive driving over the kerbs. Therefore from a technical point of view it is very difficult to set-up the car and make it quick and consistent. That makes it exciting, but its general characteristic is stop and go. But it is the variety of tracks that makes the championship so challenging and I am confident that we will have a good weekend.”

David Coulthard, McLaren:
“Since Bahrain we have been testing at both Barcelona and Paul Ricard. We’ve had some encouraging sessions and I’m looking forward to getting back to racing after the three-week break. The San Marino Grand Prix often sees memorable races with good battles so hopefully it will be an exciting weekend. I enjoy driving at Imola, it has some excellent corners, including Piratella and Acque Minerali, and, despite the revisions that have been made over the years, the circuit is still an interesting technical challenge. It has a good combination of low and high speed corners, which in addition to the long straights means we use a medium downforce set-up. Another factor of the race is that we run in an anti-clockwise direction, whereas we normally go clockwise. This means our bodies are under different stresses, particularly the neck, as most of the corners are left-handers, rather than right.”

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
“Obviously it has not been an ideal start for me or the team so far this year, but I am looking forward to the start of the European season in San Marino. Imola is a good track to drive, and the Tifosi certainly make for an enthusiastic and interesting atmosphere! There is limited overtaking though, the best chance is probably through the Tosa hairpin, however the two chicanes along the Tamburello on the approach have made it more tricky. Now we are back in Europe, the races are likely to be cooler and Imola itself often sees wet/dry races, which can lead to exciting on-track action.”