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Thursday preview - Barrichello confident 20 May 2004

Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari gives Jean Todt (FRA) Ferrari Sporting Director a lift through the padddock on his mini scooter.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice, Monte Carlo, 20 May 2004 David Coulthard (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte Carlo, 19 May 2004 Nick Heidfeld (GER) Jordan.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte Carlo, 19 May 2004 Giorgio Pantano (ITA) Jordan signs autographs for the fans.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice, Monte Carlo, 20 May 2004

Rubens Barrichello has dismissed suggestions that Ferrari might struggle against Renault, Williams and BAR in Monaco this weekend and also poured scorn on suggestions that Bridgestone’s tyre is inferior to Michelin’s over a quick lap.

“I don’t think it is a problem at all,” the Brazilian said. “I think there was a particular problem in Imola because the track was a little bit cold and probably the way we went to the grid was a little bit too slow, people were trying to hang back a little bit on the grid and there was a bit of a problem. Apart from that, I don’t think it’s a problem at all. In Barcelona Jarno (Trulli) did a fantastic start but Michael was right up with him for the first lap, so I don’t feel it is a problem at all.”

Barrichello says he feels that the pressure is on Schumacher to win a sixth consecutive 2004 race, “because people are trying to make him win the whole 18, which I think is impossible. There are lots of people trying to win the races, myself included. There are tracks where he’s stronger than others. You have to take your chances whenever they come. He’s been very strong and it’s really good to see that, after all this time, he’s still doing well. As I said, I’m proud to be driving alongside him in a team because I’m really being compared to the best out there. But I don’t fear him. I think my time has to come during the year and hopefully he won’t score as many points whenever I’m scoring.”

Barrichello believes he has his best ever chance of winning the Monaco Grand Prix this year.

Initial impressions of the new pit lane have been positive. Barrichello said: “I think it’s quite good, I like it. I just saw the facilities, I’ve been up there and it’s quite nice to walk from one side to the other and it’s a bit quieter, too. You can stay in there as well and just be quiet. But last year, you tended to walk a little bit and there are a lot of people, but now at least you have a small place where you can stay.”

Olivier Panis, the 1996 race winner, thought: “It’s much bigger compared to last year. I think it’s safer and it looks positive, but wait and see during the race.”

David Coulthard said: “From what I have seen of it, it is significantly better than what we have had in the past. All the cars are up there, you k now, I know that some people probably enjoyed being able to walk up and down and see the cars in the old pit lane complex but it was well behind its time in many respects and now I think it represents a proper pit lane.”

Coulthard also had something to say about the performance of the McLaren MP4-19. “I think in Bahrain I sort of touched on a few areas,” he said. “Obviously there is no substitute for horsepower, there is no substitute for consistent levels of downforce and mechanically understanding the car. That mechanical understanding gives a driver confidence and if a driver is confident you can pull tenths. You know, it is difficult to quantity, but you can gain a lot of time from the feeling that you are driving the car rather than reacting to it. The only area we can’t question at the moment is the tyres, which have clearly been performing perfectly well on other cars. Then it becomes difficult just how much of the Bridgestone performance is the Ferrari and its strengths versus the next best Michelin runner. It is not a one-word answer because it is a combination of the things I mentioned.”

Coulthard also says he is really looking forward to seeing just how well the MP4-19 performs round the tight confines of Monaco, as he chases a third victory here. But perhaps the most quietly optimistic (albeit cautious) man so far is Jarno Trulli. “This is one of the circuits where you just basically have to wait and see because sometimes you are so optimistic and then you hit the track and you are not quite there,” the Renault driver said. “Some other times, where you think it is not the track, you are fast and then eventually you find yourself flying. It has happened to me in the past. But we are actually very optimistic because our car has so far been competitive in every condition, on every track. We are a team which is definitely climbing up in terms of competitiveness, in terms of improving the car. We have to be confident that we can do the job but it’s difficult to beat Ferrari at the moment. But every race is a new story, another race is a new challenge, so you have to go for it.”

Meanwhile, at Jordan, Nick Heidfeld says he is none the worse for wear after his 31g accident t testing at Paul Ricard last week. “It was quite a big shunt but I’m fine,” the young German said. “I just lost the car, and I had a check-up afterwards, but there are no lingering effects. I’m very much looking forward to this race.”

Team mate Giorgio Pantano is hobbling still, however, a legacy of a right knee knock that he took in a charity football match here on Tuesday night, when Prince Albert’s team was playing Michael Schumacher’s. He twisted some ligaments but also says he won’t have any problem driving.