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Italian Grand Prix - selected preview quotes 09 Sep 2004

(L to R): Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari talks with Nick Heidfeld (GER) Jordan.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary, 15 August 2004 David Coulthard (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 28 August 2004 (L to R): Gianmaria Bruni (ITA) Minardi with team mate Zsolt Baumgartner (HUN) Minardi.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary, 15 August 2004 Giorgio Pantano (ITA) Jordan in the garage.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 28 August 2004

The men behind the wheel share their thoughts on racing at one of the most emotive venues on the Formula One racing calendar and discuss their prospects for the coming Grand Prix weekend.

Nick Heidfeld, Jordan:
"It was good to get back into testing again as we test less than other teams so our days are really important. We have got some good information in preparation for the race and we were able to test quite a few things but as is always the way, you want a bit more time to get deeper into evaluating things. Monza is a special circuit because it's high speed and offers good overtaking opportunities. It has a lot of history and tradition and really stands out compared to other tracks. For us it's going to be a challenge but with the test last week we have a slight head start compared to other races."

Giorgio Pantano, Jordan:
"I feel very good to be racing in Monza at my home Grand Prix. I am looking forward to it and I would really like to have a good race there because there will be a lot of people who have come to see me. As a boy I went to Monza quite a few times to watch the race and I always did quite well there in the three years I did F3000. I am happy we are going there also because I like the circuit. It's a fast one, one of the quickest ones we race at. Testing last week was good: we mainly tested tyres for the Italian Grand Prix and it went pretty well."

Timo Glock, third driver, Jordan:
"It was a fairly good test at Monza although I would have liked a bit more time. I did a test here with Porsche at the beginning of the year, but I discovered it's totally different in F1. It looks like an easy circuit but it's very difficult in F1 because you have really low downforce. I spent a lot of time discussing it with the engineers and ideally I need a long run there to get into the rhythm but that wasn't part of our test programme. At least I have a bit of a head start for the Grand Prix weekend as I know where I need to improve."

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams:
“We had a productive three day test in Monza this week where we managed to complete our scheduled programme, so I am confident that we will have a good race weekend in Italy. Monza is always special to me because I had my first Formula One victory there in 2001. It was a really great feeling to be on the top step of the podium on Ferrari's home ground! We should be able to perform well in Monza this year because the circuit suits our chassis and engine package and both Antonio and I like the track. I always like going to Italy, the people are friendly, the weather is usually good and the food is just brilliant. After the disappointing outcome of the Belgian Grand Prix, our aim remains to collect as many points as possible. We proved we could do it, but we just need a bit more luck!”

Antonio Pizzonia, Williams:
“After the disappointment of missing my first Formula One podium finish in Spa, I am very happy to be racing in another Grand Prix, especially on this track which I really enjoy. I have raced in Monza twice in F3000, but never in an F1 car, and I just can't wait. Having tested on this track for three days, I should be in the best possible position to race here. This is one of the most exciting races on the calendar because it offers a lot of overtaking opportunities, like on the long start-finish straight where you can slip stream and pass at the first corner. We have a good engine for the long straights and our car is really good over the kerbs and under braking, which is all you need here.”

Jarno Trulli, Renault:
(Q: You had a very difficult race in Spa: how do you bounce back from that?) “I am sure things will go much better in Monza. When you have a result like Spa, you need to have the confidence in yourself to bounce back, and I do. This is my home race, so I will have a lot of supporters and that brings added motivation, not pressure. The team have responded brilliantly to build a completely new car for this race, so I just hope I can get back to a normal level of performance at this race.”

(Q: When you are working on the set-up, what are the important areas?) “The car is very light to drive: the downforce levels are extremely low, and that has an effect under braking and acceleration, not just in the corners. You have to brake very early compared to any other circuit, and the car is more nervous as well. We also have to get the right tyre choice, and find the right combination of consistency and performance. But overall, whatever areas we focus on, our aim is the same as at any other circuit: the find a good balance which gives the driver the confidence to push the car to the limit.”

(Q: Finally, how competitive can the R24 be? The circuit has a lot of similarities to Montreal, where the team was very quick.) “We have focused on obtaining a good car set-up during testing so that on the race weekend itself, we are ready to attack and run an aggressive weekend. Over the past two years, our car has suited Monza well, and we should have the baseline performance to fight for the podium. If we can put ourselves in that position, then anything can happen in the race, especially with the heavy braking into the chicanes and the potential for incidents.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault:
(Q: What are your feelings as we approach the Italian Grand Prix?) “I am feeling strong and confident for this race. In Spa, I had a reliability problem that prevented me from finishing the race, but things were looking very good until then: I had started pulling away from Raikkonen's McLaren, and we were running similar fuel loads. In terms of racing in Italy, this will be a little bit like having another home race for me - I have spent a lot of time in Italy, and feel like I am at home whenever I come here. Monza is a unique place, a special place, to race, and the fans are always passionate. I am looking forward to the challenge.”

(Q: How do you approach the circuit from a driver's point of view?) “We run the lowest downforce levels of the year at Monza, and you need to be very precise with the car. You can't make any mistakes under braking or in the corners, and if you do, it could give your competitors the opportunity to overtake as you lose speed down the straights. We worked hard during the test last week to get the car balanced properly, and we have found a set-up that we are happy with, so hopefully I can feel comfortable with the car straight away.”

(Q: Finally, what are your hopes in terms of the results of this race?) “We always say that we want to wait and see, but obviously after the Monza test, we have a better idea than usual of where we are compared to the competition. Overall, that the car should suit this circuit, and we were competitive in terms of straightline speed during testing. It is always hard to make predictions, but we should certainly be fighting for the podium. It won't be easy and there will still be work to do on Friday to adapt the car to the conditions, and get the tyres working correctly. If we can do that, then we should be very strong in the race.”

Jenson Button, BAR:
"I am looking forward to racing in Monza. The atmosphere is always great over the race weekend. Monza is a low-downforce circuit and our car should work well on this track. Our main aim is to finish in front of the Renaults and collect as many points as possible to edge closer to second place in the Constructors' Championship."

Takuma Sato, BAR:
"It was obviously frustrating that we could not finish the race last weekend in Spa and that is why we are very much looking forward to the Italian Grand Prix. It is great to be back in Monza this week after the summer testing ban and we have some very positive feedback about the car. Monza is an historic circuit and the only one where you can reach speeds of up to 360 kph. It is a circuit of long straights and chicanes, where you have to climb the kerbs a lot and where you have little downforce and need good mechanical grip. It is very important to have good braking stability as there are few overtaking opportunities. Even though there are no fast challenging corners, it is always an exciting race in Monza so I am really looking forward to racing there next week."

Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber:
"The last race in Spa was tough for us but also very satisfying, and we surely deserved this great result. We made a really good step forward at Spa. There is a little bit more pressure on me at Monza because it is one of my home tracks, but when I have that extra weight of expectation on my shoulders I am very concentrated. I won a few times at Monza in F3, but my best ever result in F1 there came in 1997 when I was fourth for Jordan.

"It is quite a difficult track with the low downforce because you have very poor grip in the braking area for the chicanes. You have to use the kerbs a lot and that can upset the car and is a little bit rough in the cockpit, but the kerbs aren't as bad as they used to be. Both chicanes are difficult, while the parabolica is a crucial corner because a really good line there and a clean exit can help you build very good speed for the main straight."

Felipe Massa, Sauber:
"In Spa I had my best ever finish of my Formula One career and this showed that we are perfectly capable of scoring such a result with determination and teamwork. I also think that tracks like Spa suit my style and Monza is a nice place, too. It's a low downforce circuit, so it's not so easy when you are braking because there is less stability and you are braking from 360 kph. It's an interesting track, one of the oldest in F1, so Monza is part of the sport's history. It's a great race, with a lot of possibilities for overtaking. It's a simple circuit, but still a challenge. I like driving there. The track is tough on engines and brakes, because you are at full throttle for so much of the lap.

"I have some nice memories of Monza. I won an Italian Formula Renault race there in 2000, and the same weekend I also won a European Championship race there in the same category. I also won there in European F3000 in 2001."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
“Naturally, we hope to continue this marvellous season with a win at Monza. It will not be a walk in the park, as was proved at testing. The other teams are improving and will make it tough for us but it is our home race and this is an extra motivation. There should be huge crowds yet again. I cannot promise that this will be enough to win – this is sport, after all – but I can say that each of us will give our all, as always, hoping for a great celebration in the afternoon.”

Ricardo Zonta, Toyota:
"To show everyone we could run fourth at Spa was a great confidence-booster both for me and for the team. I have a much better feel for the car in race conditions and I know how hard I can push to get the best out of the whole TF104B package. Now we head to Monza where I believe Panasonic Toyota Racing has a greater chance of doing well than at some of the slow speed tracks. But we still need to work hard in order to get into the points. The Italian Grand Prix is the last European race of the year, so I hope we can get a good result to build up the momentum before the new-look season finale in China, Japan and Brazil."

Olivier Panis, Toyota:
"I am very positive about this weekend's Italian Grand Prix. We have a very strong engine, so that should certainly help us on Monza's long straights, and the TF104B is an improved chassis aerodynamically, which will be advantageous. If we have consistent tyres again and we race without any problems we should be able to score points. It's difficult to judge how competitive the other teams will be this weekend based on last week's extensive Monza test because we do not know in which configurations everyone else was running. However, following on from our single point in Spa, our objective as a team is to move up the constructors' championship. At the moment we are in eighth place, so we must try our best to reduce the gap to the top six."

Ryan Briscoe, third Driver, Toyota:
"I have raced only twice at Monza, but it's a track I know well from testing. I've enjoyed my first two races as Panasonic Toyota Racing's third driver. Friday is a busy day and arguably the most important of the weekend because we have limited time to do a lot of work. We have to make quick decisions, be very quick with set-up changes and get as much running with the car as possible. All teams come to Monza with a certain amount of data from last week's test, but even though we tested the Michelin tyres, the temperatures might be different and there will be different amounts of rubber on the track, so we will have to go through the whole programme and make the choice as normal."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
"I am really looking forward to racing again at Monza this weekend following the result at Spa. The car was running really well, as the win and fastest race lap demonstrated, and hopefully we will be up there at the front again. Monza has seen some real battles in the past and it would be nice to continue that trend this weekend. Although there have been many changes to the track, it is still awesome to drive, with its fast, sweeping corners, such as Parabolica, and the long straights, however they are of course now broken up by chicanes, which themselves need good traction. Parabolica is actually one of the most important sections of the track, it is great fun to drive as you are on the absolute limit. We scrub off 50% of our speed as we brake from the straight to negotiate the corner, however it is crucial to maintain as much speed as possible through here, as it takes us back onto the main straight."

David Coulthard, McLaren:
"After the overall performance we demonstrated as a team at Spa, it was great to get back testing at Monza last week to help us to continue to push forward. It was a positive test and hopefully we will be able to challenge for podium positions again. Monza is the fastest track we visit during the course of the season, with an average speed of 254.848 kph and a top speed of 350 kph. Although it is an out and out power circuit, precision is vital. Because we run with such low downforce, any errors are magnified, especially on corner entries and over the bumps in the track surface. We also use the kerbs a lot at Monza, primarily through the chicanes and this sees us running with a softer than normal mechanical set-up to optimise the performance of the cars in this area."

Mark Webber, Jaguar:
"The last of the European races has come around very quickly and it's probably one of the best on the calendar in terms of excitement. Monza is a great track when it comes to challenges for the drivers and teams. You need to master the corners very quickly if you want to make up a few tenths. The track itself can be quite tough on the cars so you need to have done your homework and be well prepared. We have been preparing ourselves by carrying out a three-day test last week at the track and I have no doubt that this will stand us in good stead. The test allowed us to work on tyre compounds and general race set-up. The track conditions can change frequently there so it is good going into the race with so much mileage and thus data already under our belt. I am particularly looking forward to this weekend as I like Italy, the atmosphere is electric and the fans arrive in there thousands. The passion for the sport is evident and it makes racing there all the more special. The team has done a good job in their preparation so it would be great to give them some points back in return for their efforts."

Christian Klien, Jaguar:
"After finishing sixth and scoring my maiden F1 Championship points in Belgium just under two-weeks ago, I am really keen to get back out on track this weekend in Monza. My first experience of this Italian track was two years ago when I had a test day in a Formula Renault. Fortunately Jaguar Racing chose to test there last week so I had another three- days to actually experience the track in a Formula One car. The circuit seems less complicated than Spa although there are some tricky corners. My three-day test was a real bonus for me as I am on confident about the layout and the circuit challenges going into the race weekend. The R5 has proved itself reliable, fast and also a point's contender. I am now really keen to keep pushing and score more points."

Bjorn Wirdheim, third driver, Jaguar:
"This is one of my favourite circuits on the calendar. I have some great memories of racing here over the years and since my last two races here in F3000 saw me win, I definitely have a special feeling for this place. The track is really fast and there are a couple of corners that you have got to get right, otherwise you will be getting too close to the gravel- trap for comfort. I conducted a test here last year with the Jordan Formula One team so I am pleased to have already had the opportunity to experience the track in a Formula One car. It's going to be really good to get back out in the R5 and push the car through those bends. The Ascari corner can be pretty tricky so I suspect that there should be some fun on track this weekend and also a good race. Looking ahead to Friday I will be focusing on tyres and general set-up. The three-day test that was conducted last week has already helped the team and both Mark and Christian immensely."