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The drivers preview San Marino 20 Apr 2005

Mark Webber (AUS) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 1 April 2005 David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB1 in the pits.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, First Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 2 April 2005 Michael Schumacher (GER), Ferrari. Formula One Testing, Barcelona, Spain, Day Two, Friday 8 April 2005. World © McNeil/Sutton Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 1 April 2005

The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari awaits

The men in the cockpit give their predictions for this weekend’s race at Imola, the first round of the European season and the fourth of the 2005 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Mark Webber, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 8th, 2004 Race - 13th

“Imola has been a good track to me in the past. I won there once in Formula 3000, and added to that, I always enjoy going to Italy, it is one of my favourite countries. The atmosphere in that track is very, very good, partly because of its setting tucked in the little mountains among the trees, making it a very picturesque setting. The circuit is one you instantly enjoy racing on and of course our team have a pretty good record in Imola. The only possible downside is the weather and at this time of year, it often rains and the ambient temperatures are quite low, but normally it's a good time of year to be in a nice part of the world.”

Nick Heidfeld, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 16th, 2004 Race - DNF

“The test we had at Paul Ricard last week, and in Barcelona the week before, were positive and are a good lead into this Grand Prix weekend. As a consequence, we have several new parts on the cars that we validated during the two tests and Michelin having been working flat out to provide us with the best possible tyre. I feel positive going into the San Marino Grand Prix and starting the European season. Imola is a nice track and a special circuit to open this part of the calendar. Turning to the track, you have to make more use of the curbs more often than anywhere else which is a real mechanical challenge for the cars. I will have a brand new engine for the next race, unlike many of the other drivers, which makes me a bit more confident for the upcoming weekend.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 9th, 2004 Race - 5th

"Before the start of the 2005 season I never thought I'd be coming back to Europe in second place in the world championship. But thanks to a lot of hard work from the whole of the Panasonic Toyota Racing team that is the fantastic situation we are in. Expectations are obviously very high now but we have to keep our feet on the ground. Despite the fact that I'm racing at home, I'm not a particular fan of the Imola circuit. The most important factors for performance are braking stability and traction, but the weather will be colder than the last two races and in the past Toyota has struggled over the kerbs. Still, the TF105 has improved a lot and with further aerodynamic updates coming for the weekend, we should aim to score more points. That would be a good result."

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 5th, 2004 Race - 7th

"I always enjoy returning to Imola. I took my first ever F1 win there in 2001 and I have enjoyed success at the track ever since - both in the races and qualifying. It would be nice to think I can maintain that record this year with Toyota, even if Imola has not been a kind circuit to the team in the past. It is one of the most technically demanding tracks on the calendar, with lots of long straights and slow corners. That means the brakes take a pounding but our braking performance was strong in Bahrain so we should be confident. Jarno and the team have done a magnificent job to score two podiums in a row, but after fifth in Malaysia and fourth in Bahrain, logic suggests the next podium should be mine! That's certainly what I'll be aiming for."

David Coulthard, Red Bull
2004 Qualifying - 11th, 2004 Race - 12th

"I won't bore you with all the 'Imola is a difficult track, car must ride the kerbs, have to be aggressive, overtaking is difficult, blah blah blah,' as I'm sure you have heard it a thousand times before. I like the fact we are back in Europe. My track record at Imola isn't too shabby, with one pole, one win, two second places and a third. Any of those results might be hard to achieve this weekend, as although the car has evolved since testing after Bahrain, I doubt that the teams currently ahead of us have been sitting on their hands for the last fortnight. I hope Tonio enjoys his F1 debut on home soil and I will enjoy letting him be the centre of attention with the media!"

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Red Bull
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"This weekend will be awesome and I am very excited about driving my first grand prix in Italy. It will be unbelievable and it will be good to have the support of the crowd, as my home town is only a couple of hours drive away. I don't feel stressed or under pressure, because Red Bull Racing has always shown confidence and belief in me, and in Christian. I feel excited about my GP debut but I'm quite relaxed. The fact that I won here in F3000 last year is another reason to be in a positive frame of mind. Although I have been driving on Fridays this year, there will be some new challenges this weekend. I think I will be okay with one lap qualifying, as I have practiced it during tests and I was good at it in karting. I will be the first man out in the Friday qualifying, which means I will have a dirty track and I will just have to do the best I can. The biggest challenge will be the whole weekend, especially the race itself which is much longer than I was used to in F3000. This is Formula One and I am sure my heart will be beating faster than usual on Sunday afternoon."

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 19th, 2004 Race - 9th

“Imola is a selective circuit, and I think it rewards a complete car that is strong in all areas: a comfortable chassis, strong engine and good tyres. The slow corners mean you need good traction, and straights need aero efficiency and plenty of power, while there are quick corners as well where you need a good chassis. You also need to be good over the kerbs, and the R25 is: it rides them well, and gives the drivers enough confidence to really attack a lot. I think the car will be at ease there, and from a personal point of view, I have more performance to find: I still need to work on finding a perfect balance so I can exploit the potential of the car. So far we have been very strong and from my point of view, there is more to come.

“Looking at the Michelin teams, Toyota have been our main competitors, and I am sure they will be strong: they have been good at two different types of track now, so why not Imola? The other big concern for us is Ferrari. I think they will be very, very competitive - we already saw that in Bahrain when Michael (Schumacher) was close to Fernando (Alonso). Now that they have had to time to develop the car, for sure we will have a tough job to stay ahead.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 6th, 2004 Race - 4th

“Imola is a very tough circuit for the suspension: we hit the kerbs hard, and the car needs to be able to cope with that. The drivers must be aggressive through the corners, which I like, and it is impossible to relax: if you get the line wrong over the kerbs, you will be in the gravel trap or the barrier. You also need to find good mechanical grip in the slow corners, traction on the exit and a strong engine down the short straights. So far, the R25 has been competitive on all the types of circuit we have visited; I expect it will continue in San Marino.”

Narain Karthikeyan, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"The test at Paul Ricard last week went very well. We did a lot of work trying to find the right Bridgestone tyres for San Marino but also for the next European races. We have also tested some new parts for the car and we are definitely making some progress. I did a lot of kilometres and I am particularly happy with my fitness. I do not really know what to expect from Imola because out of the Jordan drivers, I am the only one that has never driven on this circuit. It looks like I will need to use the kerbs a lot to get a good time, which will probably be a bit tricky. But having said that, Malaysia was also difficult, however I did well there so I am ready for the challenge and I will give my best."

Tiago Monteiro, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"The two-day test we had at Paul Ricard was quite successful and interesting. We worked on some tyre construction with Bridgestone and I think we are on the right direction. It was difficult to have a proper idea, as we were the only Bridgestone runners at the test. We also tested different pieces for the car not only for Imola but also for the forthcoming races. It was definitely a good test and a good motivation to move on and push harder every time. Imola is not an easy circuit for the kind of car we have at the moment but generally I like this type of track. It will be very bumpy on the kerbs and very violent. Reliability throughout the weekend will again be very important and we will make sure we will keep on doing a good job as we have done since the beginning of the season and have a good result at the end."

Robert Doornbos, third driver, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"I am really looking forward to Imola because it is the first round in Europe. I know the circuit very well, as it is where I had my first success in F3000. I really enjoy driving there. It is a special track because you really need to set up the car for the high kerbstones and this will be a challenge for the drivers and the team. The three-week gap seems an eternity; I cannot wait to drive on Friday."

Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"In Bahrain the car was stronger and I could drive more aggressively so that's encouraging for Imola. I am looking forward to going there after a good race where I almost got points so hopefully I will get them this time. Imola is a very different track; it's got numerous chicanes and the curves are particular so the driving style is different. There are a lot of difficult corners as well and it's a very demanding track for the engine and brakes so it will be a little bit difficult for everyone I think. In addition to this, there is still room for improvement on the set-up side so I will be working even harder with my engineers to help the car go faster in this first European race of the season. However, it seems that we are going in the right direction, so that's positive."

Felipe Massa, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - 10th, 2004 Race - 12th

"I like Imola very much, because I have won races there in Formula Renault and Formula 3000. It has a wonderful ambiance and a lot of character and history. The only problem is that it is so very difficult to pass anyone there. Qualifying is therefore even more important than usual.

"The circuit has very high kerbs and being able to ride them is the key to a fast lap, so we always run with a slightly higher ride height to cater for this. There isn't really any penalty in lap time, but it's a little bit of a compromise. Imola is also quite bumpy these days, especially on the pit straight. We were scheduled to do a three-day test there prior to Melbourne, but after one day we got snowed off. However, in that day we were able to start establishing a set-up baseline for the Sauber Petronas C24 and to get a feel for how the car goes there. We have also tested more recently in Barcelona, where we tried some new parts which we will use in Imola, so I am optimistic that we can do well there."

Jenson Button, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 1st, 2004 Race - 2nd

"I am looking forward to Imola. Obviously I have great memories of last year's race weekend as I qualified on pole and finished in second place. It's a good technical track, although a bit strange as we use the kerbs a lot, but it is a great driver's circuit and I always enjoy racing there. There's also a good atmosphere, being Ferrari's home circuit in Italy, and the Tifosi are out in force, so it's always a lot of fun."

Takuma Sato, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 7th, 2004 Race - 16th

"I am excited to be returning to the European races after we had good performance in Bahrain and at our recent tests. Imola is a historic and challenging circuit with a narrow, bumpy track and high speeds. We hope that the team's hard work carried out during the recent tests pays off for us in Imola, where we will have a new aero upgrade and engine. Racing in Imola will be very different from the first three races where we had very hot temperatures and different track characteristics, so I am really looking forward to it."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 20th, 2004 Race - 8th

"The Imola track is fairly technical and can be tough on the cars, which means the car needs to be very well set up. One of the main factors you need to consider in this are the high kerbs. You need to keep the car fairly soft so it rides well over the kerbs without affecting high speed stability or ability to change direction well through the chicanes. To make sure the car is quick through the slower corners, we use a fairly high level of downforce. There will also be much lower temperatures at the San Marino race, which should make conditions a bit easier. It was a positive result for the team in Bahrain and we are aiming to put more points on the board in Imola. Again I would like to pass on my best wishes to Juan Pablo, I hope he is fully recovered from his injuries soon, and all the best to Alex."

Alexander Wurz, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"I am really happy to have the opportunity to race MP4-20 this coming weekend at Imola. Since joining the team at the end of 2000, I have completed over 70,000 testing kilometres and it will be great to have the chance to actually race a Team McLaren Mercedes car. I am looking forward to getting back to competitive action and hope I can secure a good result for the team. The Imola circuit is all about braking hard and accelerating, with all the chicanes and short straights, which means traction, braking performance and stability under braking are all key. To get a good lap, you need to be aggressive and really attack the kerbs. It goes without saying that I wish Juan Pablo a very speedy recovery."

Pedro de la Rosa, third driver, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"Although I would of course rather be racing again, after such an exciting Bahrain Grand Prix, I am pleased for Alex that he is also having a chance. We had a productive couple of test sessions building up to this race, completing over 4700 kms overall at the Circuit de Catalunya and Paul Ricard. Our schedule focused on testing various modifications prior to the Grand Prix and also tyre selection with Michelin and damper work."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2004 Qualifying - 2nd, 2004 Race - 1st

"Imola is important in many ways this year: first of all it is our home-race, which naturally makes it a race that we want to show a good performance at. This year, the start of the European leg of the season is also somewhat of a new beginning for us: we want to begin fighting for the championship title again now, and we believe that our chances are quite good.

“The Grand Prix of San Marino has always been a good turf for us. I have a lot of fond memories of this circuit, and I'm quite confident that there are more to come. Our F2005 has the most important requirement: it is fast enough. We saw that when our car made its debut at Bahrain. We were unable to finish the race, but I think that we've solved that problem during all the extensive testing we did last week.

“The circuit at Imola is especially demanding on the brakes and the gear-box, but that's manageable. Just like most of the other teams we have new aerodynamic-components on the car and spent most of last week preparing especially for this race. I'm confident that we can fight to win - and I'm absolutely sure that everyone at Ferrari will do their best. We're all looking forward to our home-race and to our Tifosi's support."

More to follow.