Rivals hopeful that Renault can be caught
While BAR are feeling very positive for Imola and believe they may have found as much as eight-tenths of a second since Bahrain, Michael Schumacher and Ferrari are quietly confident that they too will be making some steps forward in the battle against Renault.
We have a new aero package here, on the tyre side we have improved, or we have a different construction at least. I think thats about it, Schumacher said. And on the subject of potential problems for Ferraris gearbox, particularly with shock loadings over Imolas kerbs, he added: The kerbs dont make worries to the gearbox. We have had a few situations which strangely enough, did not seem to appear during testing but I think we understood that and sorted it.
We are as confident as you can be with a Formula One car, honestly. A Formula One car is a prototype and it might stop at any point in any day. It hasnt been doing that for a long, long time for me. In Bahrain I stopped because of a problem with last years part but they can still fail at certain times but I think we have a good record and we shouldnt be too concerned.
The champion was cautious yesterday in leading people to expect too much of Ferrari in their home race, and one in which there is great pressure for the team to do well to protect their championship aspirations. In a way I havent done too much so far. Coming here to Imola with the preparation we have been doing, we are reasonable confident that we can fight back.
He also allowed that negotiations are open with Ferrari for his contract to be extended beyond 2006. The question was does Ferrari talk about Fernando, he said. I said that from my point of view, they talk less about Fernando rather than Jean having conversations in private relationship about my future. These are more the subject than talk about other drivers.
Michelin, meanwhile, are convinced that the tyre situation will not change measurably after the Barcelona, Paul Ricard and Mugello tests since Bahrain, and Renault have a revised B-spec engine with higher revs and greater power. Its also a bit lighter, said Giancarlo Fisichella. It is not stronger but we can run with a bit more revs. We also have a new front wing. We had a good test at Paul Ricard and it looks as though its a small improvement so already our package looks really good and those things look promising.
Sauber are very enthusiastic about a new lowline engine cover and associated aerodynamic package at the rear end, bearing in mind the effect a similar revision had on the C23 from Silverstone onwards last year.
At Williams Nick Heidfeld said he will be racing despite a shoulder injury. I got it playing badminton, he joked in oblique reference to Juan Pablo Montoyas tennis injury. Actually, it happened testing in Paul Ricard. I didnt crash, it was just unfortunately that while driving, probably going over a bump or something, a muscle went into spasm and its still a bit irritated now. Ive had injections, and its not going to be a problem for the weekend.
What might be, however, is the weather. Rain is expected on Sunday, which could make the tyre situation very interesting.