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The drivers look ahead to Monza 31 Aug 2005

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/19B.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, 11 September 2004 Jenson Button (GBR) BAR Honda 006.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, 11 September 2004 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R24 ;eads team mate Jarno Trulli (ITA) Renault R24 
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Race Day , Monza, Italy, 12 September 2004 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari F2004.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, 11 September 2004

Their thoughts and predictions for the Italian Grand Prix

It’s one of the most historic circuits and it’s certainly the fastest - no wonder the drivers love it. Find out what they’ve got to say about dicing wheel-to-wheel at up to 370 km/h around 'the magic track', as it is affectionately known, in front of the Ferrari-loving tifosi.

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 7th, 2004 Race - DNF

"It was a great race in Turkey and the new track meant we had entertaining racing. The car continued to feel really strong and quick, which is very encouraging on such a challenging circuit. However, Monza is considerably quicker. It is the fastest track with speeds averaging 250km/h, and we run with the lowest downforce set-up all season. There are a couple of sections where you need to drive fully flat out to be quick, the main one is Parabolica; you have to maintain your speed through here as it swings you round onto the main straight. The situation in both the Drivers' and Constructors' championships is still open and nobody knows what's going to happen until the last race in October. The car has the pace to win, and I am not giving up the fight, so we shall see."

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 2nd, 2004 Race - 5th

"I always enjoy driving at Monza, it is a great track and I have good memories there as I won my first Formula One race at the circuit in 2001. There is always an enthusiastic atmosphere from the tifosi, I don't think they're cheering us on though! It is a tough track on the cars, with the bumps, chicanes and long, fast straights. We need to have high speed stability, braking stability and be able to ride the kerbs well, with a softer than normal mechanical set-up. However there are also four high speed corners, and we need to ensure we are fast through these. After Turkey, we are really close in the Constructors' battle and I am looking forward to getting some strong results over the final five races towards the title."

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

"As a result of its unique characteristics, Monza is a challenging track to get right set-up wise, so I will be conducting some additional work in this area with Kimi and Juan Pablo on Friday. We had a good test with Michelin last week at Monza, completing much of the tyre selection programme."

Jenson Button, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 6th, 2004 Race - 3rd

"We had a very good race in Monza last year when we finished on the podium and I am looking forward to racing there this week following our strong performance in Turkey. The fans are very passionate about the sport and the atmosphere is always great over the race weekend. We had a positive weekend in Turkey and I'm sure we can improve our pace and have a competitive weekend in Monza."

Takuma Sato, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 5th, 2004 Race - 4th

"Monza is a very unique circuit and easily the fastest in the F1 calendar in terms of speed. The Italian Grand Prix weekend has traditionally seen lots of exciting racing so we can hope to see more of that. We've had a strong test during our two days at Monza this week so we are looking forward to challenging in the race next weekend."

Mark Webber, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 12th, 2004 Race - 9th

"Monza is a circuit that stands alone in terms of set-up. It's a very, very high speed circuit where we are looking for a maximum speed all the time. I've finished in the points on this track in the last couple of years and I hope that we can do that again this time. We might not quite have the pace of McLaren and Renault, but I think we can get a reasonable result. If we can get some good, solid points it will be not a bad race for us.

“Ever since my first year in Formula One, when I drove for Minardi, I've spent a lot of time in Italy, not far from Imola, and I can say it's definitely among my favourite few countries. I love coming to Italy. The Italians love cycling and the food's excellent, it's just a fantastic country."

Nick Heidfeld, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 17th, 2004 Race - 14th

"Monza is definitely one of the most unusual circuits on the calendar. It's a traditional track with a great heritage and has a unique design. We reach very high speeds at Monza, in fact they're the highest that we see all season at over 360km/h! You need a special set-up for Monza as well as a particular aerodynamic configuration. For this race, the teams develop specially designed aerodynamic packages. These need to work under low downforce conditions but also allow the car to handle properly in the high speed sections. You therefore need a car that has a good top speed for the high speed straights, one that has aerodynamic efficiency for the slow chicanes and, finally, a car that works well on the high kerbs. Just like Imola, Monza is always special because the Italian fans bring such a great atmosphere to the race."

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

"Monza is one of the places I know best in the calendar because I used to race there when I was in Formula Three. The Italian fans are very passionate about racing and it's a special place to compete.

"The track itself is very different to most other circuits. There are long straights between the corners, so you are relatively less active and have time to relax. The last corner, Parabolica, is quite special. It's a difficult one to get right. You can always go faster there than you actually do. It's fast, goes on for a long time and is very important, because effectively it ends one lap and starts the next. If you get it wrong you can spoil two laps at once! Technically, you need a set-up for the straights and the high-speed corners, but also one that allows the car to ride the kerbs in the tight chicanes. It's the only track that has very low downforce and so the car feels lighter then it does the rest of the year."

Felipe Massa, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - 16th, 2004 Race - 12th

"I've always enjoyed Monza, because a lot of my success before Formula One came there in Formula Renault and Formula 3000 and I lived just down the road in Erba. I like the low downforce aspect, and the fact that overtaking is possible. It can be fun when you are braking from 360 km/h to get through the first chicane, especially with only low downforce! Also you need to go over the kerbs, especially in the first and second chicanes, and that puts a lot of strain on the car as does all the full-throttle running round the rest of the lap.

"This year will be very special for me now that everyone knows I will be a Ferrari driver next year, because there is always a great atmosphere at this historic circuit. But my focus will as ever be to score more points for Sauber before the team changes identity for 2006."

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

“McLaren are very quick, there's no doubt, Monza is a completely different circuit to any other, so we approach it feeling confident. We have had good straight-line speed all year, and that is one of the things you need there. So it could be a good race for us.

“It is a legendary circuit, with an important place in the history of Formula One, so to win there would be something special. You have the highest average speed in the championship, so it is a good feeling for the driver - I like the combination of speed and risk.

“You need a very specific set-up. The team builds new parts only for this race, because it is very strange from an aero point of view with very low downforce, and you need good grip in the corners from the mechanical balance and the tyres. Also, the tyres can get cold on the straights, which makes it hard to have good grip in the corners, but Michelin understand the challenge, and they have been fantastic so far this year.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 15th, 2004 Race - 8th

“It is my second home Grand Prix, and a very important weekend because a lot of fans come to cheer me on. I won there in F3, but have never been on the podium in F1, and I want to do it this year. I like the circuit, even though the speeds make it a little dangerous, but it is an impressive place to drive.

“We run with very, very low downforce, so corners like turn 1 are difficult - you have to stop the car from 360 kph to 60 kph in first gear, and that's really difficult. But there are nice corners too: the Lesmos, and high-speed curves at Ascari and Parabolica, which I really enjoy.”

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2004 Qualifying - 3rd, 2004 Race - 2nd

“If I think about the state in which find ourselves at Monza this year, and that in which we were last year, there is a huge difference. Last year we knew that we already had both world titles in the bag. This time around we are not in such a fortunate position and the chances of winning the title are remote. Still, it is our home race.

“Even though our current results are not up to those of the past, we will go into the race with the same spirit and motivation of the past few years and we are certain that our fans will realise this. Is it not the case that our true supporters will stick by us in difficult times? Our fans were very encouraging during last week’s tests I was very pleased at their enthusiasm. We promise to do our best for them this weekend and give our all.

“After the race in Turkey our expectations were dimmed but we have done better in testing. I think we can get amongst the points and even make the podium. However, it will only be clear once we are on the track on Friday, as we discovered last year, and then we will see how the weekend goes. As I have said, this is a very important race for us and we, by nature, enjoy a good battle.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 9th, 2004 Race - 10th

"It is always nice to return to Monza. I like the place, I like the atmosphere and I have usually had good results there. The main characteristic of Monza is the speed of the circuit. Good straight-line speed is essential so you run with very little wing. That means the car feels very light to drive and it can be nervous, so it is essential to drive smoothly. Because you run with such a low level of downforce, that has an effect under braking and acceleration, not just in the corners. There is a lot of hard braking and you have to brake earlier than you do anywhere else. The main factor that can affect tyres is blistering, so that's what we have to minimise, particularly coming out of the slow corners. You also need good traction, so the engine is important but it's also crucial to have a good aero package. I'm looking forward to the weekend and it will be great to go there with a car that can challenge for the points or even a podium."

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"You can tell that Monza is somewhere special. I am not deeply into the sport's heritage like some people but the setting is great, and you just have to see the old banking to appreciate the history. That is pushed even further by the track's surroundings in the Royal Park and the nearby Villa Reale. The fans, of course, are unique, even if most of them are supporting the other red car! Monza is very fast with long straights interspersed by chicanes. You have to be very precise to gain as much momentum as possible, so I enjoy the challenge of moving from the fast to slow sections. You run the car in low downforce trim and so it can feel ‘loose.' You try to counter that with the set-up because you want to have confidence under the heavy braking needed, especially for the first chicane. The car's behaviour on the kerbs is also important and the track is perhaps the most demanding of the season for engines. This year, with the two-race engines, it will be an even tougher challenge."

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

"The test with the EJ15B at Monza last week went reasonably well. I think we have closed the gap with the bigger teams and this is very encouraging. However, I cannot quantify it much more until we all sit together and discuss it. It is a pity I lost the toss (to see which driver would debut the EJ15B) and cannot drive the new car at Monza but I will try to do my best with what I have. I like Monza a lot and I hope to do well."

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

"The Monza test last week went very well, even better than we expected. We spent three days testing the new car without any problems, which shows that it was very reliable at the moment and this is a very positive improvement. I am looking forward to racing it at Monza as I was lucky to win the toss. Monza is a very tricky and high speed track. It will be very important to have a good car balance in the braking zones because of the low downforce. It will not be the easiest track to race the new car but we will deal with this and I hope we will have a good race."

Nicolas Kiesa, third driver, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"The test we had at Monza last week was pretty good and we added many kilometres to the new car. While I was there, I did not encounter any problem with it and I think all the engineers were quite happy as we gathered a lot of data. During my day of testing, I did long runs to see how consistent the car could be. My lap times were very encouraging. The car was really good for the racing distance. But I also have to say that for qualifying, when I looked at Narain's laps on Friday, the times also seemed promising. I hope we will have a good result at the Italian GP because the Toyota engine seems to be very strong and I think we have also tested some very good different types of Bridgestone tyres. Another positive thing is that we have found quite a good car set-up and we will not have to spend too much time on setting up the car anymore and could focus more on the tyre choice."