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Schumacher: rain our only hope 02 Sep 2005

(L to R): Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari talks with Felipe Massa (BRA) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Preparations, Monza, Italy, 1 September 2005

Friday preview - Schumacher, Montoya and Button

Michael Schumacher as good as admitted here Thursday that Ferrari’s chances of success in their home race are minimal.

In an extraordinarily frank comment, the reigning champion said: “I read some times which were different to what we did and what we actually have done, because there was something in the media which suggested that we did a low 1m 20s. [This was the official time given to him by track officials]. I don’t know when we were supposed to do that but the fact is that we were too slow here and we didn’t look too competitive.”

Asked if there was any reason why that situation might change for the race, he replied: “Unless it rains, no.”

He was, however, rather more upbeat about the prospects for his new team mate, Felipe Massa. “When you look at where he started and where he is right now, you see a steep curve of improving and learning and I think he’s doing a very good job. His real position right now is obviously something we’ll have to find out when he comes with us, but I rate him very highly as he has done some very good races and qualifyings. It maybe doesn’t look as obvious because he has driven for Sauber who are not so competitive, to prove his abilities, but if you study him in a bit more detail you can see how good he can be. Being a Ferrari driver is different from being a Sauber driver but he will have a lot of support from us to get the best out of him.”

Being a McLaren driver these days is arguably the thing to be, but the team’s Formula One CEO Martin Whitmarsh has spelled out the pressures to Juan Pablo Montoya by demanding that he and Kimi Raikkonen must achieve five 1-2s in the remaining races if they are to win both titles.

“Kimi’s trying to beat Fernando for the Drivers’ Championship but at the same point the goal is for the team to win the Constructors’ Championship,” the Colombian said. “I think the Drivers’ is a bit unlikely but the Constructors’ is probably a very realistic goal to achieve. I think we’ve got the quickest car and I think we’ve got to try to win it. As for my role in doing that, I think the same thing as I always do: do the best I can for the team, and that’s that.”

McLaren remain the pre-race favourites with Renault likely to be next up, but one man who thinks he might be quick is Jenson Button even though he was the first to admit that BAR did not have a great test here last week. “McLaren should win every race because they are so quick,” he said. “They’ve had the best car pretty much all year. Their lap times in Turkey were so quick. Our test was poor, because our car seems to suffer a bit in low downforce trim. But we were slow in our test here in 2004 too, and I ended up leading 40 laps of the race!”

Button also admitted that he has finally been talking face-to-face to Sir Frank Williams in his contractual fight to stay with BAR. “I have been to Grove to reiterate my position and both of us have given our opinions,” he said. “We are talking. I really want to sort this out behind the scenes. The talks are not yet to my satisfaction, but I hope we can sort this out soon. I really want that before the season ends. I’m to blame for making the wrong decision in the first place, and it’s a pretty disastrous situation as a result. But I 100 percent want to be here at BAR.”

There has been plenty of media speculation that a financial settlement could solve the situation, but at the moment, neither team are saying anything.