Rubens Barrichello is back home in Brazil in between the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix and he has had time to reflect on the first race of the season and the effect of the new regulations. "The first point to make is that the F2002 is...
Rubens Barrichello is back home in Brazil in between the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix and he has had time to reflect on the first race of the season and the effect of the new regulations.
"The first point to make is that the F2002 is still competitive, which was hidden by events in the race, particularly the fact the track dried out much quicker than we expected," commented the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver. "There is no reason for us to worry about this as, up until the race, I had a very good weekend."
"During the weekend, you have a tough time to find the limits of your car in these conditions. Even if you chose to run with low fuel on Friday, the track is still quite dirty and therefore you cannot get the maximum out of it and we are a long way off where we used to be in terms of performance and lap times. However, putting aside the weather on Sunday, the new qualifying did make the race a bit more interesting."
With only one flying lap in each qualifying session and no Sunday warm-up, the drivers now get less track time, but Barrichello revealed that the drivers are still as busy as ever. "We were still kept busy, doing a lot of appearances for the sponsors and I think that will be a trend through the year," he said. "I don't think it will reach a point where we will end up having lunch with the sponsor guests, because the drivers always have to eat something very early before the race," joked Rubens.
"And of course, on Saturday, you now spend much more time thinking about race strategy than in the past. It is a new challenge because you have to guess the weather the following day and there are so many other new factors to consider as well."
The change to the weekend timetable did cause Barrichello some concern. "The lack of a race morning warm-up was not too difficult to deal with, it just meant you had to give a lot more thought to race set-up on Saturday," he explained. "However, the area that was a struggle was that you have virtually no time at all to work on the car in between the very short Saturday warm-up and qualifying."
"If you have an "off" in that warm-up then you could be in trouble, so you cannot afford to push too hard in that session. The fact that we no longer drive the cars between qualifying and the race did not give put any safety concerns in my mind, but the situation might have been different if it had rained very hard."
Before the first race of the season, the Ferrari man had tipped BAR and Toyota to have made a lot of progress over the winter. Had anyone else caught his eye during the grand prix. "I was very surprised to see Justin Wilson ninth on the first lap!" said Barrichello.
"Apart from that, the race performances followed the current form guide. What did surprise me was that many drivers who had problems appeared to stop in dangerous positions which caused the Safety Car to come out. The race was a bit of a mess, but it made it interesting for spectators. Here in Brazil, even though the race was shown in the middle of the night, the viewing figures were good and the reaction was positive, even though no Brazilian drivers finished the race."