Ralf Schumacher is in a positive frame of mind after the first winter test sessions and believes Williams will be on the pace as soon as racing resumes at Melbourne in March. Williams had a strong presence at the winter tests, with both Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya on duty, as well as team test driver Marc Gen?. The start of the 2003 season was a difficult time for Williams and it does not intend to start 2004 the same way.
BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen is confident the engines will cope with the new one engine per weekend regulation and although Schumacher admits he's no technician, he sees no reason for the new rule to be a problem.
"BMW has been doing a fantastic job over the last few years," he said. "I don't know why different regulations should change that. However, I don't know enough about technical matters to predict the effects the new rules might have."
McLaren is the only team so far to have a new chassis on the test track to measure up to rivals. The MP4-19 broke the lap record at Valencia but no real conclusions can be drawn from winter test times. Schumacher expects next season to be tougher than ever: "I think that 2004 will be far more difficult because the top-class cars will be even more evenly matched than before," he predicted.