SAN MARINO GRAND PRIX - PREVIEW ===============================
The 1997 San Marino Grand Prix marks the start of the European Grand Prix season and the West McLaren Mercedes team will arrive at the Imola track as strong as contenders for the lead of the Constructor's Championship, one point adrift of Williams.
Set in Italy's Emilia Romagna region the atmosphere experienced at the Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit is legendary and with the hills around it creating a natural amphitheatre, it is ideal for the spectators who arrive in their thousands.
The 4.895 kms track has had a number of modifications since the Formula One World Championship race began here in 1980. Over the years the introduction of a number of chicanes around the track has developed a circuit of slow corners interspersed with sweeping bends, thereby creating driving characteristics of high speed and heavy breaking. This combination ultimately means that brake wear is very high, added to which the tyre war which is emerging between Goodyear and Bridgestone runners, means the San Marino Grand Prix will prove to be another event where the tactical strategy for the race itself will be of the upmost importance.
Since leaving Argentina Mika and David have been involved in testing the MP4/12 at Barcelona. This has involved some concentrated tyre testing and engine development work and both drivers felt that they had made progress. 'I enjoy testing' said Mika. 'It is an opportunity to work on the car in a way that is not possible during a race weekend. 'Mika completed the first two days of the testing during which he put in 100 laps with the fastest time on the second day of 1'19:187. David fulfilled the balance of the four day test programme during which considerable information was gathered, particularly with regard to the new F spec Mercedes-Benz engine.
Arriving on Thursday at the track, the drivers will be focused on improving their performances from the last two Grand Prix and gaining further world championship points for the West McLaren Mercedes team. Last year David made one of his most spectacular starts to the season at the San Marino Grand Prix, jumping from fourth on the grid to take the lead from Schumacher's Ferrari an Hill's Williams for the early part of the race. 'Of course I was disappointed not to get further than the first corner in Argentina,' said David. 'But I am looking forward to Imola, which is a circuit I enjoy.'