SAN MARINO GP PREVIEW [20.04.98] REASON FOR OPTIMISM Over the years, it has witnessed the highest of highs and the lowest of lows as home to the San Marino Grand Prix, but the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari undeniably...
SAN MARINO GP PREVIEW [20.04.98]
REASON FOR OPTIMISM Over the years, it has witnessed the highest of highs and the lowest of lows as home to the San Marino Grand Prix, but the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari undeniably possesses one thing in abundance - atmosphere. In the wake of an unexpected Ferrari victory at the last Grand Prix, in Argentina, it is certain that the tifosi - Ferrari’s diehard fans - will throng to the famous circuit, near Bologna, by the thousands, hopeful of witnessing a second successive win by the scarlet machines from nearby Maranello.
Other teams and their supporters will also arrive in Italy for the start of the 1998 European leg of the Formula One season full of hope, including Tyrrell. The spirits of the famous British-based team were raised significantly in Buenos Aires, just over a week ago, when drivers Toranosuke Takagi and Ricardo Rosset, both took the chequered flag.
Takagi was particularly impressive, recording Friday'’s seventh-fastest time around a crcuit he had never seen prior to the weekend, before eventually starting the race from 13th spot on the grid after several more experienced drivers improved their times slightly during Saturday’s official qualifying session. Nonetheless, the young Japanese driver’s performances in his first season of Grand Prix racing continue to be one of the talking points of the Formula One paddock.
"All the signs are that he is going to be very good," commented Tyrrell Managing Director, Dr Harvey Postlethwaite, after the Argentinian Grand Prix. "He clearly has the speed, but at least as importantly, he uses his head in the cockpit. He and his race engineer, David Brown, have struck up a good rapport and they are able to work effectively on chassis set-up. I think Tora will really come into his own once he has a few more races under his belt and he gets to the European circuits, many of which he experienced when competing in the Porsche Turbo Cup."
Aside from the potential distraction of the ever-present tifosi, the Imola circuit also presents a number of other challenges for drivers, as Tyrrell Deputy Technical Director, Mike Gascoyne, explains.
"The nature of the place has changed significantly from what it was prior to 1994," he says. "Whereas it used to be a fast, comparatively wide-open track with some really daunting corners, it is now more a succession of blasts into quite tight chicanes. That said, there are still some good corners, and Tyrrells have often gone well at the circuit in recent years. "The cars tend to understeer in the chicanes, which you can neutralise by ensuring that traction is good. As the nature of the circuit has changed, so chassis set-up has gone from low downforce, to maximise straightline speed, to higher levels of downforce, to keep cornering speeds up."
"In terms of overtaking, there are still opportunities around Imola, although one of the prime spots, around the long, sweeping Tamburello corner, was eliminated with the construction of a pair of chicanes in the wake of Ayrton Senna’s accident. Despite the modifications, though, Imola remains a challenging circuit and I think it will suit the nature of this year’s Tyrrell-Ford well. The straights aren’t so long that the place puts a premium on outright horsepower, while the chicanes demand good handling characteristics - something our chassis possesses. All told, I think there is reason to be optimistic about our chances."
"The other thing you have to mention about Imola is the atmosphere. The Ferrari supporters can be relied on to be out in force, and from the garages you can hear the parties in full swing on Saturday night behind the grandstands as you finish preparing your cars for the race. It'’s terrific."
The 62-lap San Marino Grand Prix gets underway at 14:00 hrs local time on Sunday, April 26. Last year’s race was won by Williams driver, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, after team mate and pole position winner, Jacques Villeneuve, was forced to retire his car on lap 40 with a gearbox problem. Villeneuve’s 1997 pole position time of 1 min 23.303 secs stands as the current lap record at Imola.
TYRRELL CHASSIS DETAILS 1998 San Marino Grand Prix
Ricardo Rosset (No 20) 026/02 Toranosuke Takagi (No 21) 026/01 Spare car (Takagi) 026/03