After Michael Schumacher lapped significantly quicker than the rest of the field to come from 13th on the grid to second at the finish of the San Marino Grand Prix, there was much speculation that Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's F2005 was now the...
After Michael Schumacher lapped significantly quicker than the rest of the field to come from 13th on the grid to second at the finish of the San Marino Grand Prix, there was much speculation that Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's F2005 was now the class car of the field.
However, as he prepares to travel to Barcelona for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, Rubens Barrichello refuses to get carried away about the team's prospects. "It is actually quite hard to assess what our real situation is compared to the opposition," maintained the Brazilian.
"Yes, we know the pace of the F2005 is good and we also know we have made a huge step forward with the car, while the Bridgestone tyres have improved a great deal. But I don't think this will be the situation for the rest of the year, because in Imola, we had a situation where the cool weather and the track conditions all probably helped us, except in qualifying when, as was clear to see, the car was a bit tricky to drive."
Nevertheless, Barrichello is cautiously optimistic. "I think our form is looking good," he insisted. "We have excellent pace and we can be proud of all the progress we have made in recent weeks, with plenty of hard work during testing. So, we are now in a position where we can look forward to the next few races in a positive frame of mind."
"I did two days testing since Imola, during which we concentrated specifically on the conditions we will encounter at the next few races coming up. We had a good test and we are looking to have a good weekend in Barcelona. Weather and track conditions at Mugello were quite similar to what we might encounter this weekend and so we were able to accurately evaluate some new developments we will have on the car in Spain."
Although Barcelona is a popular winter testing venue, track condition can have a significant effect on car set-up, which means Friday practice will be as important as ever. The Ferrari man reckons everyone will have plenty of laps available for evaluation work.
"I will start the weekend with a new engine and with Monaco, the second race in this engine pairing, which is much easier on engines being the slowest track of the year, I guess everyone with a new engine this weekend will have an easier time in Barcelona and not have to consider the second race too much. We should be able to use the engine a little bit more in Spain."
The Circuit de Catalunya has been resurfaced for this year, but it will still be hard on tyres. "With high speed corners leading into long straights, it is hard to overtake in Barcelona," commented Rubens. "So unless you have a different strategy, you are not going to be overtaking many cars, unless you have tyres in better condition than those ahead of you in the final few laps of the race."
"However, I hope I won't have to rely on my Bridgestone tyres to have an advantage in the closing stages, as the key to a good race here is to qualify well and our tyres now seem to be working much better over the quick single lap."
So what are the Brazilian's predictions for Sunday afternoon? "We have seen in Barcelona testing that not just Renault, but McLaren and BAR have been very quick there and occasionally so has Toyota, so we can be sure it will be a very close weekend in terms of lap times."
"My goals are simple. I think this is a winnable weekend for me. Since finishing second in Melbourne, I have had some troubles at the races and I have yet to put together a strong weekend. I am hoping for a peaceful weekend where I can do a lot of work and concentrate on the car and try and win the thing!"
Those "troubles" the Brazilian refers to have all centred on less than perfect reliability, but he feels the team is now on the right road. "As soon as we put the new car on the track, we knew it was faster and that is all the good news we need. If you know you have a fast car, it is easier to make it reliable. When you have a reliable but slow car, then you are in trouble. So there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic."