The upcoming season is Rubens Barrichello's sixth in Prancing Horse colours. At his press conference held during the International Press ski meeting at Madonna di Campiglio, the Brazilian driver stated that the years he had spent at Ferrari had...
The upcoming season is Rubens Barrichello's sixth in Prancing Horse colours. At his press conference held during the International Press ski meeting at Madonna di Campiglio, the Brazilian driver stated that the years he had spent at Ferrari had made him very happy indeed.
"The beginning was extremely difficult because I had to get used to the team but I'm proud of what I have been able to accomplish within the Ferrari team, proud of what I've been able to do with the car, with the set-up, with the engineers, technicians, the victories and also the difficult times that I've had."
"So overall, I think that it's been a positive experience. So I'm really happy and this is why I signed for two more years with the team, so 2005 which is to come, and I'm extremely happy to start a new season. I'm charged up. We have finished the holidays and we're here to get into the car, so on the 20th, I'm going to be in the car at Barcelona."
You did a couple of days in December at Jerez with a car that was virtually in 2005 configuration. Luca gave us his impressions. How do you find the 2005 set-up?
Rubens: "Different. I think it is a car that we have to learn, to experience from the start. I tested a first version of the car that we're going to have in Melbourne. It's a car that slides more due to the new rules so it's a bit different to drive, let's say, but it's still fun, faster. You lose a bit of braking power and in slow corners, in pick-up after slow corners, but it's still a fun car. But next week is going to be extremely important with the tests in Barcelona."
On Monday, you have a special appointment. Can you tell us about it?
Rubens: "On Monday, with Michael, Todt and a small Ferrari and Maserati group, we're going to visit the Vatican in Rome. It has always been a dream for me to meet the Pope, so I feel extremely proud of being able to go to Rome on Monday."
During the last few years, there were always many pit stops, and teams were always asking their drivers to push, push, push. This year, instead, are the teams going to ask something different from you since you have to get to the end of a race with tyres in an acceptable condition?
Rubens: "Well, it is something that we still have to learn. I don't think we can drive the cars in the same way as we did last year, pushing from the beginning to the end. The problem now is that if you flat-spot a tyre, you're virtually finished. At Monza, for instance, it might be dangerous after that, so I think we're going to have to work out during the race whether we have to start pushing or not."
"As far as the tyres are concerned, I've been extremely satisfied with what Bridgestone brought to Jerez during the couple of days that I did at the end of the year, because I think that those tyres were already a step forward, a major step forward, in terms of performance, as well as in terms of wear. But also, having said that, I still think that races have to bear learned. We are going to have to use our heads more than our feet, again, sure the feet, but also our heads are going to be important in 2005."
Rubens, we always speak about Michael's skill. We know that you've driven in a large number of GPs, you've done a lot of seasons, you've been racing at high level for many years. Don't you ever feel a bit fed up when people ask you whether you're number one or number two!
Rubens: "I'm going to turn that question around and try to answer it. What can I say? I'm always there, I'm always fully committed. If, one day, I should start thinking and say that 'look, I will never catch Michael' I'm sure that from that day I would not stay at Ferrari because I would lose the motivation to be the best. I still have the motivation to be the best. Whether this will take place this year, or another year, we don't know. It's going to depend on my work, it depends on what I can do, it will depend on how I will adjust to the new rules."
"But these are just words. I have to keep my right foot down, I have to use my head, I have to be as calm as I have been, like I drove in Brazil. I was really happy that I was calm, I drove the car easily, because I really wanted to drive the car because I love what I do, because I have a team behind me which is extremely nice, with all the engineers, my mechanics, everyone and so really it is all enjoyable from my point. I'm also happy that Michael is in the team because it means that we can push even more, each one pushes the other to go faster."
Who will be your strongest opponent this year? And what do you think about Heidfeld? Is he strong enough to fight for the World Championship title?
Rubens: "You know it's hard to know who is going to be there. In Jerez, whenever I was testing, I don't think... apart from BAR and some other people who were trying different things, there were still some people trying 2004 regulations, so it was hard to know who was going to be good. My guess is that McLaren is going to be very hard at the beginning. They are going to be looking for early wins. They were impressive last year whenever they improved."
"The rest is really hard to know. BAR had such a fantastic year last year. If they can keep on going... I'm sure Honda will do that, but it's hard to know if the car will be good. So it's all going to be up in the air. There's still two months before we go to Melbourne. It's hard to know how the teams who haven't tried a new car will be with the new regulations. It's hard to know that."
"Is Heidfeld signed already? I've heard that he's still trying with Pizzonia. I think Heidfeld is a very good driver. He deserves to be in Formula One, that's for sure. We saw that in F3000 when he won the championship, he's a good driver, he behaves quite well on the race track so he's a good guy to have in Formula One. On the other hand, I'm a friend of the Brazilian's, so it's hard to know. They are both very talented so I hope both can have a job in Formula One."
The only two teams that will have the same drivers as last year are Ferrari and BAR. In the other teams, the drivers have changed. Who did the best deal with their drivers, which team?
Rubens: "Let me say this. If a team is happy with its drivers, in that case it is easy to stay with its drivers. It's easier for the team's car, because it allows the team to develop the car even further. If you change two drivers, everything has to be started from scratch. Maybe one driver worked with a car which understeered and then you have a new driver and you have an oversteering car, so it becomes difficult. First you have to go backwards and then you can go forwards. So those that kept their drivers did the best deal because it allows the team to really develop the car."
"But of course, this doesn't mean that they are going to get the best results, so at the end, I think that for example within Ferrari we really have a good team and we can work on what we need. We don't have to create new things or invent new things. We simply have to work on the problems that we have and at Jerez, for instance, in those couple of days I saw what was necessary on the car, but I'm sure that for Barcelona the car will have been developed with a step forward. If you have a new driver, he will be saying that I need an extra day to get used to the car. So you can't develop the car, it becomes a bit more difficult if you change drivers."
Do you think using an evolution of last year's car is going to favour you in the first few races of the year?
Rubens: "Well, it's going to depend on our performance, vis-à-vis the performance of other cars. Let's hope it's going to be sufficient to still be in front but yes, I still think it's an advantage, it's an advantage for me to know the car and that I have... not all the time in the world but I still have a couple of months to try the new car calmly, because last year we didn't have any problems but we had some minor stress due to the weather, it was always raining, and so there were some moments during which I had to test the new car for example but it was impossible because it was raining and so it was a bit difficult. I got to Melbourne without knowing the car much. This year, this won't happen and that will be positive for me."