It is the first time since Monza that Scuderia Ferrari-Marlboro have raced in front of their home fans - an exciting prospect for all concerned on both sides of the pit wall. "It is always very exciting to race in Italy in front of the tifosi.
It is the first time since Monza that Scuderia Ferrari-Marlboro have raced in front of their home fans - an exciting prospect for all concerned on both sides of the pit wall.
"It is always very exciting to race in Italy in front of the tifosi. They have given us a hard time in the past when things have not gone too well; we have been going a lot better in recent years so we have had tremendous support," says Technical Director, Ross Brawn. He and the rest of the team will all be working hard to see that the debut success of the Ferrari 2002 in Brazil continues at this year's San Marino Grand Prix, opening round of the European F1 season and first opportunity for the tifosi to see the new Ferrari 2002 in action.
Brawn sees the technical challenge of the San Marino track divided into two main areas, brakes and traction. Aerodynamically, the once fast Imola circuit has, since the introduction of chicanes in recent years, become a medium/slow speed track and one of the highest downforce circuits of the season.
There will be a full complement of 2002 cars for Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello and with the Ferrari factory only a couple of hours away, there will be no worries about any last minute modifications to the cars that might be necessary during the weekend.
"It's nice to know we have all that back-up just down the road," admits Ross, who does not anticipate any major problems throughout the weekend. "We tested the new car at Imola a few weeks ago, so we have a good data base from which to start and are not anticipating any major changes for the race."
As well as evaluating the tyres, the main task when the drivers take to the track on Friday will be to test the brakes and mechanical set-up of the car. The cars will be run with high fuel loads to simulate the braking forces during the race, and careful attention will be paid to braking stability and brake temperatures. "This track is one of the hardest on brakes along with Canada," points out Ross. Because of that, the team will be using the heaviest duty of the three different braking systems available to them throughout the year. However, for qualifying, the cars will be fitted with the lighter brake set-up.
Last year Michael retired from the race because of brake temperature problems that caused a wheel bearing to overheat. "We had a failure of the on board telemetry system and could not monitor the brake temperatures. Once they got too hot it was a viscous circle and the problem increased causing the eventual failure," explained Ross. "That should not be a problem this year as we have a new back-up system this year.
With so many slow corners, traction out of the corners is an important factor. "The best solution is to run the back end of the car as soft as possible without creating too much understeer. It's a delicate balance which the driver must fine tune throughout the weekend to suit his own driving style."
The tyres will also need to be evaluated. "We had a new tyre in Brazil that we tested in Imola and we will have another new compound for the race that we tested in Italy since Brazil," says Ross who was delighted with the way the tyres held up for Michael's one stop race in Brazil. "We were worried about the tyres lasting, but the new car seems to be much easier on the rear tyres than the old car which bodes well for the coming races," added Ross.
Race strategy will also play an important role, the difference between making a one or two stop race being a close call. There is a possibility that pit stop strategy will be changed during the actual race depending on the circumstances. A strategy allowing a change of tactics during the race because of traffic circumstances or weather conditions could make a vital difference to the final outcome. "The new car has proved to be a lot more consistent throughout the race, which will make the race strategy less complicated if we do not have to consider a big tyre degradation."