With a large number of journalists crammed under the awning of the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro media motorhome in the paddock this afternoon, temperatures soared as first Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher answered questions from the ...
With a large number of journalists crammed under the awning of the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro media motorhome in the paddock this afternoon, temperatures soared as first Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher answered questions from the press.
Unbelievably, even though this year's Belgian GP takes place well into September, rather the more usual end of August slot, it is incredibly hot in the Ardennes, with temperatures hitting the 30 C mark. However, the forecast is for wetter, colder more typical Spa weather to arrive soon.
Indeed, Barrichello admitted he would be pleased if it rained over the weekend. "That would make the race more open," reckoned the Brazilian. "At the moment we have to be somewhat conservative on the tyre front, so our only real hope of doing better than in Monza last weekend, rests with how our car-tyre package will suit this track."
"It is this that will decide our performance, but I do not think it will be enough for us to do really well. I tell you, if we won here on Sunday there would be a bigger party than when we celebrated winning the championship here!"
While the Ferrari man is realistic rather than optimistic about his chances this weekend, the attraction of this great circuit is still as strong as ever: "Spa is still a great challenge," he stated.
"It comes not so much from the individual corners, but from the fact it is very long and so you cannot get the set-up right for the entire lap and having to push all the time, even when the car is not perfect, is what makes this place special."
Mathematically, it is possible for Fernando Alonso to clinch the Drivers' crown this weekend and Rubens was asked for his opinion of the Spaniard. "He would make a charismatic champion in what has been a good championship year, because the man most likely to win is not in the best car and that has kept the championship alive."
Traditionally, Spa provided the final opportunity for the Schumi fans to come and see their hero before the series finished outside Europe. However, this year, the organisers in Belgium are not expecting such a big crowd.
"Some races have been packed out, but others like Monza last week were not crowded," began the reigning champion. "It is difficult to know what makes the people come or not, but it would be a shame if there was a small crowd here. Of course, the fact that Ferrari has not had a good season has had an effect in Germany and Italy."
For those fans who attend this weekend, Schumacher is not promising any miracles. "Just a few days after Monza, I cannot say I expect to see much improvement but I hope that there will be before the end of the season, because the important thing and the reason we keep pushing is to put ourselves in the best possible position to be competitive again for next season."
"It will be tough, but we know what it takes, because we still have the same team of people who lost and had to push hard in 1997 and '98 before becoming very strong and winning."
Asked if rain would help his cause this weekend, Schumacher was more than enthusiastic: "I am praying for it!" he said. Apart from the weather, driver ability is also supposed to be able to make more of a difference here in Spa, but Michael was not sure this was the really the case anymore.
"It used to be the case because of the large number of high speed corners. Ten to fifteen years ago, this is where you could make the difference, but now with different technology, it is actually in the slow corners that you make up the most time, which means the driver is less important here than before."
So who does Schumacher think is favourite for this race? "I expect McLaren to be very strong here," he concluded. "This track will suit them very well and allow them to show their real potential."