The setting might be more glamorous than usual, the day before first practice might be a Wednesday instead of Thursday, but here in Monaco, the routine is the same for the two Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro drivers, as they began their official weekend...
The setting might be more glamorous than usual, the day before first practice might be a Wednesday instead of Thursday, but here in Monaco, the routine is the same for the two Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro drivers, as they began their official weekend engagements by meeting the media in the Ferrari motorhome, located on the side of the most famous harbour in the world.
Rubens Barrichello was the first to face the press and had deal with the usual requests to make predictions about Sunday's race. "I like meeting you all before the weekend begins," laughed the Brazilian. "But before we have even been out on track, don't ask me to predict the result, especially as much of this track has been resurfaced."
The Ferrari man went on to explain why he was in a positive mood about this race: "I think there were several circumstances that affected our last race in Barcelona, specifically that the conditions did not favour us in the way they had done during private testing. So, I prefer to look back to Imola, where we were competitive. The car we have now is better than the one we had there."
Much has been said about the Scuderia's difficulties in getting the Bridgestone tyres to work well when new, over one quick lap for qualifying and Barrichello admitted this had so far been their weak point. "But we can be positive, because in recent testing we have made some progress in this area, so I am confident that we must think that we have a chance of a win."
As for the opposition, apart from the fact that Renault won the first four races, Barrichello does not see the Anglo-French team as his main rivals. "McLaren has always been strong here," he said. "I see them as the main threat in the championship, as they seem to have a very well balanced car that is also quick in a straight line."
Michael Schumacher's first job was to explain the results of recent private testing: "We worked on a bit of everything," said the world champion. "We looked at aerodynamics, electronics and tyres." As for the task of trying to win here in the Principality, Michael summed it up as "difficult but not impossible."
"Renault and McLaren are currently very strong, but here in Monaco, we have an exceptional race in terms of what it demands from a car. In the past, Renault has been very strong here but not elsewhere and maybe this time, Toyota and Williams could also be strong this weekend."
Then came the usual question about tyre performance over a single lap. "We know this is our weak point," said the German, repeating his team-mate's comment. "But we have worked hard and improved in this area. We face a tough challenge here but we are ready for it."
Schumacher agreed a good grid position was very important on this tight track. "But it is not mega-important to be on pole. We saw in Imola, that even from 13th on the grid, you can make up positions in the race and even here you can do that."
But, given his poor start to the season, had Schumacher given up hope of retaining his title crown? "No, but it will be difficult," he admitted. "But it is a long season with 14 races to go, so 140 points on offer. We will have to wait and see if we can do it."
Finally, the German was asked about rumours that he entered "serious" negotiations regarding an extension to his contract that expires in 2006. "Every weekend you ask me this!" he joked with the journalists. "It is either because the rumour says I am gong to retire or because I am going to stay on. There is nothing to tell you yet. But keep asking the question, because one weekend there will be an answer!"