Imola - 13,14 & 15 April 2001 Having completed a productive two-day test programme at the Jerez circuit in Southern Spain, Jaguar Racing heads to San Marino for the fourth round of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The 3.061-mile Imola ...
Imola - 13,14 & 15 April 2001
Having completed a productive two-day test programme at the Jerez circuit in Southern Spain, Jaguar Racing heads to San Marino for the fourth round of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The 3.061-mile Imola circuit lies where Lombardy meets Tuscany in rural Italy. It marks the beginning of the European race season and with Maranello just up the road, the Italian tifosi will be out in force something Eddie Irvine experienced in 1996 when they tried stealing his helmet while he was still sitting in his car after the race! The safety modifications made to Imola after the tragic weekend in 1994, when two drivers lost their lives have resulted in a relatively tame layout, but the cars will still reach speeds in excess of 185mph. Combined with the chicanes, Imola is infamous for punishing engines and brakes.
Bobby Rahal Chief Executive Officer and Team Principal
"Although we should have been blessed with better luck, I was encouraged with the progress the team made in Brazil. The Jaguar R2's reliability is getting ever better and we should have capitalised with some points at the last race. Eddie's drive up to sixth position highlighted the potential we have and I am pleased by improvements we are making to the package. The on-going challenge for us is to find more pace and our two-day Jerez test focused on developing new front-end aerodynamic parts. The feedback was positive, but we'll have a far better idea of our competitiveness when we roll-out at San Marino alongside the others. As we have seen from the races so far this season, qualifying times will probably come down at Imola compared to last year's. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if the circuit lap record is smashed this year. The tyre development war is certainly making its presence felt but it will be interesting to see what happens to lap times after Imola with this being the last race before traction control becomes legal again."
"It sounds like a cliché, but it will be great to be racing back in Europe, after spending more time in the air than Superman on a busy day! On top of that, I really love going to Imola. It's an interesting track, still challenging, even if it's been tamed with too many chicanes. That means it's hard on brakes particularly. The fact we can't test there means you approach it with a fresh mind. The atmosphere is fantastic, the crowd are nicely crazy and after the hot and sticky conditions of the first three races, it will make a pleasant change to experience some cooler weather. Michelin have not tested there, but new circuits don't seem to have presented them with much of a problem so far."
"Apart from the premature race retirement, the Brazilian Grand Prix was pleasing in that I was very close to Eddie all weekend. It's healthy to have both cars fighting so closely and I hope we can carry that momentum through to Imola. I don't know this track, but it doesn't strike me as being too difficult to learn as far as layout is concerned. Getting through the chicanes well and understanding how to tackle the kerbs is important at Imola. We haven't yet got the outright speed that we need and our ability to produce a good set-up will be critical to making progress. I was pleased with what we learned in Brazil and the team achieved good results from the aero work we conducted in Jerez leading up to this race. Eddie finished 7th in Imola last year and it would be great to have that level of competitiveness again. With this, however, being a transition season for Jaguar Racing, it's very difficult to predict Imola until we go out for Friday Free Practice. Nobody has tested here in the run-up to the race and as has been the case since the beginning of the season, the tyres will undoubtedly play a fundamental role for all concerned."
Eddie Irvine Questions & Answers on Imola
What does Italy mean to you?
"It's one of my homes now, so I guess I like it. I learned a lot when I was driving for that well-known Italian team! Not just about motor racing but about life. The Italians have a laid-back attitude that suits me down to the ground. They know how to live well. They drink without getting drunk, they eat well without getting fat and are generally a pretty sophisticated lot, even though they are hot-blooded and emotional. I suppose the one aspect I appreciate about Italy more than anything is the weather. Coming from the UK, I realised what I had been missing in terms of not being cold or wet all year round and being able to eat outside."
Do you still have a lot of fans in Italy?
"Oh yes. The tifosi have long memories, as long as you have done a good job for them. You only have to look at all the banners hanging over the fence opposite the pits at Imola. I bet there will still be loads for Alesi and Berger. I can't say I like being gawped at when I'm eating in restaurants, but it's nice when people call out your name and wave in the streets. It also comes in handy for the odd Parking Ticket! But mess with the fans and they'll turn on you. The last thing I reminded myself to do before I went out on the track at Imola for the first time on Friday morning was to wave at the fans. If you don't do that, getting into the track can be difficult the next day."
What are the challenges of the Imola track?
"In the old days it used to be hard on fuel consumption, but that's no longer a problem. Instead, the brakes, gearbox and transmission can take a pounding. It's an anti-clockwise track, but we should be used to that after Brazil. There are not too many places to overtake, so a good start is essential. It also means you can be slowed by back markers. On the strategy side, I guess it should be a two-stopper. It usually is and with tyre wear a more important factor this year, a one stop seems unlikely, although we won't be sure until we get there."
How do you think the R2 will go in Imola?
"It's very hard to say. Twelfth place on the grid is pretty much where we are in the pecking order right now and that isn't going to change overnight. In last week's test in Jerez, I did a lot of tyre testing with encouraging results and we also have some new aerodynamic bits, which improved front-end stability. On a track that often sees a high retirement rate, the fact the R2 is a reliable old girl might pay off for us."