The BMW WilliamsF1 Team will travel to Imola next week for the first European race of the 2004 season, the San Marino Grand Prix. Despite the slow start to this year's Championship challenge, the team is looking forward to returning to the...
The BMW WilliamsF1 Team will travel to Imola next week for the first European race of the 2004 season, the San Marino Grand Prix. Despite the slow start to this year's Championship challenge, the team is looking forward to returning to the European tracks which have historically favoured the BMW WilliamsF1 Team. As a Constructor, WilliamsF1 has claimed eight victories at Imola, while the circuit was also the setting for the Anglo- German partnership's maiden win, as well as Ralf Schumacher's first victory, in 2001.
The team has spent the intervening three week period that followed the three long haul races completing two intensive test programmes at Barcelona and Paul Ricard. Having successfully tested several new aerodynamic components and completed almost 6,000 kilometres, the team enters Europe with a revised confidence in their competitiveness and a determination to narrow the margin to the leaders.
Juan Pablo Montoya:
"The San Marino Grand Prix marks the start of the European rounds of the Formula One season, which is always nice for the teams as it means less traveling and greater comfort, as we can bring our motorhomes with us! From a technical perspective, Imola is a demanding circuit, with a layout that requires both high downforce and a good engine. In addition to this, when it comes to setting the car up, we always have to take into consideration Imola's high kerbs which can unsettle the car's balance."
"The colder weather in Imola will make a change from the first three races this season and could affect our rivals' performances. I think the FW26 should perform well, despite the fact that last year's San Marino Grand Prix was not a good race for me. Due to a problem with the fuel rig, I only managed to finish in seventh place, but I'm hoping for better luck this year!"
"I won my first ever Formula One race at San Marino three years ago, so I always like to return to Imola. However, we need to concentrate on this year. At the moment, it is much more important for us to completely focus on improving our package in order to gradually reduce the gap to Ferrari. Miracle should not be expected from us in Imola, but the circuit has always suited our car. During our most recent tests at Barcelona and Paul Ricard, we have made improvements, so I believe we will be able to close the gap to the front runners."
Sam Michael (Chief Operations Engineer WilliamsF1):
"San Marino can be quite cold at this time of year, so we have been testing at the Paul Ricard circuit in France this week to simulate - as closely as possible - the conditions we will experience in Imola. Following a disappointing result in Bahrain, we have also concentrated on rectifying the gearbox problems we've experienced."
"With medium to high speed corners, a couple of chicanes and plenty of heavy braking, the circuit is a big challenge for the drivers. It is also important to achieve a set up on the car which allows the drivers to ride the kerbs without compromising high speed stability."
"We have made some aerodynamic improvements to the cars which we will run in Imola and we hope these will improve our competitiveness. We will also have two new tyre choices from Michelin. Strategy seems to have come full circle recently, with the teams running for only short distances, I suspect Imola won't be any different."
Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director):
"The team has several reasons to look forward to Imola. Firstly, and most importantly, we won our first, out of nine, races here in 2001 when Ralf claimed his maiden victory. Racing in Europe is also logistically easier for the team. After the long-haul journeys to the first three races, the start of the European season means shorter trips and our own equipment, notably our own trucks and motorhomes."
"Imola requires relatively high downforce and has several uphill sections. Both factors combined make the circuit particularly challenging for the engines. Our focus at the moment is the continual development and reliability of the BMW P84 engine. Regarding performance, our goal is to be able to attain our qualifying maximum revs and output throughout the entire race distance."
"After the three fly-away races, we find ourselves in the role of the hunter. Similar to last year, we need to continually work to close the gap to the front-runners. However, for the San Marino Grand Prix, I would regard Ferrari as having the best chance."