Even though this is a brand new venue, it has to be said that, with all the team trucks and motorhomes in place, the paddock seems much like any other on the F1 calendar and all the usual traditions applied, including Michael Schumacher's Thursday...
Even though this is a brand new venue, it has to be said that, with all the team trucks and motorhomes in place, the paddock seems much like any other on the F1 calendar and all the usual traditions applied, including Michael Schumacher's Thursday meeting with the media at the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro media motorhome.
Having been around the circuit for the first time today -- but of course not in a car -- the reigning champion was impressed. "It looks like a good track with a beautiful landscape, which means that, unlike China for example, it is easy to see where the corners go and where is the apex of a turn. It also seems that there are some overtaking opportunities and its looks like a very safe track, which is very important to us. I think they have done a very good job."
It is a widely held view that Schumacher is particularly skilled at adapting to a new circuit, but Michael pointed out another possible explanation for this. "Yes, statistically, it is true that we have done well at new tracks, but it is also statistically true that we have won the most races over the past six years! So, we also have to take into account that I had a good car, although I do adapt easily to new situations."
As for this weekend, the German would not be drawn on what could be expected of the F2005. "I want to maintain the scepticism about our performance level that I had in Hungary, because I did not expect to be as competitive as we were there. It is hard to know where we stand at the moment."
"I wish him luck," was Michael's opening remark about Barrichello leaving the team at the end of the season. "But it is not a problem, because in Felipe, we have a good replacement, whom I rate highly and who has a lot of potential. If we talk about the top young drivers, we talk about Alonso and Kimi but we should also talk about Felipe. So far, he has not really had the equipment to show his potential, but I believe he is very quick."
Schumacher had no concerns about a driver change destabilising the team. "It's not a problem and sometimes new blood can give a team a boost," he reckoned. "But in no way should that remark be taken as a lack of respect for Rubens," he added. "We had some good fun times off the track and some good fights on the track. Yes, it does feel strange when a partner leaves a successful team, but I respect his decision. I would have to say he is probably the best team-mate I have ever had."