Jenson Button wants to “look down” on Schumi, but the German doubts the Briton’s pedigree. Jacques Villeneuve won’t be friends with Felipe Massa and says Kimi Raikkonen is a fake. And Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello are talking down their chances, again.

Jenson Button wants to “look down” on Schumi, but the German doubts the Briton’s pedigree. Jacques Villeneuve won’t be friends with Felipe Massa and says Kimi Raikkonen is a fake. And Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello are talking down their chances, again.


With less than a week to go before of the season’s opening grand prix in Melbourne, Australia, Button has told that Ferrari could not keep winning forever and that his goal for 2005 was to “look down on (seven-time world champion) Michael Schumacher” from the top step of the podium.


"Ferrari has been on top for a long time and it can't stay like that," the BAR-Honda driver was quoted as saying. “Williams and McLaren have both previously been on top for three or four years at a time - it doesn't last a decade. My goal for this season is to beat Michael by winning a race and looking down on him on the podium."


"Last year was exceptional for BAR getting eleven podiums but this year we really need to fight with Ferrari and challenge for race wins," the 25-year-old Briton added. "Michael has the best equipment. If you put (McLaren-Mercedes drivers) Kimi Raikkonen or Juan-Pablo Montoya in his position ... they would do exactly the same."


But the German superstar, 36, annoyed at being compared with his Finnish and Colombian rivals, hit back: “There's no more time for talking. Now it's time for proving. Jenson, as a driver, is a question mark for me, but the potential may develop."


Meanwhile, outspoken 1997 World Champion Villeneuve is back in the Formula One limelight after a one-year hiatus and has begun courting controversy even before the start of the season. Team owner Peter Sauber recently said that is was clear to him that Villeneuve and mercurial team-mate Felipe Massa would “never be friends”.


"I doubt it," the Sauber team boss said in an interview. In pre-season testing, Brazil's Massa - nearly a decade younger than his veteran team-mate - was almost always the quicker of the pair.


Sauber had no answer why Villeneuve could not match Massa’s pace, but said there was no chance of the pair getting along: "In F1, friendships are few and far between, and we aren't looking for that, anyway. Professional collaboration ... is much more important."


Villeneuve recently bemoaned the fact that the grand prix grid was devoid of heroes: “Car manufacturers and multinational sponsors instruct drivers to not say what you think. If you're not allowed to have a personality," he asked, "how can you be a hero?"


In spite of Raikkonen’s much-publicised drunken romp in a British strip club recently, the Canadian lambasted the Finn for deliberately trying to appear “one dimensional”. "It's sad,” Villeneuve was quoted as saying. “He's not the ice man”.


Another so-called straight-laced F1 star, Mark Webber, played down Williams-BMW’s chances of victory in Melbourne as to limit the Grove-based team’s embarrassment should both he and Nick Heidfeld fail to make an impression Down Under. Some sources even quoted the Australian as saying that he would be happy to finish sixth or seventh in his home grand prix...


Webber told Australian media that, as well as being concerned about reliability, the BMW-powered FW27 was “behind in pace”.


"It's not really realistic to say 'we're going to win Melbourne'. We've been aggressive but we thought the car would be quicker, honestly,” the Australian said.


Surely, Ferrari, which has dominated the constructors’ championship since 1999, must be confident of obliterating the opposition yet again on Sunday? Schumacher’s team-mate Rubens Barrichello doesn’t rate Ferrari’s chances, in fact.


The Brazilian this week said that the Scuderia, which will race a modified 2004 car at Albert Park next weekend, was not as quick as leading rivals Renault and McLaren and told : "We've known for a while that we would suffer ... in the first races. It won't be easy."


At least McLaren-Mercedes and Renault seem more upbeat about their respective chances of success at Melbourne, but more about that tomorrow…