Ferrari wants to cap its year of domination with a win, Kimi Räikkönen intends to beat Michael Schumacher again and BMW will unleash a potent new engine at Monza. Who will emerge victorious at the year’s last European grand prix on Sunday?
Ferrari wants to cap its year of domination with a win, Kimi Räikkönen intends to beat Michael Schumacher again and BMW will unleash a potent new engine at Monza. Who will emerge victorious at the year’s final European grand prix on Sunday?
Seven-time world champion Schumacher, who has fully recovered from his accident at the Parabolica during last week’s test session at the historic track, summed up the atmosphere of fanfare and excitement ahead of the Italian Grand Prix: “It can't get any better for Ferrari than the weekend we have coming up. It is our home race and we’ve already won both titles. What we would like is a huge Ferrari party. We want to celebrate with our fans”.
The German also said on Thursday that he was prepared to help his team-mate Rubens Barrichello fight to claim the runners-up spot in this year's world championship. The Brazilian is currently 23 points ahead of BAR-Honda’s Jenson Button, and could win the runners-up spot if he claims eight points more than Button in this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.
"I don't know if I can help him," said Schumacher. "I mean, first of all he is responsible for himself, but if there was a moment I could help, certainly I would. We have had a pretty much perfect year so far and to really make it perfect would be to have Rubens in the second position in the drivers' championship as well.
"That's the thing left to achieve. If you look at the points situation in the championship it's probably fair to say that there is a fair chance this will happen, so we will try," he added.
Räikkönen, having beaten Schumacher to claim his second grand prix victory at the recent Belgian Grand Prix, will care little for Ferrari’s grandstanding and is eager to trounce his German rival on the Scuderia's home turf.
“I am really looking forward to racing again at Monza this weekend following the result at Spa," said the Finn. "The car was running really well, as the win and fastest race lap demonstrated, and hopefully we will be up there at the front again.
"Monza has seen some real battles in the past and it would be nice to continue that trend this weekend," he added. "Although there have been many changes to the track, it is still awesome to drive, with its fast, sweeping corners, such as Parabolica, and the long straights.
But don’t discount the Williams-BMW team just because it hasn’t won a race so far this season… BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen this week said: "We have always presented our last development phase of the year's current engine at the Italian Grand Prix. This will be no different in 2004 with the BMW P84 engine.
"I am convinced that the BMW P84 engine continues to set the benchmark in F1. As far as power and revs in qualifying are concerned, some of our competitors have caught up. However, to reach this limit over a race distance, and to keep it in seventh gear, a whole ten seconds every lap, means huge thermal and mechanical strain – a challenge that the BMW P84 engine has mastered.
Due to the high-speed nature of the track, tyre compounds will be from the mid to hard end of the range. "Speed is a major factor at the Monza track where the cars can reach up to 360km/h," said Bridgestone technical manager Hisao Suganuma. "This exerts a lot of force on the tyres and heat durability is an issue. Wear, however, tends to be quite low."
BAR still has every chance of overtaking Renault for second in the constructors' standings. "I'm hopeful that our last race in Europe will mark a return to the podium for BAR before we head off for the fly-aways once again," said team boss David Richards.
But Jenson Button will have further damaged his already-tarnished relationship with Richards on Thursday when the British driver claimed that BAR had fallen behind rivals McLaren in recent races and tipped his rivals to pose the biggest threat to Ferrari on Sunday.
"It's a bit more difficult for us at the moment - for me the McLaren is quicker and they are doing a slightly better job," said the Briton. "If they perform like they did at Spa it will be very difficult. I think that Ferrari have the better car but McLaren will be quick and Renault will be there and I think it's sure to be close. I don't think Ferrari will have a huge advantage.
Meanwhile, Renault’s Jarno Trulli will be eager to perform well at his home circuit after a disappointing performance in Belgium. Two weeks ago, the Italian started from pole and finished ninth and his team-mate, Fernando Alonso, was the victim of an oil leak. At a loss to explain Trulli’s poor performance, Renault has given the Italian a new car for Monza.
"Jarno clearly struggled during the race in Belgium," said technical director Bob Bell. "In giving him a different chassis, built with completely different parts, we want to eliminate the possibility that some hidden problem in the car is affecting his performance."