Ferrari are hoping the F-2002 will have a victorious final outing at the San Marino Grand Prix this weekend. The year’s first European grand prix will give a good indication of teams’ real pace.

Ferrari are hoping the F-2002 will have a victorious final outing at the San Marino Grand Prix this weekend. The year’s first European grand prix will give a good indication of teams’ real pace.

The anti-clockwise Imola circuit is quite long, at 4,9km, with a couple of fairly short straights and medium-high speed corners. Brakes are important with the stop-and-go nature of the track - there are now many chicanes - and high downforce is required. It's a challenging circuit for both drivers and cars and the uphill gradient from Acque Minerale requires good engine power.

The difference in climate compared with the first three races means tyres are important but the smoother surface of the track means slightly less wear. Bridgestone had the edge last year in cooler conditions and both Bridgestone and Michelin will most likely opt for a softer compound.

The short pit lane at Imola lends itself to a multi-stop strategy although with the no refueling rule, it's anyone's guess what strategy teams will be on. It was a Ferrari one-two last year, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello taking the honours in front of the hysterical tifosi. It was an unspectacular race but one of high attrition, with only eleven cars finishing. All the non-finishers were mechanical related, because Imola is tough on cars.

How Ferrari will fare this time around is uncertain. Obviously the team will want to do well at its home race and make up for the ignominious double DNF in Brazil.

The F-2002 is on the pace but Ferrari, despite its continual denials, is struggling. However, the team has decided not to bring out the new F2003-GA until Spain and the F-2002 does seem reliable - apart from Barrichello's fuel feed problem in Brazil.

Having had a taste of victory in Malaysia, Kimi Raikkonen is champing at the bit to win his second grand prix. McLaren-Mercedes is currently to form team and Williams-BMW have yet to find its feet. This has given Renault the chance to run up front and the French team is the only team to finish both cars in the points so far. Fernando Alonso is proving as good as was expected, save for unpredictable Jaguar wheels getting in his way.

The surprise of Brazil was Jaguar's Mark Webber. The Australian very nearly blasted McLaren and Ferrari off the front row in qualifying, taking third a mere four hundredths of a second off pole man Barrichello. He went on to fight with the front runners all the way in the race until crashing spectacularly at the entry to the pit straight. His own error, he admitted afterwards, but Webber certainly gave everyone something to think about.

Imola should be interesting: the first three races were unpredictable, what with the new rules, the weather and the long-haul drag. Now in Europe, we should soon get a clearer picture of what is happening. Undoubtedly the top four are Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Renault but Ferrari is going to have to work hard to win this race. Renault has qualifying sorted out but the engine can't quite compete on sheer speed in the race. Neither can Jordan be counted out after Giancarlo Fisichella's stellar performance in Brazil.

McLaren-Mercedes has got it together at the moment and is probably the biggest opponent for the others come Sunday. However, a Ferrari front row wouldn't be a surprise at Imola.