As the 2005 FIA Formula One World Championship heads for its first European race, the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, Team SAUBER PETRONAS has prepared by conducting its first test session since the season began, in Barcelona immediately after the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Willy Rampf (Technical Director): "It is always good to get back to Europe after the opening three 'flyaway' races, because things get a little easier logistically and because the travel time schedule is shorter.
"Imola is a maximum downforce circuit that is very taxing on brakes. Therefore we use the maximum brake cooling we have and the optimum specification of pad and disc. It is also important to set up the car so that the drivers can use the kerbs. These are relatively high but the only way to a fast lap is to go straight over them, especially in the chicane at the top of the hill. The track is also bumpy, but the drivers just have to live with that. Our last test at Imola in February was snowed off after a day, but we were at least able to get a base set-up in our limited running time.
"The most important aspect of our preparation for the San Marino Grand Prix has been our intensive three-day test in Barcelona, our first since this year's racing began. We concentrated there on our ongoing aerodynamic programme, trying several new components from the wind tunnel at Hinwil, and also tyre testing for Imola and future races. One of the things we needed to do was continue set-up work on the SAUBER PETRONAS C24 as we learned more about optimising the way that it uses Michelin's tyres. We also worked on a range of different set-ups for cooler conditions, following the races in Malaysia and Bahrain with their high track and ambient temperatures. All of this test work was particularly valuable, as there is no longer the time or the engine mileage available for such work at races."
Jacques Villeneuve: "In Bahrain the car was stronger and I could drive more aggressively so that's encouraging for Imola. I am looking forward to going there after a good race where I almost got points so hopefully I will get them this time. Imola is a very different track; It's got numerous chicanes and the curves are particular so the driving style is different. There are a lot of difficult corners as well and it's a very demanding track for the engine and brakes so it will be a little bit difficult for everyone I think. In addition to this, there is still room for improvement on the set-up side so I will be working even harder with my engineers to help the car go faster in this first European race of the season. However, it seems that we are going in the right direction, so that's positive."
Felipe Massa: "I like Imola very much, because I have won races there in Formula Renault and Formula 3000. It has a wonderful ambiance and a lot of character and history. The only problem is that it is so very difficult to pass anyone there. Qualifying is therefore even more important than usual.
"The circuit has very high kerbs and being able to ride them is the key to a fast lap, so we always run with a slightly higher ride height to cater for this. There isn't really any penalty in lap time, but it's a little bit of a compromise. Imola is also quite bumpy these days, especially on the pit straight. We were scheduled to do a three-day test there prior to Melbourne, but after one day we got snowed off. However, in that day we were able to start establishing a set-up baseline for the SAUBER PETRONAS C24 and to get a feel for how the car goes there. We have also tested more recently in Barcelona, where we tried some new parts which we will use in Imola, so I am optimistic that we can do well there."