IMOLA: The Formula One season moves to Europe this weekend with the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola and after three winners from the first three races, the Williams-BMW team will be hoping it’s their turn to celebrate in front of a sell-out crowd.
Juan Pablo Montoya’s second place finish in the first Grand Prix of the season in Melbourne is the only time the exciting Colombian has managed to finish a race while teammate Ralf Schumacher’s best performance to date was fourth place in Malaysia.
Both Williams drivers currently have eight points – 16 behind championship leader Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren-Mercedes – but will be hoping to close the gap at Imola.
“I am glad be back to racing in Europe, and especially at Imola,” says Montoya. “Although I have never managed to make it onto the podium there, it is a race that the whole team looks forward to.”
Meanwhile, Schumacher will be trying to put the disappointment of the Brazilian Grand Prix – where he finished a lowly seventh – behind him at Imola where he celebrated his first grand prix win in 2001.
“I am now focused on what is ahead, because the job at Imola will be difficult,” says Schumacher. “I remember last year that we did not have the smallest chance against Ferrari. This time circumstances are different and the most recent test at Le Castellet has taken us another step forward.”
But the 27-year-old German accepts the McLaren pair of Raikkonen and David Coulthard will be challengers this year along with Ferrari.
“Improvements in testing are important, as the aim is now not only to beat Ferrari, but also prevent McLaren from opening up a lead.”
History suggests Williams have a chance at Imola. The British based team have won eight times there compared to Renault and McLaren’s six wins each.
The Imola circuit was also the scene for one of the blackest days in Formula One when the great Ayrton Senna was involved in a fatal crash in his Williams in 1994. The case into the inspirational Brazilian's death is still being investigated.
In its original verdict in Bologna in 1999, the Appeals Court acquitted Williams-Renault technical director Patrick Head and then chief designer Adrian Newey of manslaughter charg– dpa