Ferrari could fight back at USGP
Ferrari hopes to get back in front of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in this weekend's United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
American F1 driver Scott Speed, meanwhile, hopes the performance potential that his Toro Rosso Ferrari has shown in earlier races this year will translate into a good result in his home Grand Prix.
After a strong start to the season in which it won three of the first four races, the Ferrari team had a variety of woes in the next two events, in Monaco and Canada.
Having won six of the seven F1 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2000, the Ferrari team hopes it can bounce back in the race Sunday, June 17. Practice takes place Friday, June 15, with practice and qualifying Saturday, June 16.
"I expect a very good weekend," said Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, who has won twice this year. "We were one/two here (at Indianapolis) last year, and I expect to have a good race this year."
While McLaren-Mercedes drivers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton have outpaced Ferrari drivers Massa and Kimi Raikkonen recently, Massa believes Ferrari is still in the hunt at the front.
"We can still fight to win races and championships," he said.
Raikkonen said: "I think our two teams are very close, but we will see here where we are."
Rookie Hamilton, who scored his first Grand Prix victory on June 10 in Canada, leads the FIA Formula One World Drivers Championship.
"Obviously, it was a big stepping-stone in my career and in my life," Hamilton said of his first F1 win. "It was a great feeling to get the first win. Definitely not expected after going into only my sixth Grand Prix, especially at Canada, where it wasn't one of my strongest circuits. I think Fernando (Alonso) is probably quicker than me there. But I did a solid job.
"It was very positive for the team, extended our lead with the Constructors Championship. Great points for me, and coming here we have to try and continue with other performance we have. I know the guys back at the factory are still working very hard and not taking it lightly that we're ahead."
McLaren has an improved car for the United States Grand Prix, McLaren's F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh said.
"After a great weekend for Lewis, we now move to a definite highlight of the year for the sport - the United States Grand Prix," Whitmarsh said. "It is a very challenging race, and we are not in the position to predict our performance relative to our key competitors.
"We are bringing developments on line for the United States Grand Prix as we work toward extending the performance gap. This is going to require a lot of hard and focused work, and we will face powerful competition from our rivals."
The Renault F1 team had mixed results in the Canadian Grand Prix. Giancarlo Fisichella was disqualified for leaving the pits when the red light was on, while rookie Heikki Kovalainen finished a career-best fourth.
"The positive thing to draw out of it all, though, is that the car was clearly competitive in Montreal," Fisichella said. "We were fighting with Ferrari in the race. That's encouraging for this weekend in Indy, and hopefully we can round it off with a better result."
"We have to go into the race weekend feeling positive. This has always been a good circuit for me, and I think that our pace in Canada was quite good. Our fight in the championship is with BMW at the moment, so our target has to be to try and outscore them this weekend. They were very competitive in Montreal, as well, so we will have our work cut out. But that will be what we are aiming for."
Kovalainen is looking forward to competing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time.
"It's a mythical circuit that everybody in motor racing has heard of," he said. "It's a spectacular sight when you go through the tunnel for the first time, and find yourself in the infield.
"The oval is huge, and makes the F1 circuit look very small alongside! I think it is an interesting circuit for us to race on, though. The section on the oval is very high speed, while the infield offers some interesting combinations of corners. I am looking forward to discovering what it feels like from the cockpit."
After finishing a strong second place in the Canadian Grand Prix, Nick Heidfeld and the BMW Sauber team are hoping for another good result in the United States Grand Prix.
"Our form is very much on an upward curve," said BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen. "Six races into the season, we have collected two points more than in the whole of 2006. We achieved our aim for the season for the first time in Montreal in what was the best overall result so far for the team. But this should not be our only podium finish of the season."
Sebastian Vettel will make his Formula One racing debut at this event for BMW Sauber. Vettel, 19, replaces Robert Kubica, who was not cleared to drive in this race by FIA Medical Delegate Dr. Gary Hartstein after his massive accident June 10 in the Canadian Grand Prix.
This weekend marks Speed's third appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 2005, he drove the third Red Bull during the Friday practice session for the United States Grand Prix.
In 2006, he made his race debut in his home Grand Prix. He qualified his Toro Rosso 13th but was eliminated in the multi-car crash on the first lap.
So far in 2007, Speed has not finished four of the six races he started. But he is pleased with the improvements made to his Toro Rosso Ferrari.
"For me, I think, the beginning of the year has been very good," he said. "We've had good races; we've just been, I think, very unlucky. We haven't finished any. I think especially starting from Barcelona, we've been at the right pace or at a pace that was better than we kind of expected.
"So this weekend I expect to be at a similar pace to where we were in Canada. But once we get back to Europe, I think we have another improvement waiting for us."
Once again, the battle to rule the mid-pack will be fiercely contested between AT&T Williams, Panasonic Toyota Racing, Red Bull Racing and ING Renault.
And, as Takuma Sato proved with his sixth place in Canada, a surprise result from the rest of the teams - including Sato's Super Aguri Honda, Scuderia Toro Rosso, Honda and Etihad Aldar Spyker - is possible in various circumstances.
2007 USGP tickets: Reserved Race Day and three-day "Season Passes" for the 2007 United States Grand Prix, June 15-17, are on sale to all customers.
Ticket information can be found any time at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com or by calling the IMS Ticket Office at (800) 822-4639 or (317) 492-6700. Ticket Office hours are from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.
2007 United States Grand Prix Fast Facts
Date: Sunday, June 17, 2007
Race: Seventh of 17 on 2007 schedule
Venue: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
On TV: Race (live) - 1-3 p.m. (ET) June 17, FOX. Qualifying and practice (live) - 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. June 16, SPEED. Practice (live) - 10-11:30 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. June 15, SPEED.
Circuit length: 2.605 miles, 4.192 km
Race length: 73 laps
2006 race winner: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2006 pole winner: Schumacher
Previous winners: 2005 - Schumacher, 2004 - Schumacher, 2003 - Schumacher, 2002 - Rubens Barrichello, 2001 - Mika Hakkinen, 2000 - Schumacher