Friday April 13th, 2001
Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn paid tribute to Rubens Barrichello on Friday after the Brazilian driver bounced back from defeat to set the second best time in a free practice for the San Marino Grand Prix.
Barrichello was slower only than German team mate Michael Schumacher as Ferrari returned to their homeland in style for the first race of the season in Europe.
Brawn was confident the team had solved the problems experienced at the Brazilian Grand Prix two weeks ago, when Schumacher's six-race winning streak was ended by McLaren's David Coulthard.
He also made a point of praising Barrichello for his attitude after the trauma of failing to finish his home race for the seventh year in a row, after colliding with the rear of the Williams driven by Schumacher's brother Ralf.
That incident drew widespread criticism, with former champion and Jaguar boss Niki Lauda going so far as to suggest that Barrichello should be hit with a two-race ban.
In the end, the Brazilian avoided punishment for what was decreed to be a racing incident.
"He was down for a few days," admitted Brawn.
"It was a difficult weekend for him. There were huge expectations. But I spoke to him after things settled down, he didn't test last week but we kept him informed.
"I'm really pleased today because he's put all that behind him, he's come with a nice approach this weekend. We just need to try and keep things straight, keep them normal.
"He's done a very good job this year, Brazil didn't quite work out for him and he's got involved in one or two incidents which have been controversial.
"But I think he's back to normal."
"We came away from Brazil disappointed," Brawn said. "The car just didn't work as well as we'd hoped."
The Briton admitted Ferrari had got it wrong at Interlagos with the set-up of Schumacher's car.
He also said that Brazil also had different characteristics to Australia, Malaysia and Imola, which required a high level of aerodynamic downforce.
The German was overtaken twice during the race, once by the Williams of Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya and then by Coulthard's McLaren.
"We didn't have a very good set-up in Brazil, which was amplified in the wet. We really thought the weather gods were Ferrari fans when that rain came on our second (pit) stop," Brawn said.
"But then to go backwards so quickly was not normal.
"Last week in Fiorano we had a couple of wet days and we were able to go back through what we had on the car in Brazil and it was pretty awful around Fiorano, which was reassuring.
"Just by changing the car we were able to get it working normally again and we were pleased this morning. The car was very good in the wet. So I hope it's back to normal."
Brawn said Schumacher had not expected Montoya's move but had not complained about it afterwards while Coulthard's pass came at a time when the German was struggling with the car's handling.
"He'll certainly be more careful next time," he said of Schumacher's attitude towards Montoya. "I don't think Michael will give him so much of an opportunity next time."
Schumacher also believes Ferrari's set-up problems were over.
"In both the wet and dry we have shown we are competitive again," said Schumacher after a day that started with a rain-soaked track and ended in bright sunshine.
"I think what happened in Brazil was just an exception."