Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello, whom many believe lived up to his potential for the first time last year, aims to make a strong start and challenge for the F1 championship in 2003.

Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello, whom many believe lived up to his potential for the first time last year, aims to make a strong start and challenge for the F1 championship in 2003.

As CARtoday.com reported on Friday, Ferrari’s chief designer, South African Rory Byrne, describes the F-2003 GA - the Scuderia’s 2003 challlenger - as the most beautiful and best Formula One car he has penned. And few F1 observers will bet against a Ferrari driver winning the drivers’ championship yet again this year.

“It is gorgeous!” Barrichello said of the F-2003 GA. “Before the launch, I'd seen it on the drawing table, but when it was unveiled, I couldn't keep my eyes off of it. Each time I'd go around I'd notice some new detail. I can't wait to take it to the race track, even though I know we won't have it in Melbourne. I think we'll have a good idea of its potential after only a few laps.”

The Brazilian impressed many when he outshone team-mate and then four-time world champion Michael Schumacher to claim pole at last year’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix. However, Barrichello was punted off the track at the first corner of the race and subsequent mechanical failures at the Malaysian, Brazilian and Spanish grands prix ruined a potential championship challenge.

Some F1 observers say that Ferrari’s decision to order the Brazilian to hand his German team-mate victory at the now infamous Austrian Grand Prix was simply because they did not see Barrichello as being in a potentially championship-winning position.

“Last year I felt that I was driving as well if not better than I ever did since graduating to F1”, said Barrichello, “but I was unlucky at the start of the season. Today, I'm a bit older, a bit happier and a bit quicker!

”I hope to have a better start of the season so as to fight for the title even though some say it's impossible when your team-mate is Michael Schumacher. But if you look at the latest tests for example, you'll see there isn't much of a difference between the two of us.

”I'm not here to copy Michael. To each their own problems and their way of fixing them. Still, try as I might, I haven't seen any signs pointing to Michael being slower than last year,” he added.

The Brazilian has also welcomed the new qualifying format because, he says, there will not be the problem of traffic impeding a driver’s qualifying run: “Being all by yourself on a track like Monaco is a fascinating concept. Of course there'll be plenty of pressure because you won't want to make any mistake. I've prepared myself physically and mentally for this exercise each time I tested this winter. The qualifying session has always been my favourite moment of a race weekend.”

Some electronic aids will be taken away starting in Silverstone, the tenth race on the calendar. But on this point Barrichello is less enthusiastic: “On one hand, it's better to use traction control because it allowed us to do some wonderful things with the car. We could drive it 110 per cent. On corner exit, you could only go Wow!

”On the other hand, on a wet track, I'd rather not have traction control as the car is easier to handle without it,” he added.

Original article from Car