Ferrari confident of different gear on home circuit

The pressure is mounting for the Scuderia to deliver this weekend. The team, whose domination earlier in the decade threatened the very fabric of Formula One, have not won a race for 10 months, and on that occasion Michael Schumacher and team-mate Rubens Barrichello staged a fly-past in the infamous farce that passed for a race in Indianapolis last June.

You have to trawl back to Suzuka in October 2004 for the last time Ferrari won a race fair and square. That is a lifetime by Formula One standards, and the tifosi andmedia are getting restless.

Spicing the weekend is the speculation about Kimi Raikkonen defecting from McLaren for 2007, and Schumacher's refusal to make a decision about his own future with the team until July at the earliest. However, after yesterday's performance in Imola, there is an air of definite optimism in the red camp.

Schumacher set the pace on a track that was still dirty, and therefore lacked grip, in the morning, and was close to his arch rival Fernando Alonso in the afternoon. Having insisted that Ferrari must win here before he actually arrived, yesterday he tried to play things down. "Every race is important for us," Schumacher said. "Words have been put in my mouth that this is a crucial race. We believe pretty strongly that we can be competitive here."

He exhibited zero interest speculating on his future: "I am pretty sure that once the decision is made you will be informed."