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2000 Italian GP News
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This is the best chance for McLaren to extend their lead in both championships as not only that this circuit suits them but it also does not suit Ferrari. As we saw in Belgium, the McLaren will be superfast and in the hands of Hakkinen, only a mistake or changing weather conditions will prevent him from winning the race. On the other hand, Ferrari will struggle on this track as they did at Spa and will be fighting with Jordan, BAR and Williams for a top 6 finish. Of course Michael will do his best as he did in Belgium but that won't be enough.
The track itself has been modified and the first chicane in particular has been a concern for some drivers who complained of it being very tight during last week's testing session. This could cause a first corner pile up at the start of the race as the cars reach this chicane just 10 seconds from the start. In addition, the potential of drivers receiving a stop-go penalty as a result of crossing the chicane is high as the lap time can decrease by up to 2 seconds if that occurs!
Of the current drivers, Michael Schumacher has won twice (96 and 98), Heinz Harald Frentzen (99), David Coulthard (97) and Johnny Herbert (95).
McLaren: They have taken the lead in both championships following the Belgian Grand Prix and unless their drivers make mistakes or the car fails them they will extend the lead even further. Mika Hakkinen seems unstoppable while David Coulthard got distracted. A 1-2 finish is once again expected.
Ferrari: Michael Schumacher didn't race here last year due to injury but Mika Salo and Eddie Irvine who were driving for Ferrari qualified outside the top 5 (Salo in 6th and Irvine in 8th). Salo did manage to finish 3rd but only after Hakkinen crashed out and he was behind the Jordan of Heinz Harald Frentzen and the Williams of Ralf Schumacher. I don't see them doing much better and Michael Schumacher will find it very hard to finish on the podium while Barrichello will be close to Michael on this track as it doesn't require a lot of setup work. Both will probably finish in the top 6.
Williams: I was surprised by their pace at Belgium as I didn't expect them to be close to Jordan and BAR on this type of circuit but they were so I expect them to be strong here as well. Jenson Button had a great qualifying session but a bad race due to his inexperience. He might learn from that here. Williams will be fighting Ferrari, BAR and Jordan for a top 6 position.
Benetton: They had a bad weekend at Spa and that is likely to continue here. They will struggle and I don't expect Fisichella to score points here and neither would Alexander Wurz. 4th place in the championship will be threatened by Jordan or BAR soon.
Jordan: They have moved ahead of BAR in the constructors championship and could move further if they have better luck. This track suits the Jordan and last year Frentzen won here (after Hakkinen spun out). They could do it again here but I doubt that Hakkinen will make the same mistake twice. A podium finish is possible. It is hard to pick between Trulli and Frentzen as they are closely matched. Reliability is weakness for Jordan though.
BAR: Jacques Villeneuve expected a points finish at Spa but finished 7th losing 2 valuable places via the pits. This circuit will certainly favour them as they have one of the best engines available so they will be even stronger here and mount a serious challenge to Jordan, Williams and even Ferrari. Again, expect Villeneuve to score a few points here with a podium a slight possibility. Zonta could also do well here.
Sauber: I expected Sauber to do better at Spa but they ended up mixing it with Jaguar. Having the powerful Ferrari engine should make them closer to Jordan and BAR here. A top 10 finish for both is possible.
Jaguar: The team appears to be progressing, both cars finished in the top 10 at Spa and the same could happen here too. Johnny Herbert outraced and outqualified Eddie Irvine at Spa and could do the same here. Another top 10 finish is possible.
Arrows: Disaster struck for the Arrows team at Spa and they were surprisingly uncompetitive. They never found the right balance but I expect them to be stronger here and closer to Sauber and Jaguar than to Prost. Both de la Rosa and Verstappen could finish just outside the top 10.
Prost: Alesi reminded us of his superb skill when he took a gamble and was the first to switch to dry tyres on a damp track. Soon after, both Prosts retired!. Sadly that is what we can expect from Prost this season. Lets hope they come up with a better package next season if only for Alesi's sake.
Minardi: Marc Gene managed to finish ahead of both the Arrows at Spa. That was certainly a bonus. This track is a power track and Minardi don't have that so it will be another hard race for them.
Last year only 11 cars finished and with the changes to the
first chicane creating a potential pile up at the start, we could see even less cars