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Japanese Grand Prix
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The Final Race of 2002
With both Titles and second places already decided the fight
in the Championships now concentrates on the lower ranks.
Last year Michael Schumacher won the race starting from Pole with Juan Pablo Montoya finishing a strong second while David Coulthard finishing in 3rd. Mika Hakkinen, Rubens Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher made the top 6. The top 3 teams took the top 6 places.
A number of teams were testing last week. McLaren, Williams, Toyota and BAR were at Barcelona and McLaren test driver Alexander Wurz broke the lap record there. Ferrari were testing at Mugello with Sauber and at Jerez and Fiorano while Renault and Jordan tested at Silverstone. The teams concentrated on set-up for the Japanese GP as well as testing components for the 2003 season.
Ferrari: They will once again dominate and
they are unlikely to face much competition from Williams of McLaren. Only
reliability can stop them and that looks very unlikely.
Drivers: Michael Schumacher won the US GP
even though he didn't. Having Barrichello win by 0.011 seconds was due to a
mistake by Michael.
Rubens Barrichello will try to
match Michael but at Suzuka he won't have a chance. He may even be challenged
by Montoya or Raikkonen but that is unlikely.
Williams: Following the clash
between their 2 drivers at Indy, both will be extra careful when racing each
other. Having said that, Montoya is likely to be too strong for Ralf here.
Drivers: Juan Pablo Montoya will most likely be fighting for 3rd place but may have a chance of challenging for second with Rubens. Last year he did extremely well finishing in second on his debut at this track. It would be good to see him challenge Michael here but the Ferrari is just too good.
Ralf Schumacher finished last at the US Grand Prix due to his spin and bump into his team-mate. Last year he finished 6th here and he could do a few positions better this year especially that he is fighting with Coulthard for 4th place in the Championship.
McLaren: They continue to improve
but with that they keep breaking down particularly with Raikkonen who suffered
3 engine failures at the last 3 events. They will challenge Williams and if
their car holds we could see a podium finish from them.
Drivers: David Coulthard finished on the podium in the last 2 races but in 2000 he was a minute down on Hakkinen and last year Hakkinen let him through. This year he'll have Raikkonen to beat and it is unlikely that he'll beat him if Raikkonen's car lasts!. Coulthard though has a chance of taking 4th from Ralf in the Championship and that could give him the extra motivation he needs.
Kimi Raikkonen could finish on the podium if his car doesn't blow up!.
Renault: They continue to score
points and consolidate their 4th place in the Championship. They now need to
make that big leap and mix it with the top 3 teams.
Jenson Button seems to be satisfied with what he has achieved with
Renault. He has been continually out-qualified and out-raced by Jarno Trulli.
Jarno Trulli continues to do well and
will likely be the first to take the opportunity and score more points if one
of the top 6 drivers struggle.
Sauber: They may have settled for 5th in the
Championship but that isn't 100% secure yet. Running the old Ferrari engines
won't help but they may get a good Bridgestone tyre that enables them to stay
with their main competitors Jaguar and the two Honda runners.
Drivers: Nick Heidfeld is tied on points with Fisichella at 7. If he manages to score points here he could improve his final ranking for the year. That is unlikely though.
Felipe Massa returns to racing after being replaced at the US GP due to a penalty. His future has yet to be decided but this will be his final race with Sauber. He will want to put on a good performance to please potential team owners but his reputation of being a bit reckless won't go away that easily.
Jaguar: They had a disappointing
race at the US GP failing to finish in the points. Their car has certainly
improved but it appears hard to set-up. They need to finish ahead of the 2
Honda runners if they are to keep 6th place in the Championship. They also
have a slim chance of taking 5th from Sauber but that is unlikely.
Drivers: Eddie Irvine failed to finish
in the points at Indy mainly due to a bad qualifying position. Irvine is in
the middle of a pack fighting for 8th place in the Drivers' Championship and
will be delighted if he can finish ahead of Trulli in the Renault.
Pedro de la Rosa has failed to finish in the last 3 races. This will have a negative effect on his chances for next year as Jaguar have improved dramatically in those last 3 races. While he is on a contract for next year, he could be released from his contract and that is the most likely scenario. A top 10 finish outside the points is possible.
BAR: Both their cars finished the
race at Indy and that is a good sign. Villeneuve also managed to score a
point. They will be trying their best to stay ahead of Jordan here as both run
the same engines.
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve scored a point at Indy. Scoring another here is possible but will be very hard. It is that time of the year again that Villeneuve starts claiming that next year's car will be a big step forward. Lets hope he is right this time.
Olivier Panis will try his best to put on a good show in his final race for the team before moving to Toyota next season. A top 10 finish is possible.
Jordan: Will do all they can to
beat BAR here and score a point or two. Not only does that show that they were
the ones who should've secured the Honda engines but would also give them a
bigger share of the TV revenues.
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella doesn't seem to
be happy at Jordan especially that they have lost the Honda engines for next
year and will use this year's Cosworth engines for next year. We may see
Fisichella somewhere else next season but where ?
Takuma Sato will want to do well in front of his home crowds. He will be hoping that Honda and Bridgestone can give him some advantage and would love to be able to score his first points finish of the season.
Minardi: Once again they will reserve the last row of the gird. Unless someone gets relegated
to the back due to an infringement they don't have the power to match any
Drivers: Mark Webber failed to finish yet
again but not after showing some more promise. It will be interesting to see
which team he'll be driving for next year. A deal with Jaguar is talked about
but nothing has been confirmed.
Alex Yoong will struggle to qualify here.
Toyota: Finished 14th and 15th at the US GP.
They would want to do better than that at their first appearance in front of
their home crowds
Drivers: Mika Salo will do his best to help Toyota
score a point or two and move ahead of Minardi and Arrows but point scoring
will be very hard.
Allan McNish continues to perform closer to Mika Salo but that won't be enough for him to find a drive for next season. Scoring a point in his last race would give him a career boost but that is unlikely. A top 10 finish is possible.
Arrows: They continue to be in a
deep financial crisis and the longer it takes, the more likely the team will
end up in liquidation. It will be another sad moment in the history for
Formula 1 if that happens.
6 'n' Pole and see how your predictions stack up against the others.