fat lady is singing
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The season, for all practical purposes, is over. The Brazilian race has no chance, short of some cataclysmic disaster, of changing standings in the constructors' championship with the exception of McLaren taking 4th place off Williams or Toyota or even Jordan taking 7th place off Jaguar.
Similarly with the drivers standings the only changes will be in the lower orders. Montoya could take 4th place from Alonso but how many people will notice that.
These small changes may mean a lot to the drivers and constructors but to enthusiasts winning is all that matters, second or third is noticed and the rest is losing.
So we can expect to see a race that will be treated as a stand alone competition and that may make it very interesting.
Michael Schumacher again cruised home from a pole position. Judging by the performance advantage he had, there was a fair chance that Barrichello could have finished on the podium but his rather exuberant overtaking of Coulthard certainly ended that.
Ralf Schumacher did well although we cannot assume that finishing 14 seconds behind his brother means that the Williams car is only 14 seconds slower over the full race. Michael was pacing himself to the extent that he even allowed Massa to un-lap himself.
Button, however was only 3 seconds slower than Ralf. These two were both aiming for second and Button was gaining towards the end of the race.
Because of the shortened weekend there was no time to work on setup and many of the teams had to start on a guessed configuration, so there is very little that we can conclude from the results other than Ferrari had it pretty right. I suspect that Ralf had a better setup than Montoya and Raikkonen was struggling with his.
Although he qualified very well it appears that Mark Webber's Jaguar was set up with a touch too little ride height and the friction of constant bottoming out cooked his seat so much that he had to retire. Even if he could stay in the race there was no way he could make his starting position stick. He had a great qualifying lap but no sustainable race pace.
It is great to see that the British Grand Prix is back in the provisional schedule for next year. As you probably gathered, I was rather distressed when it was taken off the schedule - let us hope that the contract negotiations go well.
The Interlagos circuit (track layout) in Brazil is a moderately fast track - around 200km/H (124mph) average lap speed. It is not particularly hard on brakes or tyres but the bumpy surface will definitely test suspension and car handling stability. The circuit is a mixture of very fast straights and sweeping bends on the outer part of the circuit and a tight slower inner section. Setting up is always a challenge here because the downforce needed to be competitive in the inner, slower, section will disadvantage cars in the faster, outer part of the circuit. Suspension set up will also be critical to ensure that the cars maintain an optimum angle of attack (the angle of the wings to the airflow) over the bouncy surface. The starting grid is a reasonable distance from the first corner ('S' do Senna), which is a 90km/H (56mph) left followed by a slightly faster right hand exit. I expect cars to get up to at least 260km/H (161mph) even on cold tyres before braking for 'S' do Senna on the first lap, thereafter they will be doing over 320km/H (198mph) down the pit straight. 'S' do Senna is followed very soon by another left handed corner (Curvo do Sol) that is even faster at 205km/H (127mph) which exits on to a long straight (Reta Oposta) where speeds will go over 310km/H (192mph) before braking for the 150km/H (93mph) lefthander (Descida do Logo) which is virtually a double apex hairpin. A short straight followed by a reasonably fast right turn at 190km/H (118mph) and we get to the slower inner section of the track where mechanical grip or extremely high downforce is needed to negotiate several very slow corners with very little straight sections including a super slow right hand corner where most of the cars will drop down to 1st gear. After Juncao (a left corner taken at 90km/H or 56mph) speed starts building through a left sweep onto Subida do Boxes (250km/H or 153mph) the left turn that leads on to a moderately short straight (which has the start of the pit lane peeling off to the left) just before a long fast sweep that leads on to the main pit straight. This is also the most likely overtaking opportunity, but even then it has its problems. The optimum line through the left handed sweep will be taken at around 280km/H (170mph) which will cause the following car to struggle with grip at exactly the place where it needs to be faster to set up for the drag down the pit straight. An alternative is to run around the outside. That is not only the longer way around the sweep but it is also through the marbles (racing vernacular for the rubber bits and dust that comes off the tyres). Driving over this slippery stuff at close on 300km/H is a brave move. The back straight (Reta Oposta) will be another overtaking opportunity but this is also not easy as it means getting out of the Curvo do Sol at the same speed or faster than the car being followed. This corner is too fast to rely on mechanical grip and the dirty air from the leading car will make this hard again. There may be other places where overtaking is possible but, as it will only be possible to do so with the cooperation of the other driver, it will probably only be back marker overtaking.
This is the final race of a season dominated by Ferrari and we will probably see them dominating the podium again. They are so much faster than the rest that it is only drama (either in qualifying or the race) that will get either driver off the podium.
Ferrari and both drivers do not need to score any points here. Their standing in both championships can no longer be improved. They will be on top regardless of what happens.
BAR are virtually in the same position. For BAR to lose their second place in the constructors' championship Renault has to have both drivers on the podium and one of them must win the race while BAR scores no points. The odds are against it.
BAR should put up a good effort this weekend. They are getting stronger all the time, Button is consistent and fast and Sato is also very impressive.
Renault seem to be struggling at the moment. It is hard to know if this is because their effort is diverted to next year's car or that there are problems with the current car. They progressed very well so far this year so it is probably just a temporary thing.
Williams are looking better. A little late in the season.
Has Ralf done his race for the year or will he be fast again? With Ralf you never know.
Montoya is always pushing so if the car can he will be there.
McLaren are also getting better. Who knows they could be very fast. After all, it is the last race of the season.
I am used to seeing Sauber using the previous year's Ferrari motor, which
means that they are always competitive at the start of the season dropping off
gradually as newer motors are being optimised. This year Ferrari had to supply
them with a current engine as last year's engines would not comply with the
rules. Sauber had aerodynamic problems, which gave them a poor start to the
season improving towards the end following the commissioning of their
state-of-the-art wind tunnel. Just the opposite!.
Unless something happens to save them this could be the last Jaguar/Ford race. Their performance has been pedestrian so far this year although Mark Webber seems to be able to pull the odd rabbit out of his hat every now and then.
Do not write Toyota off. By all means you can write them off for this race but I still believe that a big budget and Japanese determination will eventually pay off. One day they will get to the podium. That could even be next year.
Jordan and Minardi will be lapped again, and maybe again.
Agree or disagree ?