not want to rain on Trulliís parade but ...
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Do not read too much into Renaultís sudden dominance in Monaco.
Long before the season started, when Renault were designing their 2004 car they knew that they will be using a new engine under onerous conditions. Not only did it have to perform well enough to make them competitive but this year the motor had to last for whole weekends if they did not want to incur penalties.
It is now obvious that they did compensate for lower power by biasing their design towards mechanical grip.
Ferrari, knowing that they have a very reliable motor, opted to design for aerodynamic grip as mechanical grip only applies to two, possibly three circuits in the season.
Renaultís superior mechanical grip and traction control paid off big time in Monaco giving Jarno Trulli his first win. He drove a brilliant race and deserved to win. I an sure that he and the Renault team are over the moon but realistically unless they find a lot more power soon their next chance will be in Hungary.
Nurburgring (Track Layout) is a medium speed circuit that has lost much of its charm and excitement since it has been modified. It has some very fast corners so we must expect to see the teams carry as much wing as they did in Monaco.
There is enough distance between the start and the first corner to make the start of the European Grand Prix exciting, if not disastrous. The first corner is a strong right-hander that will be negotiated at no more than 90km/H (56mph) (on the first lap expect cars to approach this at not much less than 280km/H (174mph) - on a normal race lap it will be close to or over 300km/H (186mph). Cold tyres and brakes combined with hot excited heads have the potential to cause carnage here.
It is immediately followed by a lefthander at around 120km/H (74mph), a short dab on the brakes for a slightly tighter left hand turn followed by a very tight right hander that leads onto a short straight where the cars will get up to around 280km/H (174mph) before braking down to 180km/H (112mph) for the lefthander that leads into Ford Kurve a right-hander that exits into the 300km/H (186mph) approach to the 80km/H (50mph) Dunlop Kurve hairpin.
Now we get onto the fast part of the track accelerating through 240km/H (150mph) in the gentle left/right sweep to over 300km/H (186mph) before braking for RTL Kurve which with the following Bit Kurve is taken at around 180km/H (112mph) before again exceeding 300km/H (186mph) on the approach to the ultra fast (200km/H plus) ITT Bogen. Back up to 300km/H (186 mph) to the Veedol S Kurve where speed will come down to 100km/H (62mph).
A short squirt on the loud pedal and they are in the very critical Coca Cola Kurve (around 130km/H or 81mph) that determines their entry speed onto the pit straight where I expect them to exceed 300km/H (186mph) this year.
We will probably not see any overtaking on the track but if we do the two best places will be the main straight (pit straight) where it is critical go get out of CocaCola fast to attempt an overtaking manoeuvre, or out-braking into Veedol which is only for the very brave as that section of the circuit is likely to be slippery off the racing line.
Ferrari will have the upper hand again unless BAR or Renault has created magic since Monaco.
Michael Schumacher will be racing in front of his home crowd so he will be motivated to win (not that he ever is not). We know that Barrichello will not race him but he should be fast enough to finish in second place unless he has another one of his unexplainable bad days that seems to happen to him so often.
Monaco taught us that Ferrari are definitely not set up for low downforce circuits and although Nurburgring is not one of the faster tracks it does have its fair share of high speed corners where aerodynamic grip is needed. Ferrari should be very fast.
Renault, now firmly second in the constructorsí championship, will probably not have the pace to stay ahead of BAR but, if their launch control is still as magical as ever I would not be surprised to see them ahead on the first lap and after that it is realistically only in the pits that they can be passed.
Alonso appeared to be slightly faster than Trulli in the past but do not underestimate the effect that winning a race will have on Trulli. He may now have the confidence and motivation needed to put him in front.
BAR must also have reasonably good mechanical grip to do that well in Monaco. Button drove a very good race and towards the end he certainly looked comfortably faster than Trulli but, like always, overtaking was impossible.
With good mechanical grip we must expect BAR to be very fast at Nurburgring. Button has been on the pace all season and Sato is also a good driver but the Honda motor is still unreliable and either could retire again. Lets hope that BAR will not allow a smoking car to circulate until it blows again.
It is strange that both Williams were involved in rather controversial accidents. The first when Alonso, who was in second place at the time, tangled with Ralf Schumacher in the tunnel and the second when Montoya crashed with Michael Schumacher in the tunnel behind the pace car.
Alonso and Michael were very definitely irate but I am sure that it was
merely a case of Ralf nursing a sick car and Alonso not realising how slow the
Williams was going. In my opinion Michael Schumacher has to accept most of the
blame for the crash with Montoya as he locked up his brakes in the tunnel
where the circuit is very narrow and visibility is lower. He slowed so
suddenly that Montoya had nowhere to go. Surely Michael could have found a
safer place to warm his brakes or tyres.
I do not know if Williams are improving but suspect that they must be making process. Their limited success in Monaco cannot be seen as confirmation that they are coming to terms with their monster chassis, as it is such a slow race and their problems were most apparent on the faster tracks so far this season.
They are certainly faster than McLaren but probably not fast enough to worry BAR. The real question is will they be able to stay ahead of the Renaults? They have the engine power to do so but how long is it before Renault also have more power?
Before retiring Raikkonen looked reasonably fast but again, it was Monaco where it cannot be taken as a sign that McLarenís problems are over. They will still have a long way to go before they are competitive. Expect little from them at Nurburgring.
Well now we know that Sauber really made a mess of their chassis. Taken the performance that the Ferrari motor is capable of, as shown by the Ferrari teams, they are woeful. Their chassis does not perform under any conditions. They will be better off sticking the motor into a Go-cart.
Both Toyotas finished but not on the leading lap. Their progress so far in the season has been painfully slow. At this rate they may be competitive by the end of the decade.
Webber seemed to do OK until his car just died and Klein hardly raced at all before his crash/retirement.
Jaguar is another team that is difficult to work out. Their performance is erratic and they also have reliability issues. At times I think that they may be getting better but then it all goes pear shaped and one must wonder if they are ever going to get it together. They could do anything this weekend but donít expect to see them on the podium. Finishing in the points would already be an achievement.
Jordan and Minardi are unlikely to finish in the points unless most of the faster cars retire.
It should be an exciting race. Like always there will be huge support for Michael Schumacher and the enthusiasm for him will be tangible when he is leading the race. I am sure that Michael will be inspired to do well but he must feel a little deflated that his chances of breaking another record (Mansellís record number of consecutive race wins from the start of a season) was baulked by the accident in the tunnel in Monaco. On the other hand he has already smashed so many records and is statistically already the worlds most successful driver, that he can afford to shrug off this minor setback.
Ralf Schumacher could also respond to the German support and make this his one race of the season where he really tries. I just do not think his car will be up to it.
Agree or disagree ?