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Belgian Grand Prix
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It's Williams Time!
4 races to go and they are all run on relatively high speed tracks were the power advantage of the BMW engines may prove too strong for Ferrari or McLaren to get close. Provided the Williams is reliable they are poised to take second place from McLaren and don't be surprised if Ralf Schumacher takes second in the championship.
Of course the weather at Spa almost always plays a role. Last year the race started under the safety car under wet conditions. Soon after the track dried out and the teams switched to dry tyres. Later in the race we witnessed a daring overtaking move by Mika Hakkinen on Michael Schumacher who himself was lapping Ricardo Zonta in the BAR. Doubt that this year McLaren can pull a similar stunt on Ferrari!
Ferrari: Have won the Constructors' Championship so now there efforts would have be to concentrate on next year's car as the other teams have been doing that for a while now. It would be perfect for them to have Rubens Barrichello finish in second though.
Reliability 9.5/10 - Speed 9.5/10
Drivers: Michael Schumacher won the Hungarian Grand Prix and the Drivers' Title. He is not under any pressure so he might even do better. The Williams factor can prevent him from scoring his 52nd win but he likes Spa and if the weather changes it will certainly be to his advantage. A win is possible but a podium finish is more likely.
Rubens Barrichello is back in 3rd place and is only 5 points behind Coulthard. Ralf is only 2 points behind though. Barrichello will need all Michael's help to help him take second and Michael will probably try. Ralf and Montoya though could be hard to catch by Michael let alone Rubens and if Michael is to help Rubens, Rubens has to be close behind Michael. Something he hasn't done that often this year. A podium is possible and could win with some help!
McLaren: Will be feeling down after losing the fight for the Championship this early and are seriously threatened by Williams. Chances are that they will lose their second place.
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 9.0/10
Drivers: David Coulthard admitted that he doesn't care if he finished 2nd or 3rd and given that this year's McLaren is not really competitive with Ferrari and (on fast tracks) Williams, his chances of finishing 4th in the Championship are looking more likely than 2nd. Expect a top 6 finish with a podium finish a slight possibility.
Mika Hakkinen is Pole man here at Spa. He grabbed pole for the last 3 seasons but this year it will be nearly impossible. Similar to Coulthard's chances due to the McLaren's lack of performance compared to the other top 2 teams. Expect a top 6 finish with a podium finish a slight possibility.
Williams: Even though Hungary was a slow track, Ralf still managed 4th ahead of Hakkinen. Here it will be different and Ralf and Montoya will be competitive in qualifying and the race if it doesn't rain. Those Michelin tyres in the wet are not nearly as good as the Bridgestones. Hungary was only the second race this season that both Williams' actually lasted the distance.
Reliability 7.0/10 - Speed 9.5/10
Drivers: Ralf Schumacher wants to finish second in the championship and winning races will seal that for him as he is only 2 points behind Rubens and 7 points behind David. A win is a high possibility unless it rains.
Juan Pablo Montoya is improving his record in terms of finishes but in doing that he is not finishing in good positions. Spa will be a challenging track for him and he could do well. A top 6 finish is likely but he could surprise a few and win it!
Sauber: Certainly an impressive team that continues to score points late in the season when they were expected to drop off in performance compared to the other teams due to their older spec engines. Still 4th place is under threat from BAR and Jordan as only 5 points separates the three. A bizarre race could see the order change quickly.
Reliability 8.0.10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Nick Heidfeld finished an impressive 6th in Hungary and given that none of the top 3 teams had problems and finishing ahead of the Williams of Montoya. At Spa, the situation will be different but a top 10 finish is possible.
Kimi Raikkonen remains to be very competitive with Heidfeld despite not knowing the tracks. He will enjoy the Spa circuit and could beat Heidfeld here. How high a position he can get depends on the failures in front of him.
BAR: After the podium finish in Germany, they failed to score in Hungary. Here they will be at the mercy of the top 3 teams if they are to score points. The team is certainly working on next year's car and while they would like to be able to finish 4th, it will not be their highest priority.
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve had to race in a BAR without the modifications for Hungary but still managed 9th. Still a bad result for the former World Champion. Don't expect too many points for the rest of the season. A top 10 finish is possible. Points will be hard.
Olivier Panis retired at Hungary with a strange electrical problem. He has had a lot of bad luck recently. He will turn around but whether that translates to points is in the hands of the top 3 teams!. A top 10 finish is possible.
Jordan: Reliability is killing them. They are faster than BAR but their failures have so far put them behind BAR. This does not help Eddie Jordan's case when it comes to securing exclusive Honda 'works' engines beyond next season.
Reliability 5.0/10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Jarno Trulli has had 3 retirements in a row. He is the best qualifier of the Honda runners. Only once did he qualify lower than 8th this season yet 6 retirements out of the last 7 races doesn't help. No wonder he is going to Benetton next year. A top 10 finish is possible if his car lasts.
Jean Alesi didn't do too well in his first race for Jordan but as expected his style doesn't suite the Hungaroring. Expect him to be much closer to Trulli at Spa. He will also need to do well if he has any hope of staying with Jordan for next year. A top 10 finish is possible if his car lasts.
Benetton: From having 2 cars in the points in Germany to 2 retirements at Hungary. They certainly crashed down to earth pretty quickly. They had some chance at Hungary due to the slow track. At Spa it will be a miracle (as it was in Germany) to finish in the points.
Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 5.0/10
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella will struggle to finish in the top 10 even though he wants to put on a good show now that his future has been decided with Jordan. The car is just not quick enough.
Jenson Button will give Fisichella a hard time at Spa. Last year he put the Williams in 3rd place in qualifying ahead of Ralf Schumacher. Don't expect the same in a Benetton but he could out-qualify his team-mate. He also needs to impress if he is to stay at Benetton. Talk of him being loaned out to Jordan or Prost are rife. A top 10 finish in the race would be tough though.
Jaguar: The team is still suffering from internal problems and the aftershocks of Bobby Rahal leaving the team will not go away soon. Don't expect them to do well for the rest of the season.
Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 7.5/10
Drivers: Eddie Irvine made a silly mistake at the start of the Hungarian GP. A driver with his experience should have known better. Unless of course he was distracted by the internal problems at Jaguar. They won't have the car to compete here and they'll be fighting with Benetton and Arrows. A top 10 finish is unlikely.
Pedro de la Rosa is still struggling at Jaguar and the internal problems won't help. Contract or not, his future at the team doesn't look that good. A top 10 finish is unlikely.
Prost: They suffered 2 retirements at the Hungarian GP. That was the first time this season that neither car finished a race. They could be reliable but they are not fast and with less and less failures expected from now on from the other teams, a top 10 finish is looking increasingly unlikely.
Reliability 7.0/10 - Speed 6.5/10
Drivers: Heinz Harald Frentzen had a conservative approach to his first race with Prost at the Hungarian Grand Prix but made a mistake and spun out towards the end of the race. He should do better at Spa but the car won't be that competitive. A top 10 finish will be difficult.
Luciano Burti still struggling to get to grips with the car and the new tracks. At Spa he should be close to Frentzen though. A top 10 finish is unlikely.
Arrows: They are certainly going backwards with the 2 Arrows being out-qualified by the Minardi of Fernando Alonso at Hungary. Their car is better suited to higher speed tracks so they should be a bit more competitive but the AsiaTech engine won't help. They are in full swing to adapt the Cosworth unit to next year's car.
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 5.5/10
Drivers: Jos Verstappen will not shape given the limitations of his car. He does brilliant starts and lets hope that the Cosworth engine will make them competitive next year. A top 10 finish is unlikely.
Enrique Bernoldi spun out of the Hungarian GP. It is now almost certain that he won't be retained by the team next year. It also seems that Bernoldi will have a very short Formula 1 career. A top 10 finish is unlikely.
Minardi: Still have to announce their engine supplier for next year. If it is a Ferrari customer engine then they could be a surprise next year. (Just like Sauber this year). For the next few races though don't expect them to get too far from the back of the grid.
Reliability 5.0/10 - Speed 4.0/10
Drivers: Fernando Alonso made a rare mistake at the Hungarian GP but considering his young age and his inexperience he has done much better than some more experienced ones. It will be hard for him to finish in the top 10 though.
Tarso Marques gets to race one more time at Belgium as Alex Yoong will take over at Monza. Having 2 inexperienced drivers at Minardi won't help but the experienced Marques didn't seem to shape anyway!.