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Japanese Grand Prix
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Another Schumacher - Hakkinen battle ?
Over the last 3 years, the Japanese Grand Prix has been a battle ground between Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen. In '98 and '99, Mika Hakkinen won the race and the title while in 2000 Michael Schumacher won and also won the title. This year with both titles already decided, the pressure may not be intense but Mika Hakkinen appears determined to leave Formula 1 with 2 wins in a row while Michael Schumacher wants to return to his winning ways after struggling in the last 2 races.
still a number of positions in both titles to be decided. David
Coulthard in second needs to finish 4th or higher to secure his
place while Barrichello needs a win with Coulthard 5th or lower to
overtake him. Ralf Schumacher has a chance of of taking 3rd from
Barrichello if he wins.
Ferrari: There is no question that they will be strong at Suzuka, the question will be though how strong will McLaren and Williams be ? The team suffered an engine failure at Indy, the first during a race this season so that shouldn't be an indication that they are having reliability issues.
Reliability 9.0/10 - Speed 9.5/10
Drivers: Michael Schumacher didn't drive at his best at Indy. He was certainly in a better shape than at Monza but he didn't appear to be pushing that hard. Had Montoya and Barrichello not retired he would have finished 4th. Expect Michael to start from Pole though, he started from Pole here in the last 3 events. He does have a strong chance of winning however he would try to help Barrichello if there is a need.
Rubens Barrichello once again out-performed Michael Schumacher during the race. There was a chance that he would catch Hakkinen without Michael's help but his engine failed and ended up with no points. It appears that he is getting the attention he needs at Ferrari since Michael has already won the championship so he could do well. His record at Suzuka is not that great with a best result of 4th last year. A podium finish is still possible.
McLaren: They came back strong at Indy with both Hakkinen and Coulthard finishing on the podium. The car was reliable and close enough to Ferrari and Williams. They had a 1-3 finish with a bit of luck on their side. Don't expect them to be that strong at Japan although with Hakkinen one can never tell!
Reliability 8.0/10 - Speed 9.0/10
Drivers: David Coulthard was finally on the receiving end of a bit of luck when Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher both retired easing the pressure on him for second in the Drivers' Title. He certainly needed all the luck he can get as he doesn't have a very good record here. He needs to finish 4th to secure second place and that should be achievable.
Mika Hakkinen won at Indy after driving a faultless race. Sure he was fortunate that Montoya retired but even second was not expected from him. He could surprise us and win here but that will be very hard. A top 6 finish is possible.
Williams: Their reliability is hurting them and they better get it sorted out before the start of next season if they want to be serious contenders for the championship next year. They have a good chance here but they need to be reliable to be able to finish.
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 9.5/10
Schumacher spun at Indy and lost any chance of finishing
second. He still has a chance of finishing 3rd but he needs to win
with Barrichello finishing 3rd or lower. He could do it but it
appears that Montoya has unsettled him in the last 3 races and he
doesn't appear motivated enough. A top 6 finish is possible.
Montoya has retired while
leading for the third time this year. Had he won those 3 races he
would be fighting for second in his first season. He'll enjoy the
Suzuka track and could surprise a few by grabbing Pole and winning.
He needs reliability though.
Sauber: Have almost secured 4th in the Championship and they should be congratulated on that given that they run 1-year old engines but have beaten both Honda runners as well as Renault not to mention Prost who use the same engines and they do!.
Reliability 7.5.10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Nick Heidfeld had an edge over Raikkonen at Indy. Heidfeld was certainly not impressed by McLaren choosing Raikkonen over him for next year so perhaps he wanted to show them that they picked the wrong driver. Another points finish is possible if the cars in front hit problems.
Kimi Raikkonen struggled at Indy for whatever reason. Japan will be another new circuit for him but he is good at learning the tracks quickly. A top 6 finish is possible but difficult.
BAR: Were very fortunate not to lose 5th place in the Championship to Jordan due to Trulli's disqualification (although Jordan are appealing). At Indy they qualified 13th and 18th. They'll need a miracle to score points.
8.0/10 - Speed 7.0/10
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve tried to blame his car after qualifying 18th at Indy but being over half a second slower than his team-mate can't be car related. 3 years at BAR with just 2 3rd place finishes is certainly taking its toll. A top 10 finish is possible.
Olivier Panis did a better job than his team-mate at Indy but didn't do very well in the race. BAR are concentrating on next year's car so it will be another tough race for him. A top 10 finish is possible.
Jordan: When they finally manage to have both of their cars finish (the first time in 7 races), Trulli who finished 4th gets disqualified. The team had a nightmare of a season in terms of reliability but they might just get it right at Suzuka and finally get ahead of BAR in the Championship.
Reliability 6.0/10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Jarno Trulli wasn't classified at Indy, this time not because his car failed but because his car did not conform to regulations at the end of the race. He is probably the most unfortunate driver this season and he'll be hoping for a change of fortune once he moves to Benetton next year. A top 6 finish is possible.
Jean Alesi could be driving his last race in Formula 1. It appears that he won't be driving for Jordan next year as strong rumours are circulating that Sato will be driving for them (although that has yet to be confirmed). It will be sad to see Alesi leaving Formula 1.
Benetton: They weren't as strong as excepted at Indy but given that they are continuously developing their car they still have a long way to go before they become consistently competitive. They could do well here and challenge Sauber, BAR and Jordan but their main challenger would be Jaguar as they are on equal points with them.
7.0/10 - Speed 7.5/10
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella was classified in 7th at Indy but that was following a few retirements in front as well as Trulli's disqualification. This will be his last race for Benetton who are showing great potential for next year. A top 6 finish is possible.
Jenson Button has out-qualified his team-mate for the second race in a row. Whether that is due to Fisichella leaving the team or due to pressure on Button to perform, we would never know. But one thing is for sure, he needs to perform to keep his seat at Benetton. A top 10 finish is possible.
Jaguar: While scoring a mere 10 points from 16 races this season might not be a great achievement for Jaguar, they do appear to be improving scoring points in the last 2 races. They could score more points in Japan and finish the season on a high.
5.5/10 - Speed 7.0/10
Drivers: Eddie Irvine drove a strong race at Indy after starting from 14th. He finished an impressive 4th. He enjoys the Suzuka track and has the potential to do well here provided he gets a decent car. A top 10 finish is possible.
Pedro de la Rosa was out-raced by Irvine at Indy and ended up in 11th. His performance seems to vary between races and that does not help him for his future as he needs to be more consistent. A top 10 finish is possible.
Prost: Frentzen has shown that the Prost team has the potential to move forward. The team however has major financial problems that impacts their improvement on the track.
Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 6.5/10
Drivers: Heinz Harald Frentzen did well starting from 15th and finishing 9th. He seems to be trying his best but the Prost isn't the best of cars. A top 10 finish is possible.
Tomas Enge once again managed to finish the race showing his maturity. We cannot judge his performance from just 2 races though. Suzuka will be a tough track for him and he'll finish outside the top 10 if he doesn't spin out.
Arrows: They seem to have a brilliant launch control system but not much more. As in the US (and almost every other race this season), they will be struggling here. Lets hope that with Cosworth power next year, they'll be a lot more competitive.
Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 5.5/10
Verstappen continues to perform brilliant starts but with
the car he has he can hardly show much more. His AsiaTech engine
gave up at Indy, surely the Cosworth next year will be a lot better.
A top 10 finish will be very difficult.
A top 10 finish will be very difficult.
Bernoldi seems to be
trying as hard as he could. His car isn't helping him. A top 10
finish is unlikely.
Amazingly managed to qualify one of their cars in front of a BAR, a
Prost and the 2 Arrows. They'll be hoping for a repeat in Japan but
also a race finish.
- Speed 4.0/10
Alonso must move on to another team. He certainly has the skill
but he cannot show it in a Minardi except for qualifying. He'll once
again qualify well at Suzuka but his car will fail him yet again.
Alex Yoong struggled at the Indy track. He qualified over a second slower than Alonso. He seems to be more of a Marques than an Alonso. He is likely to finish outside the top 10 if his car lasts.