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San Marino Grand Prix
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Will Ralf benefit again ?
One would have thought that Michael Schumacher will have the
best chance of winning the title this year as he is the undisputed number one
at Ferrari while at Williams, his brother and Juan Pablo would take points
away from each other. Well that was the theory!
At Brazil, Michael Schumacher won the race in the new
Ferrari just ahead of Ralf Schumacher. You may call it a surprise as the
Williams with the BMW power the Michelin tyres were expected to be dominant.
Had Juan Pablo kept his cool, the result would have probably been different.
Last week, with the exception of Arrows and Minardi, all the teams were busy testing. Ferrari at their private tracks of Mugello and Fiorano while the rest were at Valencia. Several teams were testing the latest evolution of their powerplants in preparation for the San Marino Grand Prix.
Last year at Imola, Ralf Schumacher won his first Formula 1 race, he led from start to finish with David Coulthard finishing in second and Rubens Barrichello in third. Both Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya retired with mechanical problems.
Williams: They could have finished 2 cars in the top 3 in Brazil. The same applies to Imola and they'll be having words to Juan Pablo to ensure that happens. The reliability of their cars is second to none with only 1 retirement so far in the season (and that was due to an accident). Reliability 9.5/10 - Speed 9.5/10
Drivers: Ralf Schumacher will score a podium finish if he stays out of trouble. It seems that he is enjoying Juan and Michael fighting it out. He needs to improve on his qualifying performance as Juan Pablo seems to be getting the upper hand.
Juan Pablo Montoya has given up 2 potential wins in a row just to get a chance to beat Michael. He seems determined to rattle Michael. However, I would expect the team to put enough pressure on him to cool down a bit. He is putting the excitement back in Formula 1 though. If he keeps his cool, he could win, otherwise he'll be lucky to finish.
Ferrari: Won in Brazil were
they didn't expect it. San Marino will be another tough race for them as
Williams are expected to be strong. The F2002 however is certainly faster than
the F2001 and seems even more reliable!. The Bridgestone tyres will have an
advantage in colder weather and Imola at this time of the year won't be nearly
as hot as Sao Paulo or Kuala Lumpur.
Drivers: Michael Schumacher won in Brazil and now leads the championship by 8 points. He would want to win here to build a buffer to the 2 Williams drivers but it won't be that easy. Assuming his car lasts, a podium finish is almost a certainty and a win is possible.
Rubens Barrichello is one of 4 drivers not have finished a race yet and one could say that none of the three were due to a fault of his although the Melbourne accident is debateable. He is driving the F2002 for the first time and I expect him to struggle in qualifying in it. He will finish in the points if luck gets on his side and his car lasts.
McLaren: They are still suffering from reliability and lack of speed. They may have a few modifications for Imola but most other teams have as well. They'll be behind Ferrari and Williams. Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 9.0/10
Drivers: David Coulthard managed to finish for the first time in Brazil. He was almost a minute behind though, some of that time can be blamed on Renault but they are still significantly slower. David realises that he doesn't have a chance this season and that won't help his chances. Last year he qualified on Pole here, this year a top 4 qualifying for him will be like Pole. A points finish is possible if his car lasts.
Kimi Raikkonen is inching closer to David each race. In Brazil he qualified a mere 0.03 seconds behind. Soon enough expect Kimi to regularly beat David (the situation at McLaren will help that a lot). A top 6 finish is possible if his car lasts.
Renault: They are now 4th in the championship and they look like they have the potential of challenging McLaren very soon. In fact they were ahead of McLaren for a long time in Brazil. They had an engine failure though and it must have been hard on them but that is expected and they'll learn from it. Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 8.5/10
Drivers: Jarno Trulli seems to be getting to grips with the car as he outqualifies Button. His engine failure just a few laps from the end must have reminded him that his bad luck seems to follow him. He is another driver yet to finish a race. A top 6 finish is possible if he is lucky!. He'll be impressive in qualifying though.
Jenson Button continues to impress. He appears to have got the message that he has to deliver otherwise he may not have a drive next year. He is responding very well. Expect a top 10 finish in the points if a few cars drop out.
Jaguar: Did well in Brazil thanks to the Michelin tyres. They have a few modifications for Imola but they will struggle. They seem reliable and that will help them as the competition struggles. Reliability 8.5/10 - Speed 5.5/10
Drivers: Eddie Irvine was outqualified again by his team-mate, expect that again here. A top 10 finish is possible but will be hard.
Pedro de la Rosa didn't race here last year and may struggle but will get the better of his team-mate. A top 10 finish is possible but will be hard.
Sauber: They are running into reliability problems. With the midfield competition so fierce, that is something they cannot afford as their power advantage compared to their competitors will decrease as the season progresses. 4th place in the championship may soon be an impossible task. Reliability 8.0/10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Nick Heidfeld retired in Brazil but was not in a points scoring position anyway. A top 10 finish is possible, points will be very hard!
Felipe Massa had a clash with Mark Webber in Brazil, but what was he doing fighting with a Minardi. He still needs more experience in the car. A top 10 finish is possible.
Minardi: Both cars managed to finish the race albeit 3 laps down for Webber and 4 for Yoong. They need to be very lucky to score any more points this season. Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 5/10
Drivers: Alex Yoong finished in Brazil 4 laps down. This is another new track for him so don't expect any better. If his car lasts he'll finish outside the top 10.
Mark Webber once again drove a good race and was fighting with a number of cars up the field. The team stuffed up his pit stops and may have made it into the top 10. He needs a bit of luck to be able to do that here.
Toyota: Have scored 2 points from 3 races. They are certainly exceeding their own expectations but as their boss said "We still have a lot of work to do before we can score points without the benefit of retirements ahead of us." - Reliability 7.0/10 - Speed 7.5/10
Drivers: Mika Salo has been impressive so far and with more improvements on the car expect him to put the Toyota regularly with the Sauber and the 2 Honda runners. The car seems to be reliable so another points finish is possible depending on how many cars ahead last.
Allan McNish spun in Brazil blaming the car. He doesn't seem to be doing very well and although it is too early to speculate on his future, I don't expect him to last beyond this season. At Imola, if he finishes, it will most likely be outside the top 10.
BAR: 3 races and 0 points. It doesn't look like they'll improve on that at Imola. Even though they have a new package and a new spec. engine they have a long way to go to be able to challenge Sauber and Renault. Reliability 5.5/10 - Speed 7/10
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve still tries but his car keeps failing him. Was classified 10th in Brazil even though his car stopped a lap from the end. He is not a happy chap and I don't expect the improvements on the BAR to make that much of a difference here. A top 10 finish is possible. Points finish almost impossible!.
Olivier Panis continues his run of bad luck. Has yet to finish a race. He too is trying but his car isn't helping. A top 10 finish is possible if he's lucky!
Jordan: If they don't get the reliability
sorted, they could be in real trouble. They are a small team and need to
results to survive. Like Villeneuve, it is a shame to see Fisichella in a team
that isn't delivering.
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella had and engine failure in Brazil. His fortunes are not that much better than Jarno Trulli whom he replaced! He qualified the best of the Honda runners in Brazil but 14th place on the grid isn't something to smile about. A top 10 finish is possible but points will be very hard.
Takuma Sato hasn't lived up to the expectations so far but to be fair his car hasn't either. He is the only Honda runner to have finished two races!. A top 10 finish is possible.
Arrows: Their problems seem to
come in pairs. In Australia both cars had the same problem and in Brazil as
well. What is really surprising is that yet again they didn't test last week
yet they seem to have major reliability problems. Of the first 3 races, only
Frentzen managed to finish once.
Drivers: Heinz Harald Frentzen struggled in Brazil in qualifying and the race. The reliability issues will hamper performance developments and the team will continue to struggle at the back. Expect a top 10 finish if the car lasts but that is not likely!.
Enrique Bernoldi is another driver who has yet to finish a race. The reliability record of the Arrows so far this season is dismal so don't expect any better here.
6 'n' Pole and see how your predictions stack up against the others.