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2003 Brazilian Grand Prix 
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Have Renault made the right choice ?

The decision by Renault to opt for limiting their testing to 10 days during the season in exchange for 2 hours of testing on the Friday of each Grand Prix weekend received mixed reactions at the start of the season. 2 races into the season and it appears that they have made the right choice. The extra 2 hours of testing on Friday is allowing Renault to gain valuable information from the track that other top teams can't. This appears to have contributed to the team's double finish in the points in the first 2 races of the season. (and the only team that have done that). As the season moves forward though, Renault may start to suffer from the lack of testing between races but whether that will affect the team significantly remains to be seen. In the meantime though, the lap times that the Renault drivers are setting with an underpowered car are simply amazing!. 
In Malaysia we saw an all Renault front row, sure they both had a lighter fuel load than the McLarens and Ferraris but they were still on a 2 stop strategy and despite Alonso having fever and having to shift manually and Trulli being bumped off the track by Michael Schumacher, they finished 3rd and 5th.
Renault expect a major update to their engine in time for Monaco, if they can bring their horsepower up close to the other 3 top teams they could start from the front row with heavy fuel loads!
McLaren were again impressive in Malaysia while Ferrari and Williams weren't. There has been a lot of talk about the superiority of the Michelin tyres in the sizzling heat of Sepang and that might be a decisive factor. In Brazil temperatures won't be as high so we'll see if the Bridgestones will prove competitive.
Brazil is a power track and so the Williams will be strong despite their chassis problems and will be closer to McLaren and Ferrari. Renault on the other hand will be disadvantaged.

All 6 teams that opted for full testing were testing at Barcelona with Ferrari testing at Fiorano as well. Williams and McLaren exchanged fastest times during the 4 days test at Barcelona while Michael Schumacher set a new lap record at Fiorano with the F2003-GA.. As usual, it is very hard to read much into the lap times from testing as each team runs their own programme.

McLaren: I doubt that they expected to be leading both Championships at this stage of the season given that they are still racing with last year's car. They are certainly taking it to Ferrari and had Coulthard not retired with an electrical problem, they would have had an even bigger gap!. They will do well in Brazil and could surprise a few and win again. Reliability 8/10 - Speed 9.0/10

Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen is leading the championship for the first time in his career. He deserves it and if his car doesn't fail him as it has so many times last season, he will be a contender for the championship this year. A 3rd podium in a row is likely.

David Coulthard didn't have a chance to prove the critics wrong in Malaysia retiring after a few laps with an electrical problem. We couldn't tell how much fuel he had either. On thing for sure though, if his car lasts, he is likely to finish in the points, possibly on the podium.

Ferrari: Being second in the championship isn't too bad, for Ferrari however it must be disappointing. Rubens Barrichello couldn't challenge Kimi Raikkonen due to the inferior Bridgestone tyres at Sepang and Michael Schumacher committed his second mistake in as many races, this time though he not only affected his race but also Trulli's and all those drivers behind who sustained damage as a result. However, Ferrari are still strong and the Interlagos track won't be as hot as Sepang so they should bounce back.  
Reliability 9.5/10 - Speed 9.0/10

Drivers: Rubens Barrichello drove a good race in Malaysia to score his first podium of the season. However being in a Ferrari he should have been closer to Raikkonen. Barrichello hasn't done well on his home track in the past, could this year be any different ? A podium finish is possible.

Michael Schumacher has had one of his worst starts to a Formula 1 season by his standards. The pressure is on him and he needs to avoid making any more mistakes. He managed to win here last year after keeping his brother Ralf behind him. A win is possible. 

Renault: Tied with Ferrari with 16 points must be a very good result for them. In Brazil though they will be negatively affected by their lack of power. In theory they'll be behind the other top 3 teams but any of those teams are likely to suffer from a problem or two and Renault will be there to grab more points. 
Reliability 8.5/10 - Speed 8.5/10

Drivers: Fernando Alonso had an impressive weekend in Malaysia despite his fever. He is set to become one of the top drivers in Formula 1. Another podium finish will be hard given the power of the Renault but a points finish is likely.  

Jarno Trulli managed to finish 5th despite being forced to spin at the start of the race by Michael Schumacher. Towards the end of the race he surprisingly managed to keep Michael behind him and that is likely due to Michael's poor performing tyres. As with Alonso, a points finish is likely.

Williams: Yet again their appears to be a big difference between Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher with Montoya qualifying in 8th and Schumacher in 17th. However given that Montoya refuelled early in the race in Malaysia as his rear wing was being changed, we cannot tell for certain that they had similar fuel loads. In the race, Ralf did finish in 4th thanks to the problems of several drivers in front of him while Montoya finished 12th and 3 laps down. 
The Williams car whilst powered by one of the most powerful engines seems to have chassis problems and the team has to cure those fast before the new Ferrari and McLaren cars are used. In Brazil though, the BMW power will be a big help. Reliability 9/10 - Speed 8.5/10

Drivers: Juan Pablo Montoya lost his rear wing as an indirect result of the Schumacher-Trulli incident. That made his race just another testing session. Expect him to bounce back in Brazil, a podium finish is possible.

Ralf Schumacher needs to get used to the new qualifying rules as well as to driving a less than perfect car. If he continues his mediocre performance, his seat could be threatened despite having a contract that runs out in 2004. A points finish is likely.

Sauber: Despite being early in the season, the Sauber team have not able to be close to the top 4 teams even though they are running last year's Ferrari engines which are powerful. It seems that their chassis isn't as good as their previous ones or that the other teams have made bigger steps forward. In Malaysia we saw Raikkonen take Heidfeld who was on a lighter fuel load. That isn't a good sign for the team. In Brazil they may score points if the cars ahead run into problems. Reliability 8.5/10 - Speed 8.0/10

Drivers: Heinz Harald Frentzen missed out on a points finish in Malaysia just behind his team-mate. It is interesting how close the Sauber team-mates have been over the years. In Brazil the same will apply and Frentzen will only finish in the points if one of the cars in front run into problems.

Nick Heidfeld scored his first point of the season. Like his team-mate, he needs to fortune to abandon those in front to score points.

BAR: They appear to fine as long as they run de-tuned Honda engines. Villeneuve though could make the start due to an electrical problem. Eventually Honda will have an engine that is both powerful and reliable. How long ? Who knows! 
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 8.0/10

Drivers: Jenson Button drove a good race until the final lap where he definitely blew it. No matter how badly worn his tyres were he should have kept his 5th place, instead he dropped 2 places. He could score some points in Brazil if cars in front hit trouble.

Jacques Villeneuve didn't qualify ahead of his team-mate but indicated that he was on a good strategy. He didn't make the start and so we didn't see how much more fuel he had on board. As with Button, he could score points in Brazil if ....

Jordan: Early on in the season and we are starting to see that the Cosworth powered cars are occupying the back of the grid. Fisichella made the mistake of missing his grid slot (yet again!) and paid for it. Firman drove a good race and finished in 10th despite all the problems with the drivers in front. It seems that Jordan have to be very lucky to score a point.
Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 7.5/10

Drivers: Ralph Firman drove a good race in Malaysia aided by his knowledge of the track. He will struggle in Brazil.

Giancarlo Fisichella will need to make up for his formation lap blunder. He could finish the race but scoring points will be hard.

Minardi: Having secured Cosworth power (albeit 2 years old), they were expected to be closer to the rest. So far it doesn't look like it. Like Jordan, they have to be very lucky to score points.   
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 7.0/10

Drivers: Jos Verstappen managed to get the car home 4 laps down after being involved in the first lap drama. We all remember what Verstappen did to Montoya 2 years ago in Brazil. We hope that won't happen!.  

Justin Wilson had to retire due to severe shoulder pain. In the early part of the race he was impressive but we have to see that for a whole race. Points will be very difficult though!.

Jaguar: They had 2 retirements yet again and they weren't that fast either. Don't expect miracles in Brazil.
Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 7.5/10

Drivers: Mark Webber had a good race until he had to park it in the garage due to loss of oil. Webber has the potential to score points but he needs the car to do that.

Antonio Pizzonia was also affected by the first lap incident between Schumacher and Trulli. He survived it only to retire later in the race with brake problems. In Brazil he'll be racing in front of his home crowd and it remains to be seen how he handles the pressure.

Toyota: We have yet to determine the true pace of the Toyota cars over a race distance. In Malaysia Panis was matching the Ferrari of Barrichello but was on a light fuel load. Once he pitted he retired on his outlap!. They have a powerful engine and that should be an advantage in Brazil.
Reliability 7.0/10 - Speed 7.5/10

Drivers: Cristiano da Matta had to start from the pitlane in the spare car in Malaysia and had a fuel pickup problem which prevented him from running on a light load, seems strange to have such a problem for a team with one of the biggest budgets in the sport. He managed to finish 11th and that wasn't too bad. Brazil will be his home race and the fans expect a lot from the ex-CART champ.

Olivier Panis also suffered from a fuel pressure problem and that was after he made his pit stop and refuelled. Strange. He showed some good signs and if the team sort the car out he'll be able to pick up points soon.

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