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Reader's Comments

A Sunday drive through the Park � That�s what Ferrari had last weekend. I�m convinced that Michael could have lapped the field up to (and maybe including) P3 had he wanted to. I suggested in my last posting that one of the majors would get it more right early than the others � guess it was Ferrari. I also suggested that Renault would be up there (right again) and that the BAR and Toyota (damn) would be the best of the rest � ahh well, 3 out 4 ain�t bad.

So Ferrari got it right in Melbourne � and all the Nay Sayers are blaming them for winning. The comments thrown around about how it is Ferrari�s fault and that the race was boring because of them amuse me and frustrate me at the same time. The race was boring because everybody else failed, not because Ferrari succeeded - End Of Story. Ferrari management, including their MD (Managing Driver in this case) are being careful to point out that Sepang is a whole different situation to Melbourne. The Ferrari�s have always been quick in Australia and the relatively cool conditions certainly did them no harm with regards to their tyres.

I�m really quite puzzled by the performance of some of the others though. The Renaults were always going to be fast, based on their pre-season testing. BAR appear to have lifted their game, again in line with test times.

Williams dropped the ball badly. JPM appeared to be up there in Qualifying but that never translated into race pace. Ralf, who finished a minute down in 4th never looked competitive and posted a best lap a � a second slower than Montoya. I am sure that whoever replaces him at Williams will be an improvement.

McLaren were the standout performers at Melbourne, not because they were good though. Like the little girl who had a little curl, when they were bad � they were horrid! Kimi did drive well enough, we expect that, David drove a very ordinary race, we expect that too. The car was just not competitive. I for one did not expect that. Nowhere will the post mortem from Australia be more bitterly debated than around Ron�s coffee table.

Who were the Winners from Melbourne? Michael, obviously. Alonso and Button, yes. Rubens also drove a very professional race, keeping Michael honest until he started losing brake pedal and backed off. BAR should be very pleased with Button�s pace and Renault must be ecstatic with their Claytons Launch Control. Mark Webber did not disgrace himself, but there was one more. Way down the back where nobody noticed there was a magnificent one-lap effort. Minardi have not been as slow, relative to the front and middle of the field since Alex Yoong piloted the car in practice and qualifying sessions (yeah, I know, he did actually qualify a few times too). In Melbourne, on the first lap, in the slowest car in the field, Bruni made a reputation for himself by passing 3 cars early in the lap, including a Jaguar and a Toyota. OK, they were driven by rookies too but they were rookies in superior or equal cars. He followed that up by overtaking Pantano in the Jordan before the end of the first lap, in a very professional manner. His finishing position, last and 15 laps down after a very lengthy repair on the car, did not reflect the result he delivered. Nobody on the day put in a better performance.

And the Losers? Just about everybody else! The list is headed by the McLaren, Toyota, Jaguar and Jordon teams but a few drivers made the grade as well. Ralf and David lived up to their efforts of recent years; Sato And Massa showed why they wouldn�t have seats without having powerful backers. Heidfeld showed us a new approach to the pits while Panis did nothing to excite me. Montoya too, disappointed. While he drove well in fits and starts he didn�t look like a champion in the wings to me.

The biggest Loser? The fans. Once upon a time, before Max and Bernie decided they had to tinker with what wasn�t broke, a Formula One race was a 3-day event. Friday was full on and often as exciting as the race itself. Saturday was the Real Race and Sunday rounded out a long weekend of motor sport.

Now, Friday is a non-event. We saw some testing and just enough laps by the front runners to provide minimal set-up data and prove tyre choices. Nobody went out and pushed, even Michael who shattered the lap record showed on Sunday that he had a lot in reserve. When we get to those circuits that are regularly used for testing we might see 2 or 3 laps by the top teams on Friday and a flurry of activity around the 3rd car of those teams allowed to use them.

Saturday isn�t much better. With the one-engine rule and damn fool �qualifying� laps the only quick lap you will see will be in the second session. Teams will not want to risk their engines before that and qualifying speeds will always be slower than race speeds because of fuel loads. So, what used to be a weekends entertainment has dropped back to a single session on Sunday afternoon. By mid season qualifying will have changed yet again and Friday attendances will have plummeted. For a group so focussed on halting declining attendances they could not have got it more wrong.

The silly season certainly started early this year, traditionally we have had to wait till around midyear for the rumour mill to ramp up about who�s going where next year. With Monty signing his way out of the team and Ralf, along with his manager, Wili Weber, doing his best to upset Sir Frank, the interest in 2004 may well centre on the driver line-up for 2005 rather than the races. With dumb announcements about imminent contract signings with Renault being shot down in flames by Flavio Briatore and threats to leave the team if Sir Frank hasn�t signed by Bahrain, I can�t see Ralf surviving at Williams. And the sooner he is gone the better. He does not now, nor did he ever, deserve a top drive and he has spent way too long living off Big Brother�s name.

Bernie has been on his soapbox again, claiming that the new and improved Qualifying isn�t either one. Gee, it hurts to have to agree with him. He�s also bleating about runaway costs and how to reduce them. Funny that he didn�t suggest a smaller share of revenue for himself as an option. He has however come up with another damn fool idea. Lets reduce expenditure by reducing power by making engines smaller, which will bring the pack closer together and make better racing with less of a differential between the front and the back of the pack � crap! Reducing power will reduce power and increase lap times, and not much else. It will, for a while slow the mad march of horsepower and perhaps even allow a very small improvement in overtaking potential on some circuits by reducing the speed into corners. It will definitely not reduce costs. Does he really think that it will be cheaper to build a 2.5 litre engine, or that the engine builders will spend less on development? A reduction in engine size would achieve some desirable results but cost reduction definitely is not one of them. Starting with a clean piece of paper to design and build a smaller motor is a horrendously expensive proposition and the development versions will invariably go only to the donor team. Ferrari have given Sauber the �same� engine they are running this year � lets see if they are still the �same� engine by mid season. Paul Stoddard couldn�t even afford a current version of the Ford Cosworth � what chance would he have of buying a new 2.5 litre with a squillion bucks in development costs to amortise? No, smaller engines will not effect the relativity between the front and back of the grid � only funding will achieve that.

The costs of going racing are very much the same for Ferrari and Minardi, it�s the overhead, development and testing costs that are poles apart. Lets get some levelling of the playing field through a more equitable distribution of funds to start with. I would suggest removing the impost placed on the back of the pack by having all teams supported equally for transport costs, not just points scorers. Lets also look at providing say 70% of TV revenue equally to each team and have the other 30% distributed on the current basis of pay for points. That won�t make Jordon and Minardi compete for podiums, it will ensure their viability and allow them to divert funds currently employed just to turn up at races into testing and development.

So, now it�s on to Malaysia, where Michelin will retake the crown. Or perhaps not. I do not think that the Bridgestone disadvantage will be great enough to stop the red cars rolling out again. With more power from a new engine scheduled for the European rounds the Renaults will pull back the gap to Ferrari. Williams are too professional not to get their act together and McLaren � well, they might! BAR appear to have moved to front of the middle runners and may improve further. For now though, its looking like the team that will get the early jump in this in this season will be red. Bahrain is a total unknown until we see what effect the surface there has on tyres, but I�m going to stick my neck way out and predict a (albeit much closer) Ferrari 1-2 in Sepang next weekend, hot track and all.

The Quali-flyer

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Reader's comments:

It's going to be a interesting race all the way. I believe that Ferrari will not show everything ( like in practise in the last race) then they will get the fist place in qualify and leave everybody frozen so they start to make there internal mistakes, and then they will take it from there. 
The tires will play a big and important point in the whole weekend, and BS are making the best step on this year. We are all assuming here but these next races will show who has the best package for the rest of the season. 
Ferrari 1-2 for Malaysia. Slow practice... Fast qualify...wining the race after that. 
Renault will do better the entire year and will be a big problem for Ferrari in the end of the year. 

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