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Reader's Comments

Michael has had his best season start ever and the Ferrari continues to deliver a level of performance above the pack but how much of that is down to the competition?

BAR came out with all guns blazing and looked promising early on but if Canada (Button's eventual third notwithstanding) is any indication then their progress is faltering. Renault have taken too long to develop the power plant to match the chassis and Williams have still, at mid-season, not got their act together. The rest were never going to be a threat once McLaren decided they would play among the backmarkers this year. Given the fact that those 2nd level teams have had a half a year to develop their packages and provide some competition, and failed, Michael will win the Drivers and Ferrari will win the Constructors Championship yet again. And they deserve them. Ferrari had the package from round one but their development has not been any more spectacular or successful than the competition, fortunately for them it hasn't needed to be. Renault certainly appear to be the only credible potential competitor at this stage.

Bridgestone wrong footed the competition from the outset, providing tyres that are equal to the Michelin in race conditions and not significantly worse in qualifying. That wasn't the way Michelins guru's planned it. At the end of last season Michelin looked liked they had the game won, with rapid development utilising multiple front running cars against the Ferrari/Bridgestone combination. Bibendum's efforts for 2004 probably ranks right up there with one of his senior development partners, McLaren.

Canada's on-track race was not particularly interesting, beyond the failure of both Renaults and the stupidity of both disqualified teams. For Renault to go from most to least reliable in a single race is a pretty strange effort. I'm not reading too much into that just yet. They are still the best of the rest and they will score a lot more points before this season is done. If they can get some more power they will win some more races as well. Had Alonso's car finished, and had his refuelling rig worked he was actually in line for a very close fought win.

As for the debacle of Williams and Toyota, the less said the better. For teams with their budgets and experience (Toyota too, their senior engineers have been around longer than the team has) to go to races without even taking a tape measure is amazingly dumb. At least it guarantees Webber can get out of his contract with Jaguar should he choose to, the performance clause locking him in there is only activated if Jaguar are 6th or better in the constructors title after Indianapolis. With the skewed results from Canada that ain't gonna happen.

Ralf had one of his rare good days in Canada, despite losing the result, and the powers that be at Toyota should be asking why he managed that only when the contract is being negotiated instead of being pleased that he did. Schuie junior is inconsistent, end of story.

McLaren actually managed to finish both cars and picked up points from them as well (a marvellous effort given that it only took 3 disqualifications and at least 2 retirements to achieve it), unfortunately the real situation there is best shown by the fact that Fisichella led them home. I'm not sure what the value of the B spec car will be but there is no way that the current car can get points on its own merit.

Hopefully we will not have too long to go now before qualifying gets a new coat of paint and a rearrangement of the ornaments from the Real Race days. The revisions from the round of Britain (assuming sign-off by the FIA on June 30) will mean 2 sessions of 25 minutes with a 10 minute break between them. Each driver must complete 6 laps per session (2 flyers and in and out laps) with grid positions determined by aggregate times from both sessions. At least its a step back in the right direction. Parc Ferme conditions will still apply; I can live with that because the damn fool no-refuelling rule has been consigned to the bad-ideas scrap heap. Some of the drivers and teams are expressing doubts about this format (the 3rd change in 1/2 a season!) but at least its better than the previous bizarre arrangements.

Indianapolis is now upon us and I expect some interesting results, at least beyond the second step of the podium, Michael seems a pretty sure bet for the top one. Indianapolis is the most compromised circuit on the calendar in terms of car set-up and some teams will get that compromise more right than others. Renault could have won in Canada and I won't be too surprised if they do well here too. BAR and Williams could also surprise, particularly if Sato can see the end of the race. I'm still banking on 2 red cars up front though.

The Quali-flyer

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Reader's comments:

First, the Michelin tire controversy. Basically, Michelin was caught, if not cheating, certainly breaking the spirit of the rules. After they were caught last year, they have shown little more than parity since then. If it hadn't been for their "cheating", Ferrari, Schumacher and Bridgestone would have trounced the field decisively last year. Is Michael invincible? Certainly not, but there is no one near his game this year as long as the team keeps things together. As long as he has equal or better equipment, he will be very difficult to beat. even in his first years at Ferrari, he was in the hunt for the championship even with somewhat inferior equipment. If he were to go to Minardi, Minardi wouldn't be last in the standing anymore. Given a bit of sponsorship money, MS could develop them into a front running team. 
The announcers, Bob Varsha and David Hobbs, for the Speed version of the Indy race, in particular, and all season in general, has been pathetic. I actually had to mute the audio on several occasions during the USGP. Their bowing and grovelling towards their hero, One Pablum Montoad, has reached disgusting levels, especially when they badmouth Sato for driving exactly like Montoad has driven since he entered Formula One, a bull in a china closet. Montoya is a man who belongs in parking lot grand prixs where he can't run into anybody. He is fast when he's alone. Sato will develop into a much better driver, where Montoya has shown little progress. And BAR will soon benefit from Sato's maturing. I think BAR will probably surpass Renault as the number two team this year. As far as Montoad goes, if I were Frank Williams, the boy would have had his waskiing papaers after Monte Carlo and Canada, or actually a lot sooner -  Bare - USA


I would not put quite as much emphasis on the width issue from 2003 as you have. Michelin did �interpret� the rules in a fairly cavalier fashion to provide a grip advantage on worn tyres. Unfortunately for your argument at that time they were at their best when they were straight out of the box in qualifying, and legal. Lap times for the Michelin-shod runners this year have indicated a significant improvement in grip over last year. The Ferrari�s lap times indicate that Bridgestone have answered the call and are providing tyres that take away the performance advantage from last year. This effort by the Japanese tyre builder has been, for me, the surprise of the season, more so even than the performance of both Williams and McLaren, who we all looked to when trying to second guess the championship this year.

You are perfectly correct though in saying that Michael is a team builder. Sure, he has the very best support network on the paddock, but that�s part of getting the �team� right. MS would not put a Minardi on pole but you are correct in saying he would bring equal measures of cash, talent and professionalism to Faenza and those inputs would be all that was required to lift them to match the middle runners.

I do agree wholeheartedly with your criticism�s of your (very) domestic commentators. Because JPM once won a Going-Round-In-Circles World (?) Championship he is the only known performer in the circus, so he gets the attention. My criticism of the Speed commentators goes a bit further though. Their technical knowledge of F1 is lacking, as is their grasp of Geography beyond their own hemisphere. I had to laugh out loud when I was informed that San Marino is to the South-East of Italy, a fact that I had remained blissfully unaware of for all these years. I�m sure it would come as an equal surprise to those fishes and other citizens of that part of the Mediterranean.

Read my most recent posting and you will see that I too have seen the parallels between Sato and Montoya. I do acknowledge that Sato is quick, but I�m not yet ready to heap praise on him. Lets give him some more time (what � 6 years isn�t enough?) to mature as a racer and then see how he rates. JPM does not make my list of best current drivers either. He�s been matched or beaten by Ralf too many times. �nuff said!

The Quali-flyer

Bare replies

Thank you. I certainly didn't mean to imply that Schumaker would be the fastest on race day just by arriving at Minardi, but there would certainly be a marked improvement in their lot. 
I'm surprised that Hobbs can be so bad. Varsha is and has been a world class idiot since I started having to listen to him. I remember when he used to cover bike races, every time a rider would look back to see who was coming, Varsha would announce that the rider was having tire troubles and was looking back to see what was wrong with it. He, obviously, has never ridden a motorcycle. And the other clowns they come up with for the USGP are no better. Machette is the only guy on there that makes a bit of sense. 
But I disagree a bit on the Michelins. During the race, it always seemed like they took about 7 laps to "warm up" to racing temps, or should we call this "widening out?" The great disparity between the tires seemed to have disappeared. 


Still can't agree with you on the Michelins. They were a little unusual in their characteristics, providing very good initial grip for 2 or 3 laps maximum (perfect for qualifying) then going off till they were scrubbed in half a dozen laps later. That gave the Bridgestones runners a window of opportunity of around four laps to catch or pull away (depending on if MS was the pilot or not) before the fat frenchman came back on song. After that it was all over, the Michelins were much better and we often saw Michelin runners scrubbing their tyres during practice so that tyres fitted during pit stops were 'run in', particularly on the fronts.

This year we are seeing a much more consistent tyre from Michelin, unfortunately the Bridgestone seems to have almost totally negated last years advantages. Ferrari, at least, have a tyre that matches them in all but qualifying, where I feel the Michelins still have a (very slight) advantage in getting up to their optimum running temperature of around 140 deg C a bit quicker. I am not suggesting that Ferrari are necessarily running different tyres to the others, merely that the tyres are designed for the Ferrari with the other teams having to live with the compromises that entails.

The Quali-flyer

Bare replies

It's amazing how much closer their cars ran after the extra width was taken away from the Michelins. I'm sure they didn't change the compound just for the width adjustment. It's pretty obvious to me that the width was the difference after the "scrubbing in." Must've been pretty obvious to the Bridgestone runners, too, or why would they have complained?

We are watching one of the greatest driver (MS) and team (Ferrari) in action and we keeping hearing complaints that F1 is boring. I wish the non-Ferrari fans will stop complaining and be a good sport. When the team and driver you are supporting get their act together, the day will come when you can cheer for them too. It is really getting "boring" hearing that F1 is boring - Lee - Singapore


F1 is faced with a dilemma, and its not Schumacher/Ferrari. It is overtaking. Sato showed us at Indy that it is still possible but the price of that level of commitment (recklessness?) is very, very high. Good luck to those who have to make it happen.

The Quali-flyer

This season is getting pretty sad. I think the question to be asked is not whether or not MS will come in 1st place, but how few times he *won't* win. It's neither his nor Ferrari's fault -- they got it right and he's one of those rare individuals with amazing talent for what he does. As much as I may dislike seeing the red cars constantly come in 1st and 2nd (or 3rd, on an off-day), I have to give it up to the team and MS. Herein lies the problem, however. When everyone else is so outclassed by both the driver (MS -- although it's not like Barrichello sucks) and the machine (Ferrari), it makes for a very boring event. It's like watching the Mike Tyson fights which ended in the 1st round -- after a bit they start to get boring and predictable, and you don't want to watch anymore. The same is happening here in F1; the only problem is what can you do? You can't punish MS and/or Ferrari for being too good -- that would hardly be realistic, let alone fair -- but at the same time their total domination is killing the fun of watching the different competing cars and drivers. 
So, what's happened to our beloved F1? Is MS outclassing everybody because he's so good, or is he a leftover -- a relic -- from an era of great drivers? - Fabricio C - USA


Michael is apparently heading toward his most dominant season yet. Renault and BAR are both quick, but not quick enough over a race distance. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I know that it isn't to nobble the Ferrari just because the competition is too slow.

MS is THAT good, but he's not a relic. There are a few very good drivers out there, they simply don't (yet) have Michael's racecraft. The only fair comparison to draw to MS is Rubens and the gap is not that great, despite the consistent results. Put Raikkonen, Alonso or Montoya in an equal red car and they they would spend more time behind Schumacher at the end of races than they would in front. But not that much more.

The Quali-flyer

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