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2005 - The year of the thinking driver!

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2005 - the year of the rubber. At least that's what The Heretic says. I'm only partially in agreement. The relative performance of the Michelin and Bridgestone teams should indeed stratify based on whose tyres work better under the new rules. I would be very surprised if Melbourne shows a level playing field.

To me 2005 will be the year of the thinking driver. As a direct consequence of the tyre rules I see a stratification of drivers based on their relative ability to manage tyre wear across the weekend. Getting the balance right between aggressiveness and conservatism to ensure the tyre is competitive at the end of the race will be the strategic imperative. Drivers like DC will be the beneficiaries of the new rules, it's a pity that in his case it's immaterial - he'll still be way down the back. For BAR Honda however it will have significant impact. Button will revel in the new order while Sato will struggle. McLaren will be interesting. The old JPM would have been a disaster with hard tyres, I think he has matured enough as a driver to adapt. Kimi should handle the changes better than Juan Pablo, given a more flowing driving style. Which of these comes out on top is a bit of a lottery, my moneys on the Finn but I won't be surprised if I am wrong. Renault too will be fascinating, Alonso is, in my opinion, a 'quicker' pilot than Fisi but I do expect to see Giancarlo spending more time on the podium in the first few races. One team where a level playing field should exist between their drivers is Williams. Both drivers should be almost equally able to manage their tyre wear through to the finish of a race, although I believe Mark is the more strategic driver and might get a slight edge. Ferrari? Michael's Michael, he'll adapt better to the new circumstances than anyone else, as usual.

It's now Saturday and the serious stuff is about to start, McLaren led the way yesterday but I'll be very surprised if they are not overshadowed today and tomorrow by the red cars. That's just the way it is, even if the Bridgestones aren't there or thereabouts the bullet-proof package sitting on top of the round black things should come to the fore.

How many times will they play with the rules before they accept that change for change sake is worse than no change at all? Two stage qualifying over Saturday and Sunday? Give me a break, that's about as dumb as rules come. The mental giants who decided to address falling weekend attendances by rescheduling � of Saturday's reason for coming to Sunday morning earlier than most people want to show up are the very reasons that attendances are falling in the first place. Won't that be great in places like Bahrain where the support events are almost non-existent and people will be expected to arrive early and wait forever. Remember the bad old days when Friday was a bit slower but we at least saw lots of set-up practice and tyre evaluation, when Saturday was all about grid positioning and then we had a day to argue about the starting line-up. Now it's all a non-event with 3rd cars touring around because it doesn't matter if they break and the real players sitting in their motor homes while the mechanics watch the tyres and engines to ensure nothing puts any wear on them. I hope the GPWC debate will at least show this crap up.

On that, GPWC will die in 2005, This will again be a Bernie year. He has got Ferrari, the rest have to follow.

Who will win this year? I can't see the Brawn/Schumacher combination being toppled. If they are it will be only due to the round black things. Who'll come second? Probably Rubens, but with the same caveat. Behind them I think we will see massive movements from last year. BAR shined because both McLaren and Williams dropped the ball. That won't happen 2 years in a row. One, probably McLaren, or both will be back after blood and it will be at the expense of Honda points. Renault will be a genuine 2nd tier competitor and I see the majority of the minor points being split between them and McLaren. Toyota will be racing Sauber for the dregs and the rest will be happy if they beat Stoddart's crew.

With 19 rounds the impact of a single race has been dissipated, Ferrari should benefit from that more than anyone else, they'll win less races but nobody can touch them for consistency. Look for an extra star on the MS cap by year end!

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