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Schumacher must win this one 
10 August 2000 Volume 2 - Issue 24 

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If Michael Schumacher does not win the Hungarian Grand Prix he will find it very difficult to stay in contention for this year’s championship. After Hungary the tracks on which Ferrari may feel that they have a slight advantage over McLaren are all gone.

Belgium (Spa) and Italy (Monza), the next two races, are both fast and will favour McLaren with their power advantage. The new track built in Indianapolis looks as if it will be fast where McLaren will in all probability also be able to capitalise on their superior power, which only leaves Japan and Malaysia where results could go either way.

Another retirement, for whatever reason, in Hungary and Michael can kiss the championship good bye.

On the other hand if any of the races were run in wet conditions it would increase Michael’s chances as he is untouchable in the rain. But although he can hope for rain, Michael better approach Hungary as if he will not be getting any breaks for the rest of the season.

Hungaroring, just outside Budapest, is one of the slower circuits of the season. Average speed on a dry track will be just over 110mph (180km/H) which makes it the second slowest after Monaco.

Overtaking, if at all, will be limited to the start/finish straight and that is pretty short. Unless it rains or other dramatic influences (like a Frenchman on the track) interfere on race day we can expect the race to be processional.

Downforce will be very high which will increase turbulence to the point that it will be very hard to stay in touch with a car around the 80mph (130km/H) corner on the approach to the start/finish straight. To overtake, it will be necessary to exit this corner faster than the car you are catching and I just can’t see how that is possible. In his turbulence there would not be enough downforce to do it, hang back out of the turbulence and the straight is too short to catch and overtake.

The rest of the circuit does not allow for any overtaking unless the driver ahead makes a mistake or cooperates. Because it is so tight few cars venture off the racing line, which means that rubber dust and marbles deposited on the rest of the track is hardly ever disturbed. Deviating from the racing line to overtake is therefore foolish and almost never pays off.

Although qualifying is now critical for every race in the season, at Hungary (like Monaco) it is the most important factor in determining the outcome of the race. Smooth, polished pit stops come a close second and we can expect that (discounting breakdowns, crashes and spins) the cars will finish in the same order they qualified in, unless they gained or lost a position or two in the pits or at the start.

It is a matter of time before we see a serious and potentially tragic accident in the pits. These were never designed to cater for the huge impact they have on the outcome of the race. The pit teams are far too big and any small mistake has the potential of them all falling over each other. Add to this the fact that the driver is totally focused on the lollypop. We saw an incident earlier this year with Schumacher running down one of his mechanics and I am afraid that we might see some more incidents where a car takes off prematurely, mowing down pit crew on the way out.

The pressure in pit lane is getting too high. The cast of thousands that are allowed in pit lane can only add to the confusion.

I wonder what Ron Dennis is thinking right now? Both drivers are on 54 points in the Driver’s Championship, two points behind Schumacher and only 8 points ahead of Barrichello. If Hakkinen and Coulthard race each other they may well play into the hands of Ferrari who could end up with their two drivers leading the championship.

I think that the lack of team orders at McLaren is great and very sportsmanlike, I just hope that McLaren’s sponsors will also be understanding if they do not win the championship because of it.

Apart from Hakkinen and Coulthard who must be seeing each other as a prime competitor by now and Michael Schumacher who will be driving for the championship the other two drivers that I will be watching very closely are Barrichello and Fisichella.

Barrichello will be going to Hungary with a lot more confidence. Team orders may prevent him from racing Schumacher but he is bound to attack the McLarens with a lot more gusto. I will not be surprised to see him finish in second place if Schumacher wins or in first again if Schumacher does not finish in the top three.

Fisichella will know that Hungary is where he has a fair chance to finish on the podium. I was surprised at the pace that Benetton showed in qualifying for Hockenheim and if we combine this increase in pace with the good mechanical grip of the Benetton chassis, Fisichella could well have a competitive car.

Although BAR have improved dramatically in the last few races I do not think that this circuit will suit their chassis. Villeneuve could qualify well and if he has another great start he may be close to the leaders in the opening laps but I will be very surprised if the car is nimble enough to stay in touch with the leaders.

Improvements at Jordan have been sporadic, Williams went off the boil for a while and Arrows are suddenly faster, which makes it hard to predict which driver or team will flesh out the rest of the top six. It could even be Salo!

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