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This could be the decider 
22 September 2000 Volume 2 - Issue 30 

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Only two points separate Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher. The season is still wide open for them but pretty much closed for Coulthard and Barrichello who are now too far behind to have a shot at the championship (Coulthard could make it if he wins every race from here on but to do that, both Schumacher and Hakkinen will have to finish out of the points for virtually all of the remaining races).

That must mean that team orders will apply in both camps. We already know that Barrichello has accepted that his role is to help Schumacher but this will be the first race where Coulthard will be expected to support Hakkinen in his efforts to win the championship.

McLaren may have a slight edge in overall performance but I think that Michael may adjust to the extremes of the circuit faster than Mika which will balance the scales. If it rains, and showers are predicted for the weekend, Michael will definitely have an advantage.

If either Hakkinen or Schumacher retires, or finishes out of the points, and the other wins, it could very well decide the outcome of the season as the 8 or 12 points difference would then be hard to claw back in the remaining two races. Reliability is now critical for both as there will be little opportunity to make up for lost points in the last two races.

Although Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in Indiana, is one of the oldest race venues in the world (the original oval was constructed before 1910) the track that the F1 Grand Prix will be contested on is virtually brand new. Of the old, oval, circuit only one corner and a bit of the track leading up to it and away from it is used by the new F1 circuit.

Total track length is 2.6 miles/ 4.2 kilometres. There are two straights, one just under 1 km (3000ft) and the other just over km (1750ft). Of the 13 turns 10 will be taken at under 100mph/160km/H. Of those 9 will be under 75mph/120km/H and three under 50mph/80km/H. This is very slow, almost as slow as Monaco.

In contrast the remaining corners are very fast: one at more than 150mph/240km/H and the other two flat out.

Because the final banked corner leads on to the longest straight it will be the longest flat out distance of the season and we can expect cars to get to maximum speed long before braking. This may not be as fast as Hockenheim because the very tight turns in the rest of the circuit may dictate a lot more wing than we saw at Hockenheim and that will reduce maximum speed correspondingly.

It is of course possible that the teams (or some of the teams) may decide that the time gained on the straight with a low downforce configuration is worth the sacrifice of less grip through the slow parts. If that happens and low downforce set-ups are used we can expect prodigious speeds on the straight. Being a new track it is hard to call.

This is a horsepower track. It would be very hard to get power down in the slow corners but when it comes to the banked turn 12 and the following straight pure grunt will be needed to turn a good lap time. Because of that I believe that it would favour the teams with powerful engines that can afford to carry a little more wing.

We could see a lot of overtaking in Indianapolis because of the long high-speed stretch. This may be where the theory that race track design has a lot to do with the overtaking problem could be tested. We have only seen overtaking on the faster tracks (unless it rained) with longer straights and Indianapolis will certainly allow teams with a top speed advantage to capitalise.

This may favour McLaren, who I believe still have a power advantage, but then with the recent turn of speed we have seen in the Ferrari camp it is hard to know.

Williams, who started the season with a better performance on the slower to medium tracks, may just have the chassis and mechanical grip to deal better with the slower part of the track and still have more than enough grunt to be competitive on the fast stretches. They are worth watching.

The other team to watch is BAR. They are improving rapidly and Honda is turning the wick up on the engines. Villeneuve has a lot of experience on banked corners and this may come into play too.

Jordan may also be fast although it is hard to make the assessment after the sad ending to Frentzen’s last race. I am still not convinced that they have totally overcome their reliability problems, but if they have they could be very strong.

None of the drivers in these teams are in contention for the championship but that will not stop them from wanting to win the remaining races. All of them are closing the gap to Ferrari and McLaren and are getting very close to being able to compete for the lead. If they do have the pace to run in the front pack, it could make for an interesting race.

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