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Ferrari dominates  
21 March 2001 Volume 3 - Issue 6  

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After two races Ferrari are on top. They seem to be faster in all conditions and there is not even a hint of reliability issues.

The difference in Malaysia bordered on the ridiculous. Both Michael Schumacher and Barrichello were several seconds faster than the rest of the field. The huge difference in performance was due to several factors:

Firstly, Ferrari is demonstrably faster than McLaren this year. They seem more stable on the track, are getting better roadholding from their chassis and appear to have a tad more power too. This is obvious from their qualifying times and positions in Melbourne and Sepang.

Secondly, they were out on the right tyres. Although there were a few laps where the rain was so heavy that full wet tyres were justified, most of these were spent behind the pace car. For the rest of the race the intermediate tyres that they chose gave them a huge advantage over the rest of the field that were mostly on full wet tyres.

This advantage was obvious when both Ferraris were able to overtake by running around the outside of the corners indicating a huge grip advantage. By that time the rain had cleaned most of the track so even the risk of getting into the rubber dust was diminished.

Finally there is the issue of traction control.

I am not accusing Ferrari of having illegal traction control. Currently the rules are that sensors on the wheels may not be used to provide traction control. I am sure that Ferrari is abiding by this rule.

It is however possible to use various other indicators, like sudden increases in revolution or gearbox activity to deduce that you are experiencing wheelspin. This may not be as effective as sensors on the wheels and we can expect most teams to have equivalent or better traction control towards the end of the season but by then Ferrari would also have a better system.

Not only did the intermediate tyres allow the Ferraris to overtake by using non optimum lines through corner's but they did not have to cope with the problems of accelerating too hard and losing momentum due to spinning wheels the car was doing that admirably!

Ralf Schumacher did extremely well. It is obvious that Williams are getting faster and Ralf drove a brilliant race to finish where he did. Montoya's retirement was a disappointment (I am still waiting to see how good he really is). Verstappen was also amazing, but then he is always good on a wet track and seems to cope with changing conditions as well as Michael Schumacher. His Arrows is down on power but that matters a lot less in a predominantly wet or damp race, where it is impossible to use all of the available power anyway.

Because of the sudden rain many good drivers were caught out and we are still not in a position to realistically rank drivers or teams.

I was hoping to see Alesi do well as he is brilliant in the rain but I guess that his car was so slow that the conditions could not level the playing field. The same comments apply to Button and Fisichella, who are both very competent drivers. Benetton have a long way to go before they will have a competitive car. I hope they get there soon as they are holding back two great drivers.

BAR seems to be unlucky at present. Villeneuve has not finished a race this season. Maybe he is trying too hard.

I am amazed at the progress that Jordan made since last season. Some of it is undoubtedly due to the works Honda engines, but I did not expect to see them this competitive this early in the season. If they can continue to improve at the same rate they will not only leave BAR far behind but they will soon be challenging McLaren.

This season we have a lot of first class drivers, the best field that I have seen for years. New drivers like Montoya, Alonso and Raikkonen have the potential to make it one of the most talented groups to take to F1 in one season ever.

As the cars develop this could be a very exciting year.

Note: I am not ignoring the overtaking issue but to date we have not seen a race where the effect of this season's changes to the rules can be assessed.

There is a chance that the introduction of a tyre war will dramatically increase mechanical grip and that alone could give us a season where overtaking is possible.

Hopefully we will be in a position to review this before long..

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