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Coulthard against two Schumachers !  
21 June 2001 Volume 3 - Issue 19  

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Although Michael Schumacher may be far enough ahead in points to not be overly concerned with his brother Ralf's obvious speed advantage, Coulthard must be looking at the gap between himself and Ralf Schumacher with real concern. Not only must he beat Michael in virtually every race for the rest of the season but he must also make sure that Ralf does not get too many wins. His only hope is the poor reliability of the Williams, which may still be settling down, but then it was Coulthard that blew a motor in Canada, not Ralf.

Realistically, Coulthard's best chance of winning a championship is again rapidly slipping out of his reach.

I suspect that qualifying will be fought out between the two Schumachers. Montoya and Barrichello could also be in the run for the front row but lately they seem to be much slower in qualifying. McLaren can also not be ignored (Coulthard started from pole last year).

The big rush into the Castrol S curve (turns 1 and 2) will be exciting on that first lap. Most cars are now equipped with traction control and some form of launch control so it is unlikely that they will not congregate in this corner on the first lap. Let's hope they get through without mishap, as the delays of a restart or several laps behind the pace car is always frustrating to watch.

Of the 13 "Kurves" 8 are below 150km/H(96mph) (of which 4 are below 120km/H(75mph)) and 5 are fast. One is a very fast sweep where cars will be running very close to top speed.

Williams will most likely be carrying a lot of wing again (with their power advantage they can afford it most) but I expect that most teams will be pretty close to maximum downforce. It may be a fast track but there are many corners that are taken at speeds where considerable downforce will be needed.

In the past this track has been slippery and in all probability soft tyres will again be the favourite (Williams may trade downforce for tyre robustness again and use medium compound tyres). In the past Nurburgring has not been hard on tyres but I believe that this may be the first time that the race is run in summer for a while, so tyre wear is a little unpredictable. I am sure that the teams will sort this on the first day of practice if it is a hot day.

Apart from the fairly long pit straight there are several other potential overtaking opportunities: the approach to Ford Kurve which will be totally dependant on the speed of exit out of the S Kurve and how close the following car can be at that point; the approach to Dunlop, although it will mean that the overtaking car will be on the outside and dirty part of the long sweep on the way in to the corner; into RTL Kurve and Veedol although in both cases the cars will be exceeding 300km/H.

If Williams was fastest in Canada with a larger wing than the other teams we must assume that they will be even faster in Nurburg where I suspect that most, if not all, teams will also opt for a high downforce configuration. They may again go out on harder rubber - it seems that Michelin are getting better performance out of the medium tyre, almost as good as the soft Bridgestone tyres.

Providing the Williams lasts (and their reliability has improved dramatically over the season) Ralf has to be my favourite to win. Montoya will be fast too but chances are that he will yet again try too hard and stack it before the end of the race.

Michael Schumacher may need to go out with less downforce to match the speed of the Williams (although that did not work in Canada). Barrichello qualified and finished in fourth last year and I do not think that he will do any better than that this year, his heart is just not in it.

Ferrari may come up with a fast compromise between aerodynamic grip and straight-line speed. They have been fast in Nurburg in the past and this has to be one of the few remaining races where they may get the upper hand over Williams.

Given the fairly large lead that Michael has over his brother I am sure that their focus will be on beating Coulthard and McLaren and if they can also finish in front of both Williams cars, it will be a bonus.

I am sure that McLaren team orders must be in place now. Hakkinen may theoretically be in a position to win the championship but that would rely on a very improbable outcome for the rest of the season. At the end of the day, Coulthard is the only driver that can catch Michael Schumacher and he should have the backing of the entire team.

I do not believe that the Honda engine produces enough power to push BAR or Jordan into contention for the lead. Any one of the four cars can, and probably will, finish in the points but will only finish on the podium if most of the three leading team cars retire. This is not Honda's year.

Raikkonen was very impressive in Canada but his Sauber is not fast enough to be competitive. Given substantial retirements he may finish well up in the points again but this is one of the few remaining races of the season where he has a slim chance to do well. As they get to faster circuits the disadvantage of driving with a dated motor will become more apparent.

Prost have not been able to get the same performance out of the engine as Sauber and do not seem to have as good a chassis either. Alesi may finish in the top ten and if he earns any points I would expect him to be as overjoyed as he was in Canada. The Prost may be reliable but it is not fast.

Jaguar, like Microsoft, keep on promising a better and faster release without getting better or faster. Their current promise is that we will see a vastly improved aerodynamic package.

So what? They need all round improvement to be competitive.

Arrows are still struggling and Minardi will again be watching their rear view mirrors for lapping cars.

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