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Can Williams beat Ferrari ?  
13 September 2001 Volume 3 - Issue 29  

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At Spa we saw Williams take advantage of their more powerful engine during qualifying only, using a much slower version for the race in the hope that they would make full race distance.

As it is Montoya did not make it, but then again if anything can break he seems to have the knack to do it.

Ralf made it to the end and although he was not particularly slow, never showed enough pace to make me believe that he could have been faster than his brother Michael.

The Question is: How much speed will Williams have to sacrifice to make race distance at Monza and will they still be fast enough to race Ferrari? We know that they can be faster than Ferrari and that the Michelin tyres are a definitive advantage. This should be their race but will it be?

Monza is fast, very fast. Of the 11 corners that I count only four are under 100mph (160Km/H) and four are over 140mph (225Km/H). Maximum throttle will be used for 66% of the lap and although tyre wear is pretty average, brake wear is high.

Top speeds will be pretty extreme on three parts of the circuit: the Pit Straight, the approach to Curvo del Vialone and the approach to the famous Parabollica. In all three cases I predict around 223 mph (360Km/H).

Choosing the right amount of downforce will be critical. Too much and it will not be possible to attain the high speeds, too little and it will be difficult to get out of the corners fast enough. I expect to see small wings on the cars that are down on power and slightly bigger wings on the more powerful cars.

For the cars with a definite power and top speed advantage overtaking on the three fastest sections should be relatively easy providing that they have enough downforce to exit leading corners fast.

Slower and nimbler cars do not have much of a chance of performing well. This is a power circuit where the advantage of being faster through the corners becomes insignificant if it cannot be followed through with matching straight-line speed.

Even though Williams should be fastest I still believe that Ferrari has the better chance of winning. They have the reliability; Michael Schumacher is fast on any circuit and Barrichello is also good on high speed circuits.

Ferrari's only problem is their tyres (Bridgestone), which will not be as fast as the Michelins on the Williams if it is a hot, dry day. They may also be marginally down on power compared to Williams. If it rains they will definitely be faster.

Williams will have to decide if they are going to go for broke by turning the wick up on their engines and hope for the best or to be conservative by limiting the power output of the BMW engine. If they chose the more powerful option they have a chance of doing well, but of course their engines must last to do so.

Choosing reliability will make them slower, and slower is not the way to win races at Monza.

There is nothing wrong with David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen's ability to win. Both are fast and given the right car could do very well.

But that is the problem. I do not think that the McLaren is capable of running with the Ferrari any more. Over the season Ferrari has consistently improved to the extent that they are not far behind Williams in overall speed but McLaren have not kept up.

If both Williams cars fail they (McLaren) may make it to the podium. That is, of course, if their cars last.

Sauber amazes me. They are using last year's Ferrari engine which should be well off the pace by now and they are still consistently finishing in the points.

Both drivers are capable of doing very well. Nick Heidfeld is fast enough and Kimi Raikkonen is spectacular considering that he did not even have a super licence a year ago.

BAR may have Villeneuve, and Panis but that is it. They have the drivers but not the cars. Do not expect them in the points unless there are plenty retirements.

Jean Alesi did well to finish in the points at Spa but I do not see him being able to repeat his performance in Monza unless it rains. I rate him as good as Schumacher in the wet. Trulli is also not slow but the car is slow and unreliable.

Although Jaguar seems to improve slowly there is little indication that they have the power to do well at Monza. I am also not a fan of either driver, I just do not rate them in the same class as for example the McLaren or Williams drivers.

Frentzen seemed to get a new lease of life at Spa, or maybe Prost are finally building a driveable car. With the right chassis they could be as fast as Sauber and I think that Frentzen is fast enough.

Arrows and Minardi will, like always, make up the tail of the fleet and regularly provide back markers for the leaders to pass. At least Arrows has a championship point.


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