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The Car ? or the Tyres ?  
7 March 2002 Volume 4 - Issue 3  

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I can't make up my mind why Ferrari were so obviously dominant in Australia. It could be the car, but then why are they so anxious to get their new car ready? It may be the tyres. Tyre performance is hard to verify because for most, if not practically the entire race, Michael Schumacher was the only car on Bridgestone tyres.

They may want to get their new car out just to also be fastest in a straight line. Michael was obviously the fastest car on the track after the accident that took most of the field out at the start, but when he was caught behind Trulli in the first few laps it was obvious that he did not have the speed to overtake. I did notice that he was carrying a lot of wing, which will account for his lack of speed in a straight line.

Ferrari was dominant from the first Friday practice. They were cool and collected, did not rush out in any of the practice sessions and seemed to hang back waiting for all the other teams to struggle for the best time and then they would pop out for a few laps just to show that Barrichello can beat the time by at least a second and Michael can be a further half second faster without even trying.

The only time that it did not go smoothly for Michael was during the qualifying session when his only fast lap had to be aborted due to a yellow flag followed by a red flag. Even then he shared the front row with Barrichello. Had it not rained I am sure that he would have been the standard half second faster than Barrichello and the order would have been reversed.

If it is tyres then I fear that Ferrari are in a strong position for the season. Most of the weekend was cool, damp or wet weather but the race was dry and not that cold. It is possible that the Bridgestones could go off on warmer days, but surely we should have seen some weakness if that is the case? Instead they just go better and better.

Montoya on the other hand went off the boil very quickly. After that amazing overtaking move after the pace car went back in he actually managed to get some distance away from Michael but then his tyres gave up after two or three laps. Does that mean that Michelin are at a disadvantage on a warm and possibly hot track? They certainly still seem to be on a cold, damp and wet track.

We really did not see Montoya go all out to qualify. Normally this is the first indication we get of how fast the cars really are. He got his timing wrong and never had a good run before the rain started. Had he qualified on the first row of the grid we could conclude that Williams are fast but their tyres go off quickly. As it is we will have to wait for Malaysia to see where the tyre war stand (that is if it is not raining).

The start was something! Having watched many replays there is no doubt in my mind that Barrichello changed sides twice, which could have been regarded as weaving. The first corner is however quite some distance from the start and it is also equally valid to say that he moved to the inside of the track to protect his line and then on the approach to the corner felt that he did not need to drive defensively and moved out to set up for turn one.

I am not sure that I fully understand what Ralf was planning to do. In my opinion he was going too fast to be able to brake for the first corner. When he hit Barrichello he was still accelerating and Barrichello was obviously already braking for the corner. It is possible that, as it is the first lap and Barrichello brakes and tyres were cold that Barrichello braked early, but then surely the speed differential would not have been that great.

If Barrichello was not there I believe that Ralf would have shot off the track into the kitty litter where he may have stayed. Excitement and the red mist must have got to him.

Whatever happened behind those two was probably due to their accident. Seeing a car fly that high (Ralf lost his front wing on impact and literally flew over Barrichello) is enough to distract even the most professional driver and that is all that was needed to cause the carnage that followed. Too bad that it removed both Saubers from the race, I was hoping to see how well they stack up against McLaren.

Ferrari was fast, there is no doubt but I was pleasantly surprised to see both the Williams and the McLaren survive to the end of the race. They may lack pace or grip but they seem to be reliable.

Montoya drove a professional race. He tried to stay ahead of Schumacher but then when he realised that this was not going to happen (he said in the press conference that Michael went past him as if he was parking) he concentrated on hanging on to second place and getting the car home. He is still the only driver that has the ability and the car to take Michael on.

Raikkonen drove a spectacular race if. He tried to catch and overtake Montoya and for a while it looked as if he had a chance but he too had to accept his position and get the car home.

Eddie Irvine, who was a lap down, was literally the last man standing. 4th place is pretty good, until you see who finished behind him. Two Minardis only, because Salo and de la Rosa had other reasons for being that far back.

Mark Webber did very well to bring his sick and struggling car home in Fifth place. The Minardi is not fast and to have an ailing differential for almost the whole race is hard. Holding Salo off at the end of the race was some luck (Salo did not have to spin he had the speed and there was still a whole lap to go) but it took a level head and strong nerves, especially in his first race.

I was amazed that the Toyota lasted to the end. That in itself is an achievement taking into account that the car was brand new and was racing in its very first race. To have the turn of speed that Salo displayed in the last laps shows that it is not only a very strong car but that it is reasonably fast too.

I felt for Coulthard who seemed to slowly lose speed over the race. Don't forget that he was leading the race by a substantial margin by the time the pace car came out for the second time.

Villeneuve was fast too but when are BAR going to get their act together? After four years they still regularly have bits falling off.

Arrows did not do too badly either. How do you stall both cars on the grid? How come did Bernoldi jump into the spare car when the race had already started? How can Frentzen not see the red light at the end of the pits? Does he not look for a green light every time he leaves the pits?

I would have liked to see Jordan and BAR (the two Honda powered teams) matched in a race as it was very hard to form any opinion on their relative performance in practice. I guess we will know after Malaysia.

The eight laps that Trulli was on the track were impressive. He is fast and the Renault was pretty good too. The spin, which eventually retired him, looked strange - modern formula one cars do not lose it without warning like that any more. That is what traction control is all about. I think his car let him down.

Taking into account that only eight cars finished the race still managed to carry excitement to the very last lap. Let us hope all races are like that this season.

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