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Was Michael trying ?   
3 April 2002 Volume 4 - Issue 7   

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One of the many questions asked after the Brazilian Grand Prix is: If Ralf Schumacher could catch his brother Michael, why did he not even try to overtake him?

The standard answer is that it is one thing to catch a leading driver but another to overtake. At the post race press conference Ralf indicated that he had no choice but to wait for Michael to make a mistake as it was not possible to get past him any other way.

I am sorry. I do not buy that.

At no stage did Ralf look as if he was trying to get past. He never looked close enough to try. Sure, where there was no opportunity to overtake he got reasonably close but at the final corner before the straight he was just too far back to have a go.

Some even suggested that his big brother intimidates him. No chance. I am sure that he is awed by his brother's success but he has a lifetime of competing with him. By now, if he has the fortitude to race in the worlds most competitive class, he has learnt how to take his brother on.

In my opinion the reason is simple: Michael was controlling the race from the lead by going just a little faster every time Ralf got close. He was winning the race at the slowest pace he could.

The question is: How much faster could he have gone if he needed to? Was he sandbagging?

If so, how fast is the Ferrari really?

Before we get too excited Coulthard/McLaren fans keep in mind that Coulthard was a whole minute behind at the finish and still made it on to the podium.

At least both cars almost finished which is a lot better than their performance in Malaysia where they did not average half of the race. McLaren may have fixed their reliability problems but are still down on power.

Renault also almost finished both cars and Button was only some seven seconds behind Coulthard.

Much the same performance as McLaren until we recognise that McLaren were fast last year and are getting slower while Benetton/Renault were pretty pedestrian last year and very close to overtaking McLaren.

My money is on Renault. By the end of the season I would not be surprised to see them close to Ferrari and Williams.

The other team that impresses me is Toyota.

Salo may have finished a lap down but they are faster than Jaguar, BAR and Jordan. This is a major achievement in their first season.

Even Jaguar seem to be improving. Both cars finished in the top 10.

The Honda powered cars are going through a torrid time. Only one finished and that was Sato who came 9th. Villeneuve was classified 10th but he never made it to the end!

Sounds good until you take into account that the only cars that finished behind those 2 were Minardis. (and Raikkonen who also failed to finish but was classified 12th)

Sauber had an ordinary race too. Heidfeld's brakes failed close to the end of the race and Massa spun on lap 41.

They have to focus on the early part of the season before the leading teams get reliabitiy and start building speed. At this rate they will not repeat their points score of last season.

That leaves "Kamikaze" Juan Pablo Montoya.

In Malaysia when he was penalised for the first corner incident he did not blame Michael Schumacher. That he called a race incident that was normal and Michael supported that view by stating that he thought Montoya was treated unfairly.

In Brazil, where he drove into the back of Michael's car, and there was no way that Michael could have avoided the incident, he insists that it was Michael's fault. Michael should not have closed the door.

The way I think it works is that the leading driver has the right to take the best line through the corner. Michael was far enough ahead to do that without running into Montoya, so why shouldn't he?

Does Juan Pablo really think that he should get the best line through the corner? Is he under the impression that "fair" is more important than winning? Or does he want his competitors to politely allow him to barge through?

I can see another vendetta developing. Like always it will end in both parties forgetting the cause and lots of forced retirements.

On the other hand I cannot understand why Montoya aggressively carried on trying when it was obvious that it was too late. Apart from the risk to life and limb it was almost guaranteed that he would come off second best. Running into the back of a car always damages the front wing. Even my kids know that.

Juan Pablo, remember the saying: to finish first you first need to finish.

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