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Another good year for Ferrari   
25 February 2003 Volume 5 - Issue 2   

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Ferrari finished last year so far ahead that it is difficult to imagine them not following through with another good season. Even if they race last year's car they will be hard to beat.

Constructors and drivers are now becoming like politicians. They do not necessarily tell the truth - only what they want you to hear. This year Ferrari are claiming that their new car (F2003) is an even greater improvement on their 2002 car than that car was over their 2001 car. If this is indeed true then they will also have a formidable car later in the season.

Ferrari will not be using their new car soon. This is probably partly to ensure reliability and sort out some teething problems but I suspect that they will only roll it out if their 2002 cars are challenged. They are very good at playing the waiting game.

I wonder what motivates Michael Schumacher. He has now broken virtually every record. He has established himself as the greatest driver ever in all the record books. Why is he still motivated to continue? With the new rules for qualifying he is unlikely to feel that he needs to beat the last significant record that he has not matched or bettered (Ayrton Senna still holds the most poles ever) as it is not under the same conditions, even if he does manage to score several poles.

Well, he is not retiring so that means that he is the man to beat.

Barrichello is quick, but not fast enough to consistently compete with Michael. Team orders (notwithstanding being banned) and Michael's incredible ability to consistently be fast will keep him in second place.


This year I am expecting McLaren to move back into second place. They were getting a lot better towards the end of last season and have the potential to continue doing so.

I do not expect them to be fast enough to take Ferrari on. This will have to wait until next season, maybe.

In the past McLaren took long, far too long, to get their cars competitive and reliable and there is no reason to believe that they will not repeat that this year. They have yet to launch their 2003 car, they have been testing with a revised 2002 car and will be starting the new season with it. They expect to use the 2003 McLaren at Imola.

If the modified 2002 car proves not be fast enough they may accelerate the 2003 cars but then we must assume that they will be plagued by reliability problems just like they have in the past.

They may stay ahead of Williams. Expecting more is dreaming.

David Coulthard is a steady, careful driver. With the right car he is capable of taking Michael Schumacher on as he seems to be one of the few drivers that is not intimidated by the formula's number one driver.

Kimi Raikkonen can be very fast, but a little unpredictable. He is young and, like most of the younger drivers, takes chances that often do not come off. A little more maturity and planning and he will spend more time on the podium instead of not finishing.

Who knows, he could have matured a lot.


Williams have come up with a totally new chassis. This is a radical new development not an evolution of last year's chassis.

Last year their chassis was bad so it is understandable that they would want to do this. The question is: can they do it?

Already there are rumours that BMW are not happy with the new chassis. Their testing times with the new car are inconsistent and not very encouraging. It does not look hopeful.

Montoya seemed to be down for most of last season and Ralf Schumacher had a mediocre year too. Neither driver was inspiring.

Montoya seems to have flashes of brilliance. He can be exceptionally fast and is a very aggressive driver. He is hard on cars and is more likely to break his car than Ralf.

Ralf is a steady driver. He looks after his car and finishes more races than Montoya. Last year he seemed to be going slower and slower. I hope he is still motivated to race and win races this year.

Either way I suspect that the new Williams car will not give them the opportunity to claw back into second place behind Ferrari.


It may be a little early in their development to challenge McLaren this year but if Williams do not get their chassis right Renault could easily split them and McLaren.

Initial tests with their already revised aerodynamic package for this year's car looks good. They will be a lot better this year. Podium positions are possible, especially if there is any attrition in the lead.

I just hope that they will not suffer reliability problems with the new car.

Last year they were very good at starts. Their launch control was a strategic weapon. Once they lose this advantage at the start and on the race track (corresponding traction control) they could struggle in the latter part of the season.

Jarno Trulli is fast and has matured as a good, consistent driver. With a little luck he could do very well.

Fernando Alonso is a very impressive new driver (he drove for Minardi in 01 and was Renault's test driver last year). He is very fast but still  needs more race experience. Like all young drivers he could watch some of the race from the pits because of a hotheaded moment.


They claim that they have also, like Williams, fully redesigned their car.

Certainly, for the first part of the season they will be using an engine developed in the same year as the Ferrari engine, so they should be very fast providing that they got the rest of the package right. As soon as the other teams settle their new cars in we should see Sauber drop back slowly towards the end of the season again.

I am not particularly impressed with either Frentzen or Heidfeld. Both showed a lot of promise in the past but neither really shaped. Frentzen has the ability to be quick for a lap or two but lacks the ability to plan a race for the finish and Heidfeld regardless of who he drives for has hardly ever been faster than his teammate for more than a lap or two.

They are both reasonably competent but uninspiring drivers.


They have been testing their new Ford Cosworth powered car but have yet to launch it. Financial problems are the most likely cause.

They were struggling last year and, taking their tight funding into account, will probably struggle again this year.

Middle of the pack will be a good result for them.

I have always believed that Fisichella has the ability to do well, but I am starting to doubt that now. If he was as good as I thought, he is not getting the message through to the team bosses. Every time he changes jobs he is going backwards.

Ralf Firman is new to the sport. He was fast in testing but we are still to see how he will adapt to F1.


Deep pockets do not make a race team. In spite of their very reasonable budget they are just not getting it right.

Their problem is that they had one guy running the show, now it seems they have too many! It will be a few season before we see anything from this management team (if they last).

Mark Webber, who all regarded as an excellent driver at Minardi, must have hoped that he will get a car in which he can show what he is made of. Sorry Mark, I don�t think it will be this year, and at the rate Jaguar are going you may have to wait a long time.

Antonio Pizzonia was a Williams test driver. I wonder what he really makes of the Jaguar? He is quick but hot headed and lacks race experience at the top level.


If they can get their engines to produce full power for more than a lap or two without blowing up we will be able to see test times that support their claims that this year's car is better.

Villeneuve and Button are both fast but both are hard on cars - not the ideal combination with a Honda engine that is so fragile that it expires frequently in testing. How are they ever going to get an engine that lasts for a full race let alone the entire weekend in '04 ?


Someone must come last, but this year it may not be Minardi. After all there are three teams using Cosworth motors (albeit all on different specs) and either Jaguar or Jordan could be worse. Minardi have never fared well but they consistently made good use of their meagre resources.

Jos Verstappen has been around for a while but has not achieved much. Admittedly he never really had a competitive car.

The jury is out on Justin Wilson.


Very middle of the pack during testing, but middle of the pack is better than where they were finishing last year. I do not expect them to do well but if they consistently finish in the middle of the pack it is a good result for a new team in their second year of racing.

Olivier Panis is a reasonable driver so he should be able to show us what the car is capable of. 

Cristiano da Matta is a rookie that comes from the CART series with a championship under his belt. We've seen good and bad examples of ex-Champ CART drivers. Testing times show he's a fair bit behind Panis but testing times can fool.

The season belongs to Ferrari unless something very dramatic happens.

Throw in all the planned rule changes and something dramatic could easily happen. The weird qualifying rules will take a while to become part of a well honed team strategy and we could see some strange starting grids until it all settles down. Add to that the proposed rule not to allow refuelling between qualifying and the race and it could even be more confusing race starts.

Later in the year the banishment of traction (and possibly launch control!) will also change things and this could be dramatic. In my opinion a car designed for traction control will be undriveable and a car designed for no traction control will not be able to take full advantage of it. This will leave teams with two options: design for no traction control and struggle for the first part of the season or redesign and introduce yet another chassis halfway through the season. (And these rules were supposed to be cost cutting measures!)

Still I predict that McLaren will be second with Williams having to defend third place from Renault.

Apart from Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Renault, none of the teams have a chance of getting away from the middle of the pack. But the possibility of four super teams is exciting.

Agree or disagree ?
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