Ferrari have a bad start to the season?
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Ferrari certainly did not do well in Melbourne, probably because for a change they did not get their strategy right. In Malaysia they have not been so dominant in the past so they may struggle to get a driver on the podium.
Malaysia�s Sepang circuit will be hot, regardless of the weather. Rain is
always a possibility but as soon as it stops the track will rapidly rise in
I repeat below the comments I made last year with regards to the track:
Depending on the aerodynamic setup of the cars overtaking should be possible on several places on the circuit (some better than others).
After turn 1 and 2 (which I tend to combine as a single S-bend) the cars accelerate through a right hand sweep (turn 3) on to a short straight ended by a very tight right hander (turn 4).
Given more grip that the car being passed it should be possible to build up enough speed to overtake on the short straight and still get a good line through the 2nd gear turn 4.
Turn 4 is followed by two sweeping curves after a very short straight. Lots of power could get there first under acceleration.
For the very brave it may also be possible to out-brake a competitor into turn 7 and 8 (which is really a single double apex corner), but between turns 8 and 9 is the first real opportunity to overtake an evenly matched car. The exit out of turn 8 will be fast and the exit speed from this corner will determine the speed on the straight. Overtaking means getting that exit right. Speeds should get up around 250km/H(155mph) before braking for the extremely sharp left handed corner that leads into turn 10, a gentle right handed sweep.
After that there is no opportunity for overtaking (unless it is a back marker between turns 11 and 12) until you get to turn 14 which leads on to the first of the long grandstand straights. Again exit speed is important, as it will determine terminal speed at the end of this rather long straight. If the overtaking manoeuvre is balked there is a second chance after the sharp 2nd gear left-handed hairpin (turn 14) that leads onto the pit straight.
McLaren, particularly Kimi Raikkonen, could do very well in Malaysia. In
Melbourne the cars were consistently fast and at one stage I thought that they
were looking good for first and second, which, with 20/20 hindsight would have
happened if Raikkonen was not penalised for speeding in the pit lane (not his
fault it was a faulty speed limiter).
Williams could also do well but it better be Montoya. Ralf Schumacher drove a race that bordered on pathetic in Melbourne. Montoya had a chance of winning the race but his decision to stay on his original tyres let him down. It seems that unscrubbed Michelins still lack in performance.
Ferrari have yet to prove or disprove the common feeling that they still
have an edge over the other teams. Strategically they made a lot of mistakes
in my opinion in Melbourne. Going out on wet or intermediate tyres when
virtually everyone else competing with them was on slicks was a huge gamble
that just did not pay off.
Renault has improved enormously. To be able to compete with Sauber this
early in the season is a major achievement but I am afraid that it will still
be a year or so before we will see them competing for the lead.
Sauber, on the other hand, must make hay while the sun shines. They may
have an engine that is competitive now but as the season rolls on they will
rapidly drop back when the other teams improve performance and horsepower.
I am surprised that the Honda motors in both BARs made it to the end.
During the off season practices they were blowing motors faster than Honda
could make them and this seemed to continue right up to the pre race practices
Verstappen finished last in the Minardi. As a statement that sounds pretty bleak and is about where we would expect Minardi to finish, but if you look at the teams that they outlasted to come last it is not bad at all. The Minardi driven by Wilson suffered a radiator leak caused by a stone or something similar � when last did this happen? They seem to be reliable and they are not that slow. They could do comparatively well this season on Ford power.
Jordan did not look fast at all. They will have to do better with their limited budget. If not they will be as much of a joke as the Prost team were.
Webber was looking reasonable in the Jaguar until his suspension failed. As this also happened to Pizzonia later in the race we can expect them to have this fixed for Malaysia.
Toyota looks a little better than last year but I still expect to see them improve very gradually over the season. They have a long way to go.
I believe that the greatest factor is the adjustment to the new qualifying rules. So many factors have to be taken into consideration when planning for the race. It may be better to qualify with a full tank and wait for everyone to pit before getting to the lead. Ferrari may have been right to qualify light (if they did) and use their advantage to stretch the gap they need to pit and still join the race ahead of the field.
A slower team like Minardi could qualify on pole with just enough fuel to start the race. Other teams may qualify on pole with enough fuel to stay out for a while longer. They could hold up and spoil a faster team�s strategy.
Starting on a full fuel load may play into a team�s hand if the pace car comes out and bunches the group up just before their biggest competitor must pit to refuel.
It is almost guaranteed that Montoya will be qualifying on worn tyres if he is trying for pole. Where does that leave him in the race?
On some racetracks it may be essential to qualify towards the front and on others it may not matter. We have no idea and I suspect that most of the teams are not that sure either. It will take time before they have a full understanding of how the game should be played and how the other teams are likely to plan their race. At the moment it is chaotic.
All the same, expect Ferrari, McLaren and Williams to fight it out in the front of the field after all of the confusion has died down.
Agree or disagree ?
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