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How good is the new Ferrari?  
13 May 2003 Volume 5 - Issue 7   

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Or is it a case that Renault have really got everything bar the engine working better than anyone else?

I think that it is a combination of things:

Renault certainly have the edge when it comes to roadholding and braking. Their only problem is that they do not have the power to take on Ferrari, McLaren or even Williams in a straight line. If they could not brake last they would not have been able to compete at all.

I wonder how long it is going to be before they do manage to rake up the power to be competitive?

The Ferrari did not look any faster than last year�s car. I know Michael was praising the new car but I am not convinced.
It was the first race for the car. There may have been teething problems or reliability concerns that made Ferrari cut back on maximum revolutions. Whatever the reason, I do not think that Spain was the place to see what the new Ferrari is capable of.
The Bridgestones did not seem to wear all that well. Although it is hard to judge with all the other things that happened at the same time, I felt that they were only working for about four to five laps before they became pretty ordinary.
It could have been the wrong compound for Ferrari but I suspect that Bridgestone are not thrilled with their performance in Spain. None of the Bridgestone cars seemed to perform well.

The circuit also helped Renault considerably. There really aren�t any sections where Ferrari could take advantage of their superior power.
It is encouraging that Renault did so well. It is a pity that Trulli did not get to do more than a single lap. I would have liked to see how he performs against his team-mate.

I would also have liked to see at least one McLaren finish for the same reason. It certainly would have given us a far better yardstick to measure the new Ferrari against.

It was a poor day for Williams. Montoya may not have been lapped like team-mate Ralf Schumacher but he was only 20 seconds ahead of Michael Schumacher on the track � more than 80% of a lap behind the leader. Neither car did well at all. If Williams can�t improve on this performance they may have to rely on the faster tracks to score any meaningful points.

I was impressed with the performance of Toyota. At last they are getting away from the battle for last.

Jordan and BAR performed as expected but I was a little disappointed in Sauber. It was not a power race so they should have done much better. I am now starting to wonder if their chassis, rather than the older spec Ferrari engine, is not the cause of their poor performance so far this season.

The Austrian race could be interesting. It is a track were maximum power will be a factor and that should be an advantage for Ferrari and Williams but not so for Renault.

The starting grid is relatively close to the first corner (Castrol Kurve) which is the second slowest on the track. It becomes very confusing, very quickly, for the drivers as they are still jockeying for whatever position their launch control allows them to when they get to it.

Although cars are getting faster every season I will be very surprised if they get much over 300km/H(186mph) anywhere on the A1-Ring. Compared to the other circuits in the season it is quite fast (average winning speed should be well over 200km/H or 124mph) but this is due to the majority of very fast corners rather than top speeds on the straighter bits.

The pit straight is probably the fastest part of the circuit where cars will get to around 300km/H(186mph) before braking for Castrol Kurve, a ninety degree right hand corner. Braking will be very late as the track climbs quite steeply towards Castrol. After that it is virtually flat out on a slight right hand sweep followed by a gentle left curve before braking down to under 100km/H(62mph) for Remus Kurve - the slowest corner on the track. A short straight then leads to Gosser Kurve (a fast right handed hairpin) that is separated from Niki Lauda by a short squirt on the loud pedal.

Niki Lauda will be negotiated at over 200km/H(124mph) (depending on aerodynamic setup) through a long double apex before accelerating up to near 300km/H(186mph) before braking for the very fast (well over 200km/H or 124mph) Jochen Rindt Kurve which exits into the A1 Kurve that leads onto the Pit straight.

Unlike some of the other circuits A1-Ring flows very well and it is easier to establish race rhythm. It is not particularly heavy on brakes and because most of the corners are taken at well over 100KMh downforce setup will be moderate.

Overtaking opportunities, like on virtually all modern circuits, are troublesome. The first opportunity which is on the approach to Remus Kurve will necessitate driving on the outside, dirty, part of the sweep leading into this very slow corner. Seeing that the overtaking car will also have to brake hard to succeed this will be tricky unless it is possible to get there early enough to move back to the clean side.

In Remus aerodynamics will not be very effective so it will be possible to follow another car closely through the corner, accelerating past it before braking for Gosser. This will only be possible if the overtaking car has a lot more power.

Although the pit straight is long enough for overtaking, A1 Kurve, that leads in to it, will be negotiated at over 200km/H(124mph). At this relatively high cornering speed the following car will be affected by the turbulence of the leading car and lose ground through the corner. It will take a huge power advantage to claw that back in the straight.

This time of the year the weather is very unpredictable and the probability of rain during the race, or at least the weekend, is high. Rain during the final qualifying session may totally scramble the starting grid (not that it needs rain to scramble it � all it needs to do that normally can be achieved by one or two teams opting for a radical strategy), rain during the race is always chaotic and can change it all again in a lap.

Tyre compound choice is a gamble as it is so dependent on weather conditions. The track could be anything from cold and damp to dry and hot.

Tyre wear is hardly ever a problem at A1 unless it is wet or intermediate tyres that are overheating on a drying track. Most teams will be opting for relatively soft tyres so they will all be in trouble if it turns out to be a very hot and dry day.

A1 � ring is unlikely to be as abrasive on tyres as Spain so we should see more consistent performance from the Bridgestone shod cars.

I honestly do not know how fast Ferrari really are. Their Spanish race is no indication at all as the only competition they had came from Renault that was ideally suited to the track and although it was obvious that the Ferrari was faster in a straight line their tyres seemed to go off so fast that I really could not form a reliable opinion.
One must assume that the new Ferrari is better than the last one otherwise they are unlikely to use it but it certainly did not look faster to me. We should know a little more after the Austrian GP.

McLaren may still be leading the constructors� championship but it is a small margin that will probably not survive Austria. They must be hoping that Bridgestone will not sort the Ferrari�s problems out, but as I said Austria will probably not be hard on tyres, so it is unlikely.

Michelin seem to have their problems as well. They perform badly when new, which motivates drivers like Montoya to stay out on them until they get past their use by date.

Raikkonen and Coulthard seem to be affected less by the tyres. That could be because they are not using the same compound as Williams but it is more likely that the McLaren chassis is less demanding on tyres than the Williams car.
My guess is that McLaren will be forced to accelerate the debut of their new car in an attempt to stay with Ferrari. It is a gamble as they are notoriously bad at building a reliable car and seem to need at least half of the season to consistently finish races. Do it this year and they will not only fall behind Ferrari but Renault and Williams too.

This race should be good for Williams. If they cannot win the drag in those long straights they will not feature in the season.

Firman won his first point in Spain but that was totally because so many of the other cars that would have finished in the points crashed. Jordan may be fast enough to avoid coming last but that is it.

As I mentioned before Sauber do not seem to have a good anything this year. Normally they build reliable and fast chassis, which keeps them in touch with the field for the first half of the season. It is about now that I would normally expect their �prior year spec� Ferrari engines to lose ground rapidly so it is unlikely that we will see them get any better.

�BAR Honda� sounds a little like �Bah Humbug� the famous Scrooge saying and I think it is very appropriate. The car does not work. But when did it?

Toyota and da Matta have scored their first points. In a single race they overtook Jaguar who are still struggling to get anywhere near competitive. Rumour has it that Toyota has a bigger budget than Ford/Jaguar (although I wonder if in both cases the budget is not being trimmed to match their success) so it is ironic that they are fighting on the very bottom rungs of the constructors� championship.

Which leaves Minardi. I am very fond of the Minardi team. They have given many drivers the opportunity to show what they can do in F1 and have battled to stay in there for almost as long as I can remember. How and why, I do not understand. Why would anyone go racing with bargain basement budgets in a caviar and Moet formula?

The season is nowhere near settling down yet. Ferrari, who I expected to be dominant at this stage, have a new car that does not look much faster than the old car, Williams, who looked as if they would be the major challengers this year are dropping back into the middle of the pack, McLaren look competitive in last years car and Renault are getting it together. In the middle of the pack, Jaguar has a faster car but are struggling with reliability and Toyota are at last looking as if they could realise some of their promise.

Sadly, I feel that the rest of the field will not survive the season. Sauber have enough points to earn sufficient money to be mediocre for another season but the rest seem to be doomed. Unless more manufacturers enter the fray next year the field is going to shrink!

Who knows? Maybe we�ll see a team Hyundai, or Daewoo, or maybe even Team Kia!

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