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The Canadian Grand Prix was very hard on brakes and on Bridgestone tyres. The Michelins did not seem to suffer at all.
Michael Schumacher drove a superb race to stay ahead of brother Ralf who, towards the end of the race could obviously go faster on his Michelin tyres and, probably because the tyres worked better, did not seem to suffer any problems with his brakes.
Qualifying said it all. Both Williams were faster than the Ferraris and as I still believe that the Ferrari is currently by far the fastest car on the circuit it was a clear indication that they were going to struggle with tyres, which they did.
I was surprised to see Alonso qualify ahead of Barrichello and even more surprised when he pitted so late in the race, clearly showing that his qualifying pace was not related to an almost empty tank, which was my initial take on it.
Webber in the Jaguar was also amazingly fast during qualifying � fuelled for an early stop, I assumed. Again I was wrong he pitted on lap 20 only 2 laps earlier than Michael Schumacher and at that stage he was in 5th!
Williams have obviously improved their chassis considerably. I still do not think that they are fast enough to pose much of a threat for Ferrari but unless McLaren�s new car is a lot faster their superiority over the Williams team seems to be at an end.
The Michelin tyres are now close to dominant and if Bridgestone do not get their act together Ferrari will not shape on the even faster tracks in the rest of the season.
Renault continues to amaze me. Canada is a power circuit and for Alonso to finish ahead of Barrichello, regardless of the delay that Barrichello suffered when the two of them came together in the first lap, in a car that is down on power indicates that they may even have the best chassis of the season so far. Either way they were running very little wing, which is another strong indicator that their chassis works very well.
Alonso is very impressive for such a young driver. Not only is he fast but seems to be able to, like Michael Schumacher, plan his race from the cockpit without it affecting his concentration.
McLaren may still be happy with the performance of their current car but I can�t see it. They are gradually losing ground to Williams and Renault. I am sure it is just a rationalisation to hide the fact that they are still not confident in the reliability or maybe even the performance of their new car. Leave it any later and they can just as well save it for next year.
Jaguar are finally showing some results. Better late than never but they have a long way to go to get anywhere near the lead.
Bar and Jordan were as reliable as ever not needing even one accident between them to retire all four cars and Sauber are demonstrating how to build an unreliable car by starting with the previous season's most reliable engine.
There is enough distance between the start and the first corner to make the start of the European Grand Prix, raced on the modified Nurburgring circuit, exciting, if not disastrous. The first corner is a strong right hander that will be negotiated at no more than 90km/H(56mph). On the first lap expect cars to approach this at not much less than 280km/H(174mph) � on a normal race lap it will be close to or over 300km/H(186mph).
It is immediately followed by a lefthander at around 120km/H(74mph), a short dab on the brakes for a slightly tighter left hand turn followed by a very tight right hander that leads onto a short straight where the cars will get up to around 280km/H(174mph) before braking down to 180km/H(112mph) for the lefthander that leads into Ford Kurve, the righthander that exits into the 300km/H(186mph) approach to the 80km/H(50mph) Dunlop Kehre hairpin.
Now we get onto the fast part of the track accelerating through 240km/H(150mph) in the gentle left/right sweep to 300km/H(186mph) before braking for RTL Kurve which with the following Bit Kurve is taken at around 180km/H(112mph) before again reaching 300km/H(186mph) on the approach to the ultra fast (200kmh plus) ITT Bogen. Back up to 300km/H(186 mph) to the NGK S Kurve where speed will come down to 100km/H(62mph).
A short squirt on the loud pedal and they are in the very critical Coca Cola Kurve (around 130km/H or 81mph) that determines their entry speed onto the pit straight where I expect them to exceed 300km/H(186mph) this year.
We will probably not see any overtaking on the track but if we do the two best places will be the main straight (pit straight) where it is critical go get out of CocaCola fast to attempt an overtaking manoeuvre, or out-braking into NGK.
Nurburgring is only marginally faster than Canada and should be a little easier on brakes and tyres so I still believe that Ferrari has a chance to be a little faster than Williams. There is however no doubt in my mind that the Bridgestone tyres are their Achilles heel and if Michelin has managed to increase the gap to Bridgestone in the last two weeks, Ferrari will be in trouble.
Barrichello won this race last year and if his run of bad luck so far this
season is over, he could do well again.
Williams proved in Canada that they need not improve their car by much to be able to take Ferrari on and this could be the race.
Ralf has suddenly shown a dramatic increase in pace which I believe is a indication that the Williams is getting easier to drive but now it seems to be Montoya who is struggling to get close to Ralf. It is strange that neither driver seems to be able to gain superiority for long.
McLaren may still be ahead of Williams in points but I do not see that last for long enough to get their new car into play. Williams is reeling them in fast and McLaren is steadily losing ground. One can only assume that their new car is nowhere ready to compete.
Raikkonen is very fast and will definitely finish in the points if he does not retire. For him to finish on the podium too many retirements are needed. Coulthard will race at a steady, safe pace again.
Gut feel tells me that Renault cannot continue to improve at the same rate
from race to race, but as they are already far more competitive than I
expected I cannot discount another dramatic increase in speed that Alonso will
again use with style.
Jordan, BAR and Sauber have perfectly adequate drivers, some even brilliant, but that makes no difference when they consistently retire. Their reliability sucks.
Jaguar and Toyota are both clawing their way up but are nowhere near competitive yet. It is a pity because I believe that Webber and possibly even Da Matta deserve a better ride. But there is always next year.
Minardi is unlikely to be faster � so we will see them pretty much at the end of the pack.
It is interesting that Bernie Ecclestone invested in Minardi. He and Stoddart would want us to believe that he did it to support the sport but if that is the case, why do it now? Why did he not bail Arrows or Prost?
It could be true that he is planning to sell to someone else. We could see Hyundai race in F1 yet!
Agree or disagree ?
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