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Are Ferrari in trouble?  
19 August 2003 Volume 5 - Issue 14   

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Michael may have managed to hang on to second place but it was obvious that he did not have the pace to take the race to Montoya. Montoya won the German Grand Prix by a commanding lead regardless of Michael�s efforts.
Had half of the leading cars not retired after the accident on the first lap I do not think that Michael would have been able to beat his brother Ralf Schumacher either and if Raikkonen did not retire there is a possibility that Michael would not even have finished on the podium.
As it turned out he had a rear tyre blowout, which pushed him right down to 7th place just a few laps before the end.

Although the Bridgestone tyres are probably Ferrari�s Achilles heel, after months of blaming them, I am now starting to wonder if that is their only problem. Although there was a lot of evidence to support the theory that Bridgestone is the problem in the first half of the season there is not that much evidence to support it now.
The blow-out cannot be seen as evidence that there was anything wrong with the tyres as Michael Schumacher stayed out on those tyres much longer than they were probably designed for.

In the past it was pretty obvious that Bridgestone wore too fast because Michael�s fastest laps (and for that matter Barrichello too) were always on new tyres and a full fuel load where in previous years the in-laps, when he had little fuel left, were always his fastest.
So, what if it is not the tyres? Does that mean that Ferrari has finally been matched in performance by Williams? Is their reign as the most dominant team over?
I think it is a crapshoot. They certainly are matched by Williams and McLaren are not far behind.

I found the race rather boring and processional after the overtaking spectacle of Silverstone.
After half of the leading cars were eliminated in the accident in the first lap it is also very difficult to comment realistically on the perceived improvement of both Renault and Toyota. Yes, they did finish well but were there no retirements would their achievement be any better than a mild improvement on the past?
Toyota are now definitely the fifth fastest team ahead of BAR and Sauber but they did not even finish on the leading lap. They may be better but they are far from even getting close to looking as if they will be a force to reckon with.
The rest of the field finished roughly where we have become used to.

Hungaroring (Track Layout) is the second slowest circuit of the season. Much of the setup and relative performance of the cars can be matched with Monaco.

Although it has been changed significantly since the 2002 Grand Prix it certainly has not become a fast track and most of what applied in the past still does.

There is only one spot where speed will approach 300km/H(186mph) and that is the main straight. This ends in a wickedly slow hairpin taken at less than 100km/H(62mph) and the slow sweep leading up to turn 2 will see the cars barely exceeding 200km/H(124mph) before braking to 80km/H(50mph) for this virtual hairpin too.

Accelerating through turn 3 the cars will again not get to 200km/H(124mph) before slowing slightly for turn 4, a left hand kink. Speed then drops down to just over 100km/H(62mph) through 5 and, after a quick squirt on the accelerator, 90kmh/56mph through turns 6 and 7, a loose �S� formation.

After that it is constantly either on the accelerator or brakes as they make their way through turns 8, 9 and 10 gradually faster until braking for 11 which is relatively fast(180km/H or 112mph) before building to 240km/H(149mph) before turn 12.

Turn 13 is a slow (80km/H or 50mph) hairpin and speed will not get up to 200km/H(124mph) before braking to 125km/H(78mph) for turn 14 that exits into the main straight.

It will be a high downforce setup. That much is obvious from the track layout. What we do not know is how tyre wear will affect the race. I suspect that all teams will go out on a soft compound and if the track surface is very abrasive this may cause excessive tyre wear during the race.

Turn 14, that leads on to the main straight, is fast enough for aerodynamics to work and that will make the straight, which is the most obvious overtaking place, somewhat difficult for overtaking as there will be little time to make up lost ground. It is not a particularly long straight.

It may be possible to force a car to drive defensively through turns 8, 9 and 10 and take advantage of the balance and flow setup to scramble past but it looks very hard to do. We will just have to see.

It is very unlikely that Ferrari will do well in Hungary. Their performance in Monaco suggests that they do not have the mechanical grip necessary for slow circuits.
I am not suggesting that they will be pathetic, but I honestly do not believe that this is where the 2003 Ferrari is strongest.

Michael will make the best of the situation and preserve as many championship points as he can. I am not sure what to expect from Barrichello. His performance to date this season has been very erratic.

Williams on the other hand did very well in Monaco and judging by the pace that they have demonstrated over the last few races must be my choice for both qualifying and podium finishes. Reliability is no longer an issue so it is only an accident or other mishap that will stop their finishing in first and second place.

Montoya will, like always try to drive the wheels off his car and if he is in the mood, Ralf will be very fast.

Raikkonen was also faster than Michael Schumacher at Monaco so we must assume that McLaren will at least match the performance of Ferrari.
Coulthard will drive a conservative race and bring the car home. That may not be enough to get to the podium.

Renault believed that they had a good chance of being competitive in Monaco. As it turned out they did not shape that well at all. They may not have embarrassed themselves but they certainly did not do that well.
Unless their performance in Monaco was just setup I suspect that they also do not have the chassis to provide the necessary mechanical grip on Hungaroring.

As high as the hopes we had for Alonso he is not that far ahead of Trulli. Both drivers are fast in their own right but Alonso has the ability to sometimes put in an inspired drive.

The rest of the field will not finish in the points unless leading cars retire or drop back.

BAR have had their run and all the money that is going into Jaguar will have to wait for results in 2004. Toyota will do a little better again and Sauber will lose a little more ground again. Minardi will be last again.

As the season draws to a close the drivers� championship is far from over. Both Schumachers, Montoya and Raikkonen can still win. As far as the constructors� championship is concerned it is between Ferrari and Willams and may also go to the very last race.

The season may be almost over but the excitement is far from over.

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