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11 September 2003 Volume 5 - Issue 15   

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I thought that the Hungarian Grand Prix was not very exciting but it certainly livened up the competition for this year�s drivers� championship.

Alonso winning his first formula one race again shows that Renault have the chassis to do well. There is no doubt that they are going to be very competitive once they have a more powerful engine.

I was surprised to see McLaren doing better than Williams (except for Coulthard who was driving his own race). They are still getting pretty good value out of last year�s car.

Ferrari are in serious trouble. It may have been a rare off day for Michael Schumacher but he looked awfully pedestrian. To finish behind Webber's Jaguar is bad enough but when last has he been lapped without suffering from problems ?
Is it only tyres? I don�t think so. The new Ferrari is not living up to its promise. It is a lemon. Barrichello�s rear suspension failure makes me wonder if they are not pushing the chassis too hard.

This year�s championship now looks as if it will be decided in Japan during the last race of the season. For the sport that is great news but for Ferrari and Michael Schumacher fans it is not looking good. If I was a betting man I would not be putting money on them.
My guess is that the battle is between Montoya and Raikkonen.

There is, of course, a very real chance that once the season is over Bridgestone and Ferrari will protest on the basis that as Michelin were forced to change their tyres by the FIA they were illegal in all preceding races and should therefore be disqualified. Winning or losing this argument will determine the outcome of the season.

Monza (track layout) is the first of the really fast circuits this season. Cars will exceed 350 km/H (217mph) down the main straight before braking to around 120 km/H (74mph) for the Retifilo Tribune chicane. Accelerate back up to 340 km/H (211mph) through Curva Grande and hard on the brakes again for Variante della Roggia (one hell of a name for just another chicane) which is negotiated at 120 km/H (74mph). After that there are no slow bits left. Curva de Lesmos slows the cars to 120 km/H (74mph) again and then it is rev limiter stuff virtually all the way to the Parabolica which is a fast (170 km/H or 105 mph) u-turn that leads onto the straight.

Overtaking is possible on all of the long, fast straights providing that the overtaking car has a power advantage.

Williams must feel that they have a very good chance this weekend. The change in tyres forced onto Michelin by the FIA should not affect them at Monza even if the new tyres have slightly less grip. Their power superiority matched with a good chassis has to work in their favour.
Both Ralf Schumacher and Montoya are fast. Either could win this race although I feel that Montoya is a little more comfortable on these very fast circuits (probably a relic from the very fast CART ovals).
Ralf cannot win the season unless all three of the leading drivers have a major problem in at least one race. Judging from Michael�s performance in Hungary he may be likely to struggle again but Raikkonen and Montoya are both in fast and reliable cars and unlikely to finish far back in the field in any of the remaining races.
It therefore follows that it is likely that there will be team orders in the Williams camp. Whether Ralf will follow these orders is yet to be seen.

McLaren must also be racing under team orders. There is no way that Coulthard could win the championship so he will be asked to support Raikkonen.
Not that Coulthard�s support counts for anything. Lately he has not been fast enough to help at all.
If the ability of the drivers were the only determining factor I am positive that Raikkonen will win the championship but with only fast circuits left he may not be able to stay with the more powerful Williams cars.

Renault feel that the new, narrower, front tyres has improved their performance. This is not surprising as narrower tyres will reduce aerodynamic drag and we all know that they are down on power.
Alonso has no chance of winning the championship (I know stranger things have happened but the gap is just too big) but will want to follow through with another win. Monza is not the place for that. It is a power track and even with the narrower tyres Renault will not be able to match Williams, McLaren or Ferrari.

The rest of the field are unlikely ti finish in the points unless one or more of the leading cars retire. Jaguar may have improved but they will not be fast enough BAR don�t have the legs either and Toyota is also too slow.

In my mind Jordan and Sauber are drifting back into the clutches of Minardi. Their season is over.

If the different Michelin front tyre has any affect (which I think is unlikely at Monza) it will be to make the cars a little faster in a straight line. The reduced surface may mean that the tyres will not last as well but I am not sure that this is an issue in Monza.
Ferrari must be hoping that the new Michelins have some problem. If not I honestly feel that their season is over.

Monza is very likely to change the order in the lead of the drivers� championship.

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