I acknowledge that it is a strange title for a season review but rather
than repeat much that I have already said before I want to look at three
Is the new point scoring system fair?
Which teams have made progress relative to the field in
Will Michael Schumacher still give 110% or is he ready to
I am the first to admit that I said that the new rules and point scoring
system would do nothing to add excitement to the season. I was wrong. It kept
the season alive and added so many random factors that it was far from boring.
From a spectator point of view the new rules are good but are they fair?
Michael Schumacher won six races this year. Barrichello, Montoya and
brother Ralf won two races each. Yet Michael won the drivers’ championship
by the skin of his teeth.
If Raikkonen had won the drivers’ championship by winning in Suzuka (also
assuming that Michael did not score any points) he would have won only two
races against Michael’s six of the season. Raikkonen did not score any
points in three races while Michael only failed to score points in one (but I
acknowledge that it would have been two had he lost to Raikkonen).
If the Ferrari was unreliable one could understand it and there is no doubt
that Bridgestone introduced some inconsistency but the bottom line is that
Michael would have won six out of the sixteen races against two for Raikkonen.
It is a bit inconceivable that the point scoring system could favour
If it was only Raikkonen that was that close, one could claim that he did
so by consistently coming second but the fact is that he shared second places
with many other drivers, mostly Montoya who very late in the season could
still also have won the drivers’ championship. They shared second place
consistently and still did well enough to threaten Michael!
As it is Michael won the drivers’ championship for the sixth time,
establishing himself as the greatest driver ever on record.
The only record that Michael has not smashed is total number of pole
positions which realistically can now not be broken as rules for qualifying
have changed dramatically. Getting pole positions now just does not mean the
same thing any more.
Now there is another point. The rule that forces teams to qualify in race
starting trim and fuel load makes a huge part of the race a total crapshoot.
We all know that each team has its own strategy and that the pole car may not
be the fastest of the day, but I am not to sure that we enjoy complete
confusion for most of the race and only know who is winning when the fat lady
This shambles and confusion has its spectator appeal but many of us go to
the races to see the top drivers fight it out. How many times have we felt
frustration that one of them were caught up behind a slower car for half of
the race for no other reason than a loss in the gamble for qualifying fuel
I, for one, do not enjoy a race until all first pit stops are over. Only
then can I start guessing what the individual strategies are. Only then can I
see a pattern emerge. Even then the strategy is often frustrated by a driver
in a much slower car only because his team has decided that leading 10% of a
race by going out with a dismally small fuel load and then finishing in the
back of the field is better than starting and staying in the back of the
field. Futile for us but good for their sponsors.
I often wonder if Formula One is not at risk to become an orchestrated
sport like wrestling is in the U.S.
This year we saw Williams and McLaren close the gap to Ferrari. McLaren did
it despite the fact that they could not get their new car on the circuit.
Admittedly some of this was due to tyres. Ferrari struggled with their
Bridgestone tyres for most of the season.
I graphed (see below) the top 4 teams point gain over the 16 races of the
Ferrari had two major hiccups which cost them dearly. Early in the season
Ferrari scored no points in Brazil but then recovered well until Monaco where
it was obvious that they were not able to compete on slow circuits that
require good mechanical grip but their biggest problem was Germany and Hungary
where they scored almost no points. Somehow Bridgestone and Ferrari came to
the party for the last three races winning both championships.
Because of the intense competition between Ferrari, Williams and McLaren is
is a little difficult to make any observations on comparisons of the
individual team development. Williams after a slow start did very well, very
consistently, from the 7th to the 14th race and then faltered in the last two
races. To a large extent we have to look for the reasons for this in their
drivers. Ralf had given up by then and Montoya wasted his chances.
McLaren struggled in Canada and the European Grand Prix possibly because
they expect to race the new car for the remainder of the season. When they
failed the crash test with the new car and abandoned trying to get it to race
this season the effort that went into making last year’s car compete for the
rest of this season must have been enormous and they almost pulled it off! It
may have been the 2002 car but it was fast enough to come second in the last
race of the season.
The Renault graph shows very consistent growth in points accumulation over
the year. They are particularly good on slower circuits (they have the
mechanical grip that Ferrari lacks) but did not capitalise on this as much as
I believed that they could in Hungary.
Nevertheless they finished strong after gradually closing the gap to the
leading teams. Renault could be worth watching next year when they get their
new motor. If this is reliable and gives them the power they need they will be
even closer to the lead.
I didn't chart the rest of the teams as so few points were scored so
erratically that it is impossible to see any reliable pattern. It interesting
to note that both Jaguar and Toyota only scored points towards the second half
of the season. It may not prove that they are getting better but it certainly
proves that they are not going backwards.
Before I get scores of protests from the die-hard Michael Schumacher
supporters what follows is not a criticism of Michael. How can one criticise
him after he has just established himself as the greatest driver ever?
I have never seen Michael scramble like he did at Suzuka this season. His
impatience was showing, he seemed desperate and he made several mistakes that
were very contrary to the driving style we are accustomed to.
He made it into the points (his only objective) by as much luck as skill,
His whole season was a little like that. We are used to seeing Schumacher
defend his place on the circuit with determination and aggression which often
did result in a short trip through the kitty litter when there was not enough
track to be on and, more rarely, a retirement.
This year however, it was a regular event. In Australia he had to pit after
a get together with Raikkonen, in Malaysia it was Trulli. In Brazil he lost it
in the wet. When last did he do that? In Germany he stayed out on a set of
tyres for too long in my opinion and although his car was not up to it in
Hungary I felt that he drove with no enthusiasm at all. I have never seen that
He did win six races and he did win the drivers’ championship.
I wonder if he should not retire while at the very top. We have seen so
many drivers tarnish their images by hanging on too long. It would be sad if
Michael makes the same mistake.
If I am wrong and he is still as determined and prepared to push as hard as
ever I would love to see him race in 2004. If he feels that there is nothing
left to prove and has lost that hunger to win it would be better to retire now
when he is admired as the best ever. People have short memories. One bad
season can knock him off his pedestal and that would be a shame.
Agree or disagree ?
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