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During the French Grand Prix it became very obvious that McLaren and Renault are in a class of their own and that Ferrari were struggling to stay ahead of BAR.
This time Ferrari’s misfortunes could not solely be blamed on the Bridgestone tyres – the car is obviously not as fast and either McLaren or Renault.
It is sad as it would have been nice to see Michael Schumacher race Alonso and Raikkonen.
There are two sections (between turns 2 and 6, and between turns 13 and 17) that require medium to high downforce but the majority of distance covered per lap is flat out at very high speed where a high downforce configuration may slow the car down. Again we can expect this compromise between speed and grip to determine which cars will be fastest.
The start (track layout) leads into Copse, a very fast right hander and speed continues to be in the range of 210 to 270km/H (168mph) all the way through to turn 5 where they will slow to 180km/H (112mph) before accelerating through turn 6 into the straight that ends at Stowe where they will be braking down from well over 300km/H(186mph) to around 180km/H(112mph).
A quick squirt to turn 8 where they get down to 80km/H(50mph) in this sharp entry into Club which is negotiated at around 200km/H(124mph) where the trick is to get out of the corner as fast as possible for the drag down to Abbey. Get the exit right and they will again touch 300km/H(186mph) before slowing to 125km/H(78mph) for Abbey. After Abbey they are in the high downforce right, sharp left, left again section of turns 13, 14 and 15 where speeds will not exceed 160km/H(100mph) and in places are reduced to 100km/H(62mph).
Once in turn 16 speed start building all the way through Woodcote exiting onto the main straight from a modest 160km/H(100mph) to very fast 275km/H(171mph) at the start of the straight where they should once more get up to 300km/H(186mph) before turn one.
Overtaking opportunities are braking into Stowe, possibly the approach to 8 although the section between 7 and 8 may be too short to gain enough, under braking for Abbey and for the brave of heart the main straight.
They may talk a lot about getting better but there is no evidence that they are. After a whole season of blaming it on their tyres I am now starting to believe that the whole package is not working.
Both drivers look very pedestrian. In past seasons we have seen Michael deliver astounding performances when needed and even Barrichello had some races where one could not deny his talent but this year we have seen no real performance from either. Qualifying does not work for them and then, despite their claims that the Ferrari is not good at qualifying, there is no evidence during the race that the car is only bad for one lap – face it: the car is bad every lap.
As I am writing this very late this week I have the dubious benefit of the Friday practices where De La Rosa dominated. I know that these early practices are not much to go by but it certainly confirms my feeling that McLaren will be very fast here and I suspect that they still have an advantage over Renault in pure horsepower.
Raikkonen will be hard to beat but I am getting less impressed with Montoya. He somehow manages to lose ground all on his own.
The Renault package works really well. What they may lack in straight line speed against McLaren is made up by their pace through corners.
Alonso is the only driver that could take Raikkonen on at Silverstone. Fisichella is very fast on slower, tighter circuits but, as there are very few slower sections in Silverstone, I do not expect him to be in the hunt for the lead. Mishaps and retirements aside, this is going to be a battle between Raikkonen and Alonso.
Their obviously powerful Honda engine could bring BAR into contention at Silverstone. I do not believe that the chassis and aerodynamic package is quite as good as either Renault or McLaren but they will be extremely fast in straight lines.
Button may finish third on the podium again as I believe that BAR may be fast enough to get and stay ahead of Ferrari.
They may be fast in a straight line but their overall package is still not working well enough to be competitive.
Williams, like Ferrari, have to accept that this year’s car is just not competitive. The announcement that BMW will race Sauber cars under their own marque probably means that their focus has moved to next year so it is unlikely that they are planning any major improvements for 2005.
Similarly Sauber will be distracted by the plans for 2006, not that they have done that well this year. Which brings me to the thought that, seeing as both Ferrari and Sauber seem a lot worse this year, the problem could be with the components that the two cars have in common.
Red Bull have done much better with the ageing Ford Cosworth motor than I expected. At Silverstone I expect to see them circulate with Sauber.
Jordan and Minardi – well, maybe next year
Agree or disagree ?
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