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Japanese GP predictions by the Quali-flyer  

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Ferrari first, Ferrari second, daylight third.

That has been the catchcry for 2002 and, Montoya's run of Poles notwithstanding, that will be the way this season is remembered. The performance of Schumacher this year has been the highlight. He has redefined the term dominance. Ferrari has delivered to him a superior car and he has excelled in it. I'm not sure if it is a record or not (I'd be amazed if its not) but with only one race to go he has never been off the podium in any real race or Sunday outing since he started the season in second place behind Barrichello in Melbourne. No driver has ever 'owned' a season the way Michael has owned this one.

The year has provided some winners and losers with some badly tarnished reputations left in the process. Button started the season with great promise and lost it toward the end. Ralf drove like a number 2 all year, beating Juan Pablo occasionally but never once looking like he was made of the same stuff as his brother. David Coulthard leveraged his vast experience with the McLaren to deliver the points but showed along the way that he can't drive as quickly as his very inexperienced team-mate and can look forward to yet another year as co-driver in 2003. Fisichella and Frentzen showed that when it rains they are unbeatable and Mark Webber showed that it doesn't matter whether it rains or not he IS the rookie of the year and deserves a seat in a much quicker car.

Eddie Irvine has to win the title of the 'Most Inconsistent' driver of the year. If he wasn't being very, very good then he was being very, very bad (and when he was bad he was awful). Flashes of brilliance from a base of mediocrity don't cut it in this company and Eddie deserves to be dropped from the circus. Jacques didn't cut it either. A world champion driver should consistently outclass a middle of the road one and Jacques couldn't deliver, his overall performance only at best equal to his far from brilliant tradesman partner.

By a convincing margin Webber is already the Qualifying Hero of 2002. No driver came close to his dominance within the team and the fact that Alex has delusions of adequacy in place of talent should not be held against Mark. He has done more with a very ordinary car than all but a few of the very best could have done.

So, on to Japan, the last chance for some to redeem themselves and others to seal their fates.

Surprise, surprise, Ferrari will deliver yet again. The Williams will be very quick here and Michelin have shown that they have the gun qualifying tyres, but it won't be enough to unseat the red cars. Michael will be out to prove that he is the possessor of the largest gonads in the paddock and Bridgestone have to win on their home turf. He will again deliver a crushing performance and sit back and watch the rest fight for the scraps. Rubens will deliver a strong statement and show how good the Ferrari is in the hands of a mere mortal and Juan Pablo will want to finish the season by once again capping his slower team-mate.

The McLaren is coming good at the wrong end of the season and David will be desperate to finish in front of his Finnish rival. As he has done for most of the season he will fail. David can definitely make his car outlast Kimi's but that only counts on Sundays. If the progress on the McLaren has continued Kimi will be vying for a step on the podium yet again. The Jaguar too has shown it is getting better and Eddie can be very fast in Japan. If October is a bio-rhythm plus time for Eddie (well, that's the only explanation I can come up with) then he will be up the sharp end, otherwise �..

Toyota will also want a strong performance in Japan but I can't see it happening. Salo and McNish are both being dropped. McNish may pull out a blinder in a last desperate attempt to be noticed but I can't really see it. While Honda need a strong performance at home as well, neither the Jordan nor the BAR have got the equipment or the drivers to deliver it. They, along with the Saubers, will just be there to make up the numbers.

The Minardis will be there because every field needs a last place and without Alex to anchor it others would have to take turns at being last. Talent won't come into the equation for Mark Webber though, the Asiatech engine will guarantee he starts beside Yoong on the back row.

Suzuka is the end of the season and not a few of the teams will be glad it is. While not a fan of Schumacher I hope his fantastic run of reliability does continue and he gets his perfect score of finishes for 2002 and with it a run of podium places that even he would rank among his greatest achievements.

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Japanese GP 
Qualifying Heroes

1 M Salo
2 J Villeneuve
3 M Schumacher
Japanese GP 
Also Ran Award
Previous Races 
Also Ran Award
USA E Irvine
Italy D Coulthard
Belgium D Coulthard
Hungary JP Montoya
Germany JP Montoya
France R Schumacher
Britain A Yoong
Europe J Villeneuve
Canada D Coulthard
Monaco R Schumacher
Austria J Villeneuve
Spain D Coulthard
S.Marino A Yoong
Brazil R Schumacher
Malaysia E Irvine
Australia N Heidfeld

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