News and views on motorsports

Monday, March 21, 2005

Tough Talk

Its been a while since last we heard Flavio talking this way. The last time I heard it was more than 10 years ago when Michael Schumacher drove for Benetton-Ford. It surely must be great to be able to do it once more. Confidence is building within the Renault team.

Whilst their boss is busy throwing down the gauntlet, Fernando Alonso seems to be taking things a little more sensibly, pointing out that Ferrari could at any moment turn things around. Briatore places Renault in a different class altogether and given last Sunday's victory he has reason to. Sepang according to the drivers, is probably the toughest race of the year. This applies not only to the sheer intensity of driving in the humid heat but also as a test of the chassis and tyres on a circuit with a good mix of different types of corners. To do well here is to have the ability to do well virtually anywhere.

There are conflicting reports. According to Michelin, this circuit is smooth. However, many team personnel claim that Sepang is very abrasive. Much like Barcelona. If the tyre performs well in Sepang, you can bet that it would pretty much perform everywhere else. Thats probably why Ferrari and Bridgestone are feeling the heat more than all others.

Renault by contrast seems to have passed with flying colours. Though I still think that the Bridgestone tyres would perform better in cooler climates. Nevertheless on the evidence last Sunday you must say that Renault look extremely good money for a title. Put it this way, the last time I heard Flavio talking trash, his charge Michael Schumacher took the championship. Now he's got two drivers equally capable I think of winning it.

But spare a thought for the two German powered cars, McLaren and Williams. Williams aero problems continue. McLaren don't seem to be on the pace with full tanks. However, lets wait till San Marino to find out. I don't think these flyaway races suit their cars at all. However, both Ron Dennis and Norbert Haug looked extremely stressed after the race. Again, perhaps the results here really point to deeper troubles with their machinery. Mario Thiessen was smiling at least having Nick Heidfeld on the podium. Their two drivers looking solid, though ultimately I think Raikkonen and Montoya are faster than both. Not that the results here today reflect that.

But what about that Toyota then. Given how they performed just 5 months ago in Brazil, they've really turned things around. Mike Gascoyne is now gunning for wins, now that the team has scored their first podium. I sense that the Toyota money is now being put to more effective use than in the past 3 years. The current TF105 is the first car designed under Mike. And given his statements in the last few weeks, more is coming up. The car in Bahrain is apparently going to be still different.

Toyota have often been criticized in the past, by the general press and least of all by this Blog. But like Ferrari many many years ago, one senses that should they put all the pieces together, and with the resources available to them, they can eventually be nigh invincible. This is Toyota we are talking about. Ferrari owner Fiat, may be running out of cash but Toyota are the most cash rich and profitable car company in the world. If the technical department is sorted out, look out everyone else. Renault included. As it is, they've already managed to outrun BMW Williams and McLaren Mercedes. And yes, even Ferrari.

Most of all for Toyota is the satisfaction of finishing on the podium whilst seeing their rivals Honda blowing up their engines after just a few minutes into the race. And despite having new Honda engines at that. After all the hurt Honda inflicted them last year, this must taste so good to the boys in Cologne and to the bigwigs in Japan. Anyone who knows the rivalry between the two Japanese giants know that it is deadly. Especially in motorsport. No wonder the Honda boss looked like he had a nine inch nail up his ass. And Button is extremely crossed!

All in all, so far its been excellent for the fans. Especially Ferrari bashing fans. Well, I think even Ferrari fans themselves must appreciate a little change to their team's monotonous dominance. Formula 1 could use the current status quo for a while. Even Bernie is pleased.

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