News and views on motorsports

Monday, April 04, 2005

Up Next

We are back to Europe now that these opening flyaway races are done with. And familiar ground to all the teams. Ferrari have showed their potential obviously and San Marino is their home race. But remember of course, they have done more testing than all the other teams over the last four weeks having broken previous testing agreements. Ferrari will be concentrating on reliability as well as finding the best setup for the car. It was obvious in Bahrain that even Schumi was struggling with the handling balance. Only his genius ensured that Ferrari were mixing it with Renault.

Now the other teams are free to test as well. And finally they can start to introduce new parts and make new developments. Williams and Toyota are the ones I believe who will make the most improvements during this period. Especially Toyota. Mike Gascoyne who joined the commentary team at ITV in Bahrain, promises parts inclduing new wings, rear bodywork and diffuser sections for upcoming races in San Marino, Spain and Monaco. Whilst they are looking like BAR last year, nevertheless I believe they have greater resources than Brackley or anyone else for that matter. Ferrari included. Whatever speed they show now, they will be even faster and I dare say they might not beat Renault or Ferrari in the next race but they will get even closer.

McLaren yet again showed massive speed. Don't write them off yet. As I say they are back on the familiar European grounds and I think the drivers will be more comfortable in Europe. The crews will too. Lets not discount the psychological boost of being in surroundings that one knows intimately. They obviously need more work and unlock the mysteries of their cars but it would be foolish to discount the boys from Woking. Particularly the low speed understeer they seem to experience. Adrian Newey does have this habit of making cars that do better on the faster circuits. But Hermann Tilke loves slow corners. With low speeds they need more mechanical grip. Especially so for Monaco. But I venture they will do quite well in Barcelona. As it is, they are collecting points and see they lie third in the contructors championship.

Same goes to BMW Williams. I should think they have their wind tunnels synchronized by now and once developments come pouring out of them, we can see better performances from Webber and Heidfeld. As it is Webber proved that essentially the Williams is a fast machine, underlined by the fact that he set the fastest time all weekend in practise.

All expectation are on Renault to keep up the good work. You can bet they will have new developments in the pipeline as well. They need to because there are many others apart from Ferrari who lie in wait. Alonso though seems to think that his main rivals at the moment are Toyota and with good reason. But Renault without a doubt are the fastest at the moment. Pat Symonds commenting here that Fernando Alonso didn't have to use all of his revs in the early laps in Bahrain. And lets not write off Giancarlo just yet. He will feature in upcoming races I am sure.

All in all I suspect this season is going to be a close one. Ferrari are now on the back foot and doing something they haven't done since 1998 i.e. play catch up. All this time they have been setting the pace and getting comfortable. Its interesting to see how they respond. Well they have a great team with them. And of course they cheat on testing so they should be able to. I postulate though that Bridgestone still have a lot of work to do and in that regard I do think they are at some disadvantage. I think Michelin with the majority of teams on their side will be piling on the pressure. But there's absolutely no excuse for them or Ferrari to break the rules to keep up with the others.

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