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Spanish Grand Prix
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Traction Control, the unknown factor
Traction control returns to Formula 1 after more than 7 years of
absence and while several teams and drivers claim that it will not make
much difference, the actual effect of it is yet to be tested. The race
starts are going to be near perfect and change in the order is going to be
more difficult. Exiting out of corners will be much smoother and drivers
will have one less thing to worry about with the introduction of the
Automatic Gear-change sequencer so will that make overtaking easier ?
Last year Mika Hakkinen won his first race of the season here and we also saw the intense competition between Ralf and Michael when Michael was clearly in trouble but would not give in to his brother allowing Rubens (Michael's team-mate) to pass both of them.
Ferrari: Michael Schumacher's failure at San Marino was due to a failure in the suspension group and the first retirement for Michael since he was hit from behind by Fisichella at the German GP last year. The alarming thing about Ferrari is that for the second race in a row they get their strategy wrong. At San Marino Michael qualified 4th and Barrichello 6th as they chose the harder tyres which Todt later admitted they were the wrong choice. Spain is not going to be easy for them as it is McLaren territory (simply because they test at this circuit far more than Ferrari).
Reliability 8.0/10 - Speed 9.0/10
Drivers: Michael Schumacher is now on equal points with David Coulthard and his chances of winning here are not as high as there will be fierce competition from the 2 McLaren's and the 2 Williams. He still could win it although a podium is more likely.
Rubens Barrichello finished third after starting from 6th so one could say he did well as he managed to overtake Hakkinen and Montoya through the pits indicating that Ferrari are still good in implementing their strategy. Rubens however has been again outclassed by his team-mate and although he says otherwise, he is there to support Michael. Expect a top 6 finish possibly on the podium.
McLaren: Appeared very strong at testing in Silverstone last week so they will once again be up there. Barcelona is a track where they are very competitive historically so expect them to be strong again.
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 9.0/10
Drivers: Mika Hakkinen won here the last 3 races in a row so this is his territory. It remains to be seen how Coulthard will challenge him here. If Hakkinen does not beat Coulthard here then Hakkinen would be resigned to 2nd place in the team. Expect him to be the lead McLaren driver here and fighting with a Williams for a win.
David Coulthard is now the only driver to finish on the podium in every race this season. That could continue here but his toughest opponent here will be his own team-mate and possibly the Williams. He could win the race but a podium is more likely.
Williams: Third in the championship is what they deserve so far. Who knows but give them another few races and they might deserve first. We'll have to wait and see but clearly they still have more to go while both Ferrari and McLaren are at the top.
Reliability 7.0/10 - Speed 9.5/10
Drivers: Ralf Schumacher drove a superb race at San Marino and deserved to win. Spain will be more difficult and this time he will face the most serious competition from Juan Pablo Montoya as this is the first track on the calendar than Montoya is familiar with. Expect Ralf to fight with Montoya, his brother Michael and the 2 McLarens for the win.
Juan Pablo Montoya still managed to overtake Trulli at San Marino despite the difficulty of overtaking on that track. Spain will show how Montoya compares with Ralf on a track they both know well. Montoya could out-qualify Ralf and go on to win this race.
Jordan: Are now clearly the best of the rest. The first 4 races of the season they have beaten BAR fair and square but the problem here is the lack of power from the Honda engine. At San Marino they were almost a lap behind the top 3 teams. Honda must be under intense pressure as BMW got it right much quicker than them.
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Heinz Harald Frentzen finished 6th at San Marino after complaining of a balance problem. Regardless, he will have to rely on the failures of the cars in front to get into the points.
Jarno Trulli has beaten Frentzen for the first time when both have finished. That will give him a good boost but as with Frentzen a points finish will only be possible if the front runners fail.
Sauber: Heidfeld managed to finish 7th at San Marino and if more cars ahead failed he would have scored points again. They had a nasty incident with Raikkonen though when his steering wheel got loose!. This track will disadvantage them due to the lack of testing they do here
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 7.5/10
Drivers: Nick Heidfeld finished in 7th and that was the best he could do. It will be more difficult here and a top 10 finish is possible but will be hard.
Kimi Raikkonen failed to finish yet again at San Marino but this time it was a failure rather than a driving error. He impressively out-qualified his team-mate on a track that he is unfamiliar with. A top 10 finish is possible
BAR: If they don't get it right here, they will never do this
season. Honda and Villeneuve will start looking at the exit clauses in
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 7.5/10
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve had an engine blow out and failed to capitalise on the strong race form that the BAR usually shows. He usually qualifies well here so he could mix it with the top 3. A points finish will be possible if his car lasts and a few drivers ahead drop out.
Olivier Panis is putting the pressure on Villeneuve. They are now 2 - 2 in terms of qualifying. Panis has been quicker again in testing. The next few races will be interesting. Same as Villeneuve, he'll finish in the points if some of the top teams falter.
Benetton: Even though they are ranked 7th in the championship with 1 point, they are really at the back with Minardi. In fact at San Marino, Fernando Alonso out-qualified both Benettons!. If what Benetton say is to be believed, they will have a big leap forward in time for the French GP. That is 6 races from now!
Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 4/10
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella had an engine failure at San Marino highlighting the major problems they are having with their engines. Even a top 10 finish is unlikely and that is not due to his skill but his car.
Jenson Button is in the same boat as Fisichella, even a top 10 finish is unlikely unless a lot of cars ahead fail.
Arrows: They are struggling at the back with Benetton and Minardi. The AsiaTech engine is not helping. They need improvements fast otherwise they will be another Minardi.
Reliability 7.0/10 - Speed 5.5/10
Drivers: Jos Verstappen had his first retirement due to a mechanical failure at San Marino. His car isn't good enough to get him a top 10 finish.
Enrique Bernoldi once again out-qualified his more experienced team-mate and also managed to finish a race for the first time in his short career in 10th place. The car is too slow to show any potential of him and a finish inside the top 10 is unlikely.
Prost: They are in the headlines not because of their performance but for the lack of it. Alain Prost was finally convinced that Mazzacane didn't shape. So he managed to get Luciano Burti who has certainly performed better than Mazzacane but we'll have to see how good he can be against Jean Alesi. The car is still in a bad shape as they should be up there with Sauber.
Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 6.0/10
Drivers: Jean Alesi has amazingly managed to finish in the top 10 every race so far this season but not in the points. It looks like it will remain this way here at Spain.
Luciano Burti will struggle on his first race with Prost. He only
tested the Prost for 5 laps after the deal to replace Mazzacane was
Jaguar: They are once again making headlines off the track with Luciano Burti out and Pedro de la Rosa in. Pedro will certainly push Eddie more but the Jaguar is not yet up to scratch and the team admitted that only a new car will help them move forward.
Reliability 6.0/10 - Speed 6.5/10
Drivers: Eddie Irvine has retired in the last 3 races. The pressure will be on as de la Rosa now joins so we'll see if he can step up a gear. A top 10 finish is possible if he keeps it together and Jaguar give him a reliable car.
Pedro de la Rosa is back to racing after an absence of 4 races. He drove for Arrows last year and now he is with Jaguar. He will be under a lot of pressure as he races at his home GP but it will take him some time to settle in as a driver for the team. It is unlikely that he'll beat Irvine in his first appearance.
Minardi: Alonso managed to out-qualify both Benettons at San Marino. They are doing very well given their budget. If they are reliable enough they could beat Benetton in race conditions.
Reliability 5.5/10 - Speed 5.0/10
Drivers: Fernando Alonso managed to qualify in 18th place in San Marino but had a car failure. He has potential to become a future champion and another team will be offering him a drive soon. A finish here is possible.
Tarso Marques is another one of those drivers that are not shaping. He was almost 1.5 seconds behind his team-mate in qualifying. This guy is not a rookie and has raced in Formula 1 in the past. Why do they come back ?