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Can McLaren fightback ?
Even though Michael Schumacher won Pole here for the last 2
years running, had it not been for the hydraulic failure Mika Hakkinen
suffered on the final lap of the race last year, he would have made it 4 wins
in a row for McLaren. But can they mount a serious challenge at this track
this year ?
Last week, all the Formula 1 teams without exception were testing. Most of the teams were at Silverstone with Jenson Button in the Renault and Ralf Schumacher in the Williams trading fastest times while at Mugello Ferrari, McLaren and Toyota were present with Michael breaking the lap record at the track.
Last year at Barcelona, Mika Hakkinen nearly won his 4th in a row here but retired on the final lap. Michael Schumacher who was nursing his car to the finish won ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve. Ralf Schumacher spun out of the race while David Coulthard finished in 5th after stalling on the formation lap and starting from the back.
Ferrari: Have returned to the top of the
Constructors' Championship and deservedly so. They beat Williams in San Marino
and they are expected to win and it won't even be close. That is if there cars
last. At Imola, Barrichello did admit to having a problem towards the end of
the race and during testing last week, Michael had a problem with the front
end of the car and went off damaging it.
Drivers: Michael Schumacher won again at Imola and he is set to repeat that here unless he hits reliability problems.
Rubens Barrichello impressed in his debut in the F2002. He almost got pole and managed to get ahead of Ralf Schumacher and finish second at Imola. With Michael Schumacher his team-mate, don't expect Rubens to win at this stage of the season.
Williams: They certainly have more work to do if they want to mount a serious challenge to Ferrari this season. And that work better produce results quickly otherwise it would be too late. One thing they have going for them in addition to the amazing power of their BMW engines is their reliably. They are the only team to have finished 7 times out of 8 attempts. Reliability 9.5/10 - Speed 9.0/10
Drivers: Ralf Schumacher got the upper hand in the internal fight with Juan Pablo. Perhaps Juan Pablo gets motivated when he is fighting Michael. At Imola 3rd was the best he could do and he did. A podium finish is possible but he'll be fighting his team-mate as well as Raikkonen.
Juan Pablo Montoya didn't impress at Imola and will want to prove that his performance there was just a one-off. However, even though he finished second last year he qualified way down in 12th place. A top 6 finish is possible if he stays out of trouble.
McLaren: Yet again the team
suffers from a failure. Raikkonen had to retire after his exhaust broke off.
How long will this go on for ?
Drivers: David Coulthard isn't motivated enough. Last year, it was Hakkinen who appeared lacking motivation, now Coulthard is in the same boat. Not only did Raikkonen beat him at Imola but Jenson Button managed to get ahead of him. Still, if the car lasts he could finish in the top 6.
Kimi Raikkonen retired with an exhaust failure at Imola while ahead of David Coulthard. Expect the same here. He could even finish on the podium behind the Ferrari's if his car lasts.
Renault: This team continues to
impress. They are certainly on there way to join the big three (or the big
two). It would be great if McLaren get it together and we could have 4 teams
at the top very soon.
Drivers: Jarno Trulli didn't help his cause in Imola after being out-raced by Jenson Button. In fact Button now has scored all the points for the team while Jarno has finally finished a race. Expect a top 10 finish.
Jenson Button impresses yet again finishing in the points on merit. He is certainly on a high and his current performance will make all the top teams interested in his services for next year. He could score some points yet again!
Jaguar: Are still in 5th place in the Championship thanks to their 3 points gained from the Australian GP. At Imola they failed to finish both their cars damaging their reliability reputation and adding to the mediocre performance reputation they have. They are under enormous pressure to perform and they could turn around but that will be a few races still. Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 5.5/10
Drivers: Eddie Irvine managed to start from 18th on the grid at Imola and was fighting to stay ahead of the Minardi of Webber. Not much will change here.
Pedro de la Rosa was beaten by Irvine in both Qualifying and the Race (contrary to my expectations). He should have the better of Irvine here though but finishing in the top 10 will be next to impossible.
Sauber: Managed to finish both their cars at Imola but 8th and 10th isn't a great result if you want to maintain 4th in the Championship. Heidfeld had a bizarre race pitting at the wrong time then speeding in the pits. So far Renault have passed them and one of the Honda runners could do so soon. They cannot fight back as they run a year old Ferrari engine. Reliability 8.0/10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Nick Heidfeld scoring points in Imola would have been hard but he could have finished 7th or 8th had it not been for that wrong pit stop. A top 10 finish is possible.
Felipe Massa drove well in Imola and has tested at this track before so he wouldn't be at such a disadvantage to his team-mate. A top 10 finish is possible close to Heidfeld.
Minardi: They remain in 7th place in the Championship as the teams behind them struggle to score. Mark Webber got the best out of the car staying ahead of Pedro de la Rosa's Jaguar in Imola. Their other driver didn't even race!. Reliability 7.0/10 - Speed 5.5/10
Drivers: Alex Yoong failed to qualify in Imola. He could face the same fate here again.
Mark Webber drove a superb race in Imola but the best he could with the equipment was 11th. Don't expect much more.
Toyota: For the first time this season had both cars retire. For a young team that is not unexpected however their lack of performance was highlighted as they struggled with the Michelin tyres in lower temperatures. That is something they need to work on quickly if they want to have any hope in scoring more points this season - Reliability 6.0/10 - Speed 7.5/10
Drivers: Mika Salo struggled with the Toyota in Imola and it was his first retirement of the season. Should do better here possibly in the top 10.
Allan McNish retired at the start of the race at Imola and that didn't help. He did some testing at the Barcelona track earlier this year and that could help him. However, unless he is lucky, he'll finish outside the top 10.
BAR: Managed to finish just outside the points in Imola. The team appears to be improving. David Richards seems to be pressing the right buttons and Geoff Willis is starting to have an impact. Now they are waiting for that full revving Honda engine. Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 7.5/10
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve managed an impressive 7th ahead of a Renault and a Sauber. Must have given him a good feeling. Now that it is almost certain that he won't be driving for BAR next year, he'll need to prove to the other teams that he has what it takes. A top 10 finish is possible. Points, once again nearly impossible.
Olivier Panis sits at the bottom of the Driver's Championship with not a single finish so far this season. To be fair though, none have been due to a fault of his. Perhaps he'll finish in Spain but if he does it'll probably be in the top 10 but outside the points.
Jordan: 2 failures at Imola, they
are certainly in trouble. Eddie Jordan is starting to make noises about major
changes. It seems that he'll follow David Richards example.
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella must be thinking that he should've stuck with Renault despite the short term contract. This year's Jordan although faster than last year's Benetton isn't fast enough for points and is certainly not as reliable. A top 10 finish if the car finishes.
Takuma Sato managed to outqualify his experienced team-mate in Imola but his car failed him in the race. A top 10 finish is possible if his car lasts.
Arrows: Yet another team that
failed to finish either of their cars at Imola. They have finally decided to
attend a test session. They needed that badly. Let hope they have sorted some
of the their reliability problems out.
Drivers: Heinz Harald Frentzen qualified an impressive 13th in Imola ahead of the Jordan's, the Toyota's and the Jaguars'. One would hope to see him race with a healthy car soon. Expect a top 10 finish if the car lasts but that is not likely!.
Enrique Bernoldi is the second driver of the 22 who has yet to be classified as a finisher. And as in Panis' case, the car is more to blame than him. His performance however at Imola wasn't impressive qualifying almost a full second behind his team-mate. It will be a surprise if he finishes the race.
6 'n' Pole and see how your predictions stack up against the others.