Out of the three Championship contenders, Michael Schumacher is the only
one that can actually clinch the title at the United States Grand Prix.
Mathematically Michael can win it if he wins the race and Juan Pablo finishes
in 6th or lower and Kimi Raikkonen finishes in 3rd or lower. He can even
clinch it if he finishes second as long as Juan Pablo only finishes 8th or
lower and Kimi Raikkonen finishes 4th or lower. If Michael finishes 3rd or
lower he won't clinch the title regardless of were the other 2 finish.
So in mathematical terms it is possible but the chances of either of the above
scenarios happening are pretty slim not to mention that the Ferrari may not be
as strong here as it was at Monza.
Due to the nature of the Indy track, car setup will be a compromise between
the low downforce requirements of the oval section and the high downforce
requirements of the infield. So far this season Williams have done better than
Ferrari on the slow tracks like Monaco and Hungary while they appeared to
match the Ferrari on the high speed tracks like Monza. Add to that the
Michelin tyre still appears to have an edge over Bridgestone and we may see
Williams gain the upper hand here. Of course both McLaren and Renault may
spoil things for Ferrari and Williams.
The tyre situation will also be interesting as last year most Bridgestone
runners opted for 2 stops while most Michelin runners went for a single stop.
The race is set to be an exciting one with the championship getting even
closer heading into the final race of the season in Suzuka.
Last week the teams tested at different venues with Ferrari at Jerez, Monza
and Fiorano. Williams were at Silverstone while McLaren were at Barcelona with
Toyota and Renault. The teams were concentrating on setup and tyre evaluation
for the final 2 races of the season.
Williams: They remain in the lead in the Constructors'
Championship but only by 4 points. Juan Pablo Montoya had to settle for
second at Monza while Marc Gene did well finishing in 5th. They are likely
to do better here as the track should suit their package better than the
Ferrari. Again a 1-2 finish is a possibility but will be hard as Ferrari,
McLaren and Renault could be strong too.
9.5/10 - Speed 9.5/10
Juan Pablo Montoya is now 3 points behind Michael and needs to finish
in front of him if he wants to gain an advantage heading into the last
race of the season. Winning Indy would be special for Montoya as he also
won the Indy 500 and this year he has a good chance.
Ralf Schumacher pulled out of the Italian Grand Prix due to
headaches as a result of a crash in testing. Whilst he appears to be ready to
race at Indy, there are still doubts and he may be replaced by Marc Gene
again. Ralf is in a difficult position as he needs to help the team win the
Constructors' Title which could prevent his brother Michael win his 6th
Drivers' Title. He is a professional though and will do the right thing by the
team. Expect a podium finish. Don't expect Gene to do much better than in
Italy if he takes over as this track is more difficult.
Ferrari: Their 1-3 finish at Monza was a great result for the team
and the celebrations were wild even to a degree that they appeared to not
have expected such a result. Repeating that in Indy will be very difficult
and the other top teams will have to struggle for them to achieve that. We
could have a Ferrari on the podium but it will be tough.
Reliability 9.5/10 - Speed 9.0/10
Michael Schumacher can clinch the title here but neither
Montoya nor Raikkonen will let him and neither will his Bridgestones. Still
Michael will maximise his points a finish 2nd or 3rd. If he can't finish ahead
of Montoya, he needs to finish 3 points or less behind so he can head into
Suzuka in the lead.
Rubens Barrichello drove a good but not great race at Monza
finishing 3rd. He was handed the win last year at Indy by Michael
Schumacher. Rubens will try to maximise the points for the team. A top 6
finish is likely.
McLaren: They are still suffering from reliability problems
and that is hurting their slim chances of winning the Constructors' Title.
They weren't strong at Monza but could be very competitive here at Indy.
Reliability holding, they could have a podium finish here.
Reliability 9.0/10 - Speed 9.0/10
Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen still has a chance for the
Drivers' Title and all it takes is for Michael and Juan Pablo to retire at
Indy and he could find himself in the lead of the championship. Of course that
scenario is unlikely but Kimi has to try an maximise his points again to stay
in the running for the last race. A podium may be possible but difficult.
David Coulthard continues to drift back in the
shadow of his team-mate. He retired at Monza due to engine failure but he
wasn't close to Kimi. Expect more of the same with a top 8 finish likely.
Renault: Could surprise everyone at this race and have a podium
finish or even a win. At Monza Trulli looked quick and Alonso had a strong
race that despite the track being a high speed track. At Indy due to their
superb chassis, they'll be able to run the least possible wing out of the
top teams giving them similar top speeds on the straights while
maintaining their strong pace in the slow section. Their reliability is
Reliability 8.0/10 - Speed 9.0/10
Fernando Alonso drove a stunning race from the back of the grid
to finish 8th at Monza. Alonso continues to show great talent and maturity
despite his young age. You could see him on the podium in Indy.
Jarno Trulli had a storming half lap at Monza before
his car just shutdown. It was a pity as it would have been interesting to
see how much fuel he had on board and if he would have managed to stay
with the leaders. As with Fernando, we could see Trulli on the podium here
as long as reliability holds and Trulli has a good drive!.
BAR: Are now a point ahead of Jaguar in the
Constructors' and it looks like 5th place will be a fight between those
two teams as Toyota is 4 points behind now. Despite BAR being ahead expect
them to struggle here with all the other Bridgestone runners and they'll
be glad to leave Indy still leading Jaguar.
Reliability 7.0/10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Jenson Button suffered from reliability
problems at Monza. He'll try to bounce back at Indy but it will be difficult.
Points will be hard.
Jacques Villeneuve managed to double his total points at the
last race but it might be a case of too little too late for him at BAR. He
should do well at Indy but his tyres won't help him. Points will be hard.
Jaguar: They've had a poor weekend at Monza but despite that
Webber managed to get in 5th place while the other Jaguar continues to
suffer problems. It seems that the other car is made by a different team!.
Expect Jaguar to be strong here and challenge for points if the top
runners struggle. They may head to Suzuka in 5th place in the
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 7.5/10
Drivers: Mark Webber continues to score important
points for the team with a car that seems just able to make it to the
finish line. The team must be delighted to have him drive for them. Points
possible if a front runner struggles.
Justin Wilson seems to mirror Pizzonia's fortunes. It looks more
a car problem rather than a driver problem. He'll be glad to finish his
first race for the team!
Toyota: They are 4 points behind BAR and their fight
for 5th will be very hard. They have to do really well here while both BAR
and Jaguar struggle which is an unlikely scenario. In addition, for them
to score points they need a front runner to struggle.
They continue to suffer from mechanical problems and that won't help them
Reliability 8.0/10 -
Drivers: Cristiano da Matta suffered a tyre failure at
Monza which ended his race. That was unfortunate for him as he may have
managed to get a point or two on a track that suits the Toyota. He'll do well
at Indy if reliability holds and may score a point.
Olivier Panis retired at Monza with brake problems. He
could do well at Indy but expect da Matta to get the better of him. .
Giancarlo Fisichella motivated or not, he won't be able to do
Ralph Firman seems to be ready to get back to racing after missing two
races. It will be a good experience for him to race here. Don't expect
Sauber: They could've close the gap to Jordan at Monza but they
lost 2 golden opportunities in the final few laps of the race. Frentzen
retired while in 7th and Heidfeld got passed by Alonso on the last lap for
8th!. They won't have those opportunities here.
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 7.0/10
Drivers: Heinz Harald Frentzen retired at Monza
through no fault of his own but it still looks bad that he failed to score
points. He'll do what he can at Indy but like Jordan, don't expect points.
Nick Heidfeld may have lost his seat at the team due to him
letting Alonso slip past on the final lap at Monza. Like Frentzen, don't expect
Minardi: They are closer to Jordan but that isn't because
they are improving, it is because Jordan are moving backwards relative to
Reliability 7.0/10 - Speed 6.0/10
Drivers: Jos Verstappen retired from Monza with a
mechanical problem. He could fight with the Jordan's here.
Nicolas Kiesa is doing relatively fine in a Minardi but his
performance isn't too impressive for Minardi or another team to sign him up
for next year. Expect him to struggle on this track.
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