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End of the streak for Schumacher ?  
11 April 2001 Volume 3 - Issue 9  

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Will this be the end of an amazing winning streak for Michael Schumacher?
Before he lost first place to Coulthard in Brazil he had won the previous
six races. He has also won the last 7 pole positions in a row. Is this because Ferrari has just been overtaken by Williams and McLaren, or was it just a rare fault in the Ferrari and we can expect to see Schumacher's domination continue? Whatever it was he certainly looked pedestrian in Brazil.

It was also not possible to compare him to Barrichello (which would have given a clear indication of the possibility that it was a problem with Schumacher's car or the Williams and McLaren cars getting faster, much faster in the case of Williams) so we will have to wait for San Marino before we can make that judgement.

The San Marino circuit (Autodromo Dino E Enzo Ferrari), on the boundary of Imola, is a medium to fast track with less overtaking opportunity than Brazil even though it is much faster (average speed at San Marino will be well in excess of the 200kph/125mph in Brazil and could be as high as 215kph/135mph).

Of the eight significant corners 5 may be under 160kph/100mph and only two will be under 130 km/H(80mph).

After the addition of three chicanes, at Tamburello, the Varianta Bassa and the Villeneuve sweep on the approach to Tosa, the general opinion of drivers is that it may be safer but not as much fun. It has lost its previous flow and rhythm and now needs extraordinary concentration to maintain tempo and, like always when safety becomes an issue, overtaking has become more difficult.

The Chicanes were added after 1994, the year in which Ayrton Senna died as a consequence of injuries when his car crashed into the wall at Tamburello on the 7th lap of the race and Roland Ratzenberger died in a high speed accident during qualifying.

Although I fully support all changes to all circuits to make them safer, it is a pity that this inevitably also makes overtaking difficult, if not impossible.

With the new downforce configuration and much stickier tyres it seems that overtaking is a little easier. San Marino, where overtaking has always been difficult, may finally give us an indication of the extent to which the new rules have eased the overtaking problem. That, of course, is if it does not rain. The likelihood of rain at San Marino may be low but so far we have seen some rain on 2 of the first 3 races this year.

With an apparent power advantage Williams may make this their weekend (that is if they do not both get rear ended again).

The Williams was very fast in Brazil and Montoya could have won if Verstappen did not shunt him up the behind. Ralf was no slouch either but he had the now famous and repetitive "up the rear end" from Barrichello.

Ralf is not going to take too kindly to Montoya showing him up in Brazil and will be determined to at least beat his team-mate. Montoya, on the other hand, is a man on a mission and will be determined to get ahead of all of the competition.

If I had to make a judgement call I would guess that Montoya will be faster than Ralf (although Ralf will not allow him to get too far ahead) but Ralf will drive a slightly more conservative race and will be more likely to finish (unless he lands up immediately ahead of Barrichello who does not seem to have the ability to stay away from that enticing Williams rear wing).

Do not be surprised to see both of them on the podium the Williams shows real promise but, equally, both being rear ended before the first pit stop is just as likely.

The rear-ending problem, that Williams seem to suffer from, fascinates me. It is of course quite possible that it is just a series of bad luck events, but it really does look as if the Williams has something like a "brake grab" halfway through a corner which consistently catches a following driver out.

It is possible that the new combination of aerodynamics and grippier tyres allows the Williams in particular to brake well into the apex of the corner which is an unexpected deceleration pattern for following drivers, but then one would expect them to be a lot faster through the corner which will make it impossible to catch them, let alone run into them.

It is also possible that they have a braking problem that forces them to brake earlier than the others, but then why are they not being overtaken on the approach to corners?

If anyone has any theories please let me know. I am puzzled.

Based on statistics, Ferrari should be faster at Imola, but their performance in Brazil left a lot to be desired.

Michael was pedestrian in Brazil, and one must assume that it was his car as he is always brilliant in the wet. Barrichello had no chance to show us what he can do.

Michael has lost his points advantage over Coulthard this early in the season six points is not much of an edge. Michael will be determined to increase this lead, if the Ferrari is back up to the pace.

Barrichello, on the other hand, is consistently doing what he does best (and what he did all of last season): he talks about being as fast, or faster, than Schumacher and then drives considerably slower with the exception of a few flashes of brilliance. It is time that he gets his act together.

Coulthard will be pumped and if McLaren can keep their promise of being faster in San Marino, he will be very determined to close the gap to Michael Schumacher.

At the back of Coulthard's mind he must also be concerned that Hakkinen will get his act together and again be just that little faster in qualifying and races.

Hakkinen must also realise that it is time to get on top of his car and make up lost ground. It is time to establish himself as the lead driver of the team again (and he has done this every season so far).

The best of the rest has to be Jordan, but the elastic band in the Honda motor seems to have lost its tension. They need more power to be competitive and it does not look as if they will be getting this in the short term.

BAR may be close to Jordan but it seems that they are a little behind in the chassis. Maybe they should rely less on Honda to come up with both chassis and engine improvements, but then when they were in charge of the chassis it was a disaster.

Jaguar may have potential but I can't see it. It seems that they are more interested in getting the infrastructure and team organisation right than winning races or building fast cars. Carry on like that and they will have a bureaucracy to be admired and a PR system that will tell us how good it is going to be.

Benetton seem to be running at half revs. Obviously their engines are pretty basic at this stage, but I have a lot of confidence in Renault and the Benetton chassis. Don't forget that this is the stable that provided the equipment that secured Michael Schumacher's first and second championships.

Sauber may be there again if everyone else has a bad day and Arrows will make up the rest of the fleet.

Prost should go home and stop embarrassing their drivers.

Minardi's budget will keep them close to the back but I cannot help but admire their spirit.

Previous Heretic Issues
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