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Will Schumacher try ?  
15 August 2001 Volume 3 - Issue 26  

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Hungaroring, near Budapest, may not be as slow as Monaco but it is not very far behind. Of the eleven corners that I count, eight are negotiated at under 136Km/H(85mph) and of those three are taken at below 96Km/H(60mph).

The three remaining corners are not particularly fast either, the fastest being considerably less than flat out at 240Km/H(150mph) and the other two much slower at around 193Km/H(120mph).

The fastest part of the track is the rather short pit straight where I will be surprised to see the cars do much more than 300Km/H(186mph).

Overtaking is also pretty tough. The best overtaking chance is on the short pit straight as it has a rather slow lead into it - 136Km/H(85mph) - and ends in an equally slow corner.

The only other discernable overtaking spot is the lead up to turn four but as this almost straight area is immediately after a very fast curve that will be negotiated at over 200 Km/H(124mph) the dependence on aerodynamic downforce will make it very hard to exit in a strong position to get past. Add to that the fact that you will have to go round the dirty outside of the sweep to be in position to be on the inside of turn four and it will be a brave man that tries anything other than shooting past a much slower car.

So therefore the outcome of the race will be mostly determined by starting (i.e. grid position and overtaking in the first few seconds of the race) and time in the pits. Expect the start to be brutal and pit stops anxious.

Given that qualifying and race strategy are probably the most important factors I believe that Ferrari have the best chance to get Schumacher his 51st win. But much will depend on their assessment of the risk at the start and the reliability of their car (after all, three weeks ago, both cars that Michael used during that controversial race, expired). Schumacher will win the championship without winning another race providing that he is not grossly unlucky. To avoid this he only needs to finish in the points in most of the remaining races.

A lot will also depend on Michael Schumacher's assessment of the race as it unfolds. I do not believe that he feels that any unnecessary risk is needed. He may well decide not to race for first place but to only score points to improve his already dominating score in the driver's championship.

Even if Barrichello does well he will not be allowed to finish in front of Schumacher unless he is several positions ahead. This is unlikely to happen so we must expect him to drive to support Michael only.

McLaren have to be the next team most likely to succeed. Although Coulthard does not have a realistic chance of winning the driver's championship he will have to defend his second place against Ralf and Barrichello. He will be under pressure to do well.

For some reason it appears that Coulthard's luck has changed. Reliability is now a definite issue - although I suspect that Hungaroring will not be hard on cars.

Hakkinen, on the other hand could do very well. He has nothing to lose and he has the added benefit that Michael Schumacher will probably not race him for the lead. Although I am sure that Michael will not mind winning the race, I am also sure that he would be delighted to see Hakkinen win, as that will have no impact on his (Schumacher's) lead in the driver's championship.

Williams will be at a disadvantage. Their cars were not fast on tight, slower circuits all season and there is no reason to suspect that they will suddenly improve.

Of the two Williams drivers my money is on Ralf Schumacher as Montoya seems to only be fast on the high speed circuits.

Sauber did not do well in Monaco. They seem to fare better at faster circuits and will probably not do well in Hungary either.

BAR is reasonably fast on tight twisty circuits but not fast enough to catch Ferrari, McLaren or Williams. If any of the leading cars retire I would expect BAR to be more likely than Jordan to finish in the points.

I will be watching Alesi with interest. Hungaroring, if my recollection is accurate, is not one of the circuits on which he does well. On the other hand he is in a far better car than he has had all year and he may well allow that to take hold of his very emotional personality. If that happens nobody can predict the outcome.

Frentzen may drive well if he feels that he needs to prove a point, but how is he going to do that in a Prost?

Benetton and Arrows will both have to wait for next year's car with which to try again and Minardi will be grateful not to be last.

If Michael Schumacher races it could be interesting.

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