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Where does Ferrari take it now ?  
29 August 2001 Volume 3 - Issue 27  

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Michael Schumacher and Ferrari have won both the Drivers' and Constructors' championships for the year. I could wax lyrically, praising Michael, who has also equalled all but Fangio's record of championship wins and Senna's record pole positions. I could also add my endorsement to Ferrari's effort, pointing out that they produced the fastest, most reliable car of the season and were constantly better at race strategy. In both cases they certainly deserved it.

McLaren, on the other hand, have only themselves to blame for their inability to stay in the running until the end of the season. Stalling on the starting grid once or twice in a season is acceptable - beyond that it is a joke.

Even when they started they suffered too many retirements because something broke or blew up. Reliability by itself could have lost them both championships, add to it several starting failures and it is amazing that Coulthard is still in second place in the drivers' championship.

I am less critical of Williams. They obviously had a power advantage assisted on the hotter faster circuits by a definite tyre advantage but the BMW engine was very young and prone to teething trouble. They tried hard and are now poised to take second place in both championships away from McLaren.

I am curious to see what Ferrari plans to do now. As I see it, their choice is to either go all out to ensure that Rubens finishes second in the driver's championship or to start testing next year's gear in anger.

It is of course possible to gamble a little with the reliability of the car and do both.

If Ferrari stays with this year's motor and configuration they may have the speed and reliability to get Barrichello ahead of Coulthard but the four fast and probably hot circuits that are left favour Ralf Schumacher and they could find that the struggle with Coulthard may be for third place.

I think that we are likely to see a hybrid Ferrari for the rest of the season. They need to make sure that they can beat Williams and to do that they have to continue development. It makes sense to use as much as possible of their next year's car as it will allow them to test in race conditions, but not so much that the other teams know what to expect.

Ferrari may just turn out to be unreliable but fast (or even faster) for the rest of the season.

The Spa-Francorchamps circuit (the venue for the upcoming Belgian Grand Prix) is fast with little opportunity for overtaking.

Of the 20 "corners" only six will be negotiated under 161 Km/H (100mph) and of these only two below 113 Km/H(70mph). The rest are very fast, some being only a slight lift of the accelerator to balance the car before accelerating gently through the corner.

65% of the lap will be under full throttle, downforce will be medium, brake and tyre wear will be low to medium on soft tyres so it is not particularly demanding on any individual component of the car.

Maximum speed will be highest just before the braking zone at Les Combes and although the rest of the circuit is fast overall this is the only area that I expect to see the cars getting close to 350 Km/H (220mph). It is also one of the very few overtaking opportunities.

The other overtaking opportunities are the approach to Eau Rouge for those who are able to stay in touch through La Source and have the power to accelerate past (there is not enough time or distance to slipstream) and a run around the outside after Stavelot.

I believe that Ferrari is still the team to beat. They have the car, the brilliant strategy and now that Michael is no longer driving to defend his title, the driver. If the opportunity arises I am sure that they will also work to improve Barrichello's points.

In terms of performance Williams must be the favourites. Their only problem is the reliability of the BMW power plant.

McLaren may do well but it would surprise me. They seem to be off the boil and the disappointment of being out of the championship win will be demotivating. On the other hand Hakkinen may just feel that he has nothing to lose.

BAR may do OK and so could Jordan and Sauber, but like always they will only feature in the points if one or more of the six top cars retire.

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