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SPANISH, MONACO & EUROPEAN GP’S

Due to some nasty little shit who, if I ever find out their name, will assist me in finding the fine balance between extreme agony and loss of consciousness, hit the computers of Multi Media Motor Sport with a particularly unpleasant virus. The resulting wiping of hard drives & rebuilding of PCs, and of course, not wanting to spread this bug via this website meant a lengthy delay in uploading anything to the site. Including reports on the last 3 GPs which is a real bummer as they were all pretty damned good ones.  

So, a sort of summary of them all, in one hit. As predicted after Imola it has been McLaren who has risen to the top of the pack now that they have sorted out their qualifying dramas. Dominant wins for Raikkonen in Catalunya & Monaco, and almost another at the Nurburgring, have propelled him from 11th in the title chase to 2nd in just those 2 races and he remains in that position even after the last lap disaster in Germany. I don’t think any of us have ever seen a front end vibration of quite such severity before, nor I suspect had Kimi. The result of a couple of front right lock-ups earlier in the race had the entire car shuddering even on the straights and the sight of those suspension arms flexing, and the carcass of the tyre squirming on the rim was not one that we will quickly forget. Even as we were all wondering how long it could possibly last it was just the cruelest of luck that it would cause the suspension to collapse with just under 1 lap, just two lousy miles to go before he could claim a hat-trick of victories and close the gap to Alonso to 20 points. Alonso, the lucky recipient of Raikkonen’s lost win now has what would seem to be an unassailable 32 point lead in the championship. There may be a long way to go before the title race is over but it will take a lot of bad luck to strike the Renault driver for Raikkonen to catch him and on current form, it is only the McLarens that are in with any real chance.

Sure, Toyota’s Jarno Trulli is equal second with Raikkonen at this stage but the performance of the Toyotas is starting to drop back to the rest of the field (they have only scored 4 points in the last two races) while McLaren is now in a class of it’s own. Renault are still second best but who would have thought a few races ago that they would start eating their rear tyres in such a vicious fashion? The site of crippled Renaults at Monaco is one that no-one would have predicted at the beginning of the year. They began the year with so much weight bias toward the rear of the car that their main concern was under-steer but as they have added more downforce to the front it has altered the balance of the car to such an extent that they are now rooting rear tyres in much the same way as Williams were at the start of the year.

Williams on the other hand are on the up with fine podiums for Heidfeld (2nd at both Monaco and the Nurburgring) and Webber in the last couple of races. They have gained this increase in race performance without any loss of qualifying pace. Webber has qualified in the top 3 in the last three races and Heidfeld gave us all a pleasant surprise with his pole in Germany even if he was on a lighter fuel load. One suspects that a win for either of these drivers is not all that far away. Perhaps even this weekend in Canada as Williams always seems to go well there. Had Webber not gone off at the first corner in Germany perhaps he would have been the one to inherit Raikkonen’s lost win, he was on a similar fuel strategy as the Finn and Alonso and had qualified ahead of the Spaniard.

The only major team making no progress at all is still Ferrari. They are either still eating their race tyres like an Ethiopian in a bakery (I was going to use Biafran there but many of you would not be old enough to know what I was on about so Ethiopian will have to do) such as the Red Barron did in Spain where he had two tyre failures in two laps, or using tyres that are so hard they cannot get any warmth into them until after about 10-15 laps, which is 9-14 laps more than they have for qualifying. Their race pace after extended running at Monaco & Germany was quite quick but they are starting too far back and taking too long to get up to speed. It is not just their tyres however. The fact that the cars run faster on heavy tanks than they do on low fuel is a dead giveaway to a serious lack of downforce and balance. It is interesting to note that they had to take downforce out of the car at Monaco to get any sort of balance. Everyone else cranks it on there.

Also interesting to see just how slow the BAR-Hondas were now that they have to run their car at the same weight as everyone else. Neither Button or Sato were able to run in the top ten in Germany, indeed Sato spent much of the race battling with the Jordans. They have a lot of work to do to regain any sort of respectability. Good to see Red Bull still punching well above their weight with excellent performances from DC in both Monaco, where a podium was not out of the question until being rammed by Schumacher in the Mirabeau fiasco and a superb forth in Germany despite a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Liuzzi has been a bit of a disappointment but only because he was overhyped. His performances have been no better or worse than any other rookie in his first few races and I believe that he would benefit from being relegated to the third driver for the rest of the year. Klien is back as DC’s team mate for the time being and American GP2 driver, Scott Sharp will be the third (Friday) driver in Canada & the US. Klien impressed everyone with his speed in Monaco especially through Massinet and the Casino square complex and is showing the benefits of a years experience. Liuzzi will be good, he just needs time and practice.

Even the battle for the rear end Charlie is hotting up. With the Minardi PS05 starting to show some (relative) pace they are doing what they set out to do as their objective and that is to battle and beat the Jordans.

The only dark spot is the form of Sauber and Villeneuve. And after Monaco the less said, the better. Five dramatic and exciting Grand Prixs in a row. Just a year ago, who’d a thunk it?

Sam Snape

7-6 2005

Oran Park Touring Car Festival

Oran Park’s Touring Car Festival, originally planned for January, finally kicked off on the last Sunday of April. Due to the abundance of historic race meetings around the country at this time of year, apart from the over 3-litre Group N class, the fields were smaller than the organisers would have hoped but what the event lacked in quantity, however, was certainly made up for by the quality of the races. There was rarely a race that had a winning margin of more than 2 seconds, indeed most were under one, and every race had the enthusiastic crowd giving at least one driver a rousing ovation. Ironically, unlike the entry, the crowd was larger than had been expected to the extent that by 10;30 the organisers had run out of tickets and had to hurriedly arrange for more to be delivered. In the end a crowd in excess of three thousand turned out to see these immaculately maintained, ageing racecars doing their thing once again. With a 17-race programme, numerous parades and the likes of John Goss and Harry Firth meeting the fans and signing autographs, there was plenty to keep the crowd happy.

In the Under 3-litre Group N class there were just eight entries, 4 EH Holdens, 2 Ford Cortinas, 1 Ford Capri and one Volvo 144S and it was Harvey Felton who dominated the class with three wins out of four in his Ford Capri. The most excitement though was provided by Brad Harris in his EH Holden. After a lurid spin in race one that started at the dogleg and ended at the entry to the final turn he fought his way back through the field to fourth in race 2 and won race three by passing Felton’s Capri in the last corner.

The over 3-litre Group N races were the highlight of the day with the largest fields and the best racing. In a field of 16 that comprised plenty of Holden Toranas, Kingswoods, Monaros and Ford Falcons it was Bob Cox in his Mustang, Cameron Tilley in the push button automatic Valiant S and Cameron Warner in a Falcon that made up the top 3 in all three races. Cox in the Mustang won three out of four with a largest winning margin of four tenths of a second over Tilley in the final Trophy race. Tilley in the Valiant won the other race, race 2, by just under 2 seconds and Warner was third in all four. After finishing just six tenths of a second behind winner Cox in Race 1 Warner was left a little behind by the ferocity of the fight between Cox and Tilley in the other three races which saw plenty of sideways cornering, side by side racing and the odd bit of panel banging as these two battled for supremacy. Not by much though, as there was only one race in which the top three were separated by more than 3 seconds.

After this the Group A class had a hard act to follow. The fact that David Towe in the beautiful JPS BMW M3 sat out the first two races while changing diff ratios didn’t help. All four races were dominated by the Nissan Skyline’s of Terry Ashwood and Roderick Markland ahead of a thin field of Commodores and a Mitsubishi Starion. Markland won the first by just two tenths but had to give best to Ashwood for the rest. Towe finally got the M3 working to his liking in the Trophy race to take second at the end of the day.

The final class on show was for the Group C cars and was also disappointingly thin on entries. It got thinner throughout the day to the extent that with just three runners left their Trophy race was combined with that of the Group A cars. Phil Kirkham was set to dominate the day until, having won the first two races comfortably, he lost a wheel in race three and the resulting suspension damage kept him out of the Trophy race. Frank Binding, in the uniquely camouflaged Army Reserve XD Falcon won the final two races easily from Richard Jones in the K-Mart Commodore. The saving grace for this class were the battles between Binding and Chris Hinton in the ex-Bob Morris Channel 7/Breville Torana A9X during the first two races that were equally as entertaining as the Cox/Tilley Group N tussles. Hinton took second ahead of Binding by under half a second in both the first two races but overheating set in and except for a couple of parade laps for Bob Morris himself, the car was not seen in action again.

The final race of the day was for Group N Holden Toranas for the Harry Firth Trophy. Only 5 made it to the start after a hard days racing and except for a fine dice between the first two the field was fairly spread out by the end of the 11 laps. Simon Phillips held on to take the win in his XU1 by just over two tenths of a second from the similarly mounted Scott Gorman.

So ended an excellent days entertainment. The fields may have been a bit thin but this Festival is a fine idea and was very well presented. This was a good basis for an event that will hopefully it will grow into a permanent and larger event in the future. Perhaps they could include additional classes next time, as events such as the Goodwood Revival have shown, the sight of huge Mk1 Jaguars and Chevy Impalas battling it out with Minis is always hugely entertaining and could not but help to add to what promises to be a fine addition to the national Historic racing calendar.

Sam Snape

1-5-04

SAN MARINO GRAND PRIX

Brilliant, superb, outstanding, nail-biting, nerve-wracking, fantastic. Just some of the adjectives that can be used for the San Marino Grand Prix. Ironically enough it is only due to the total butchering of the once over-taking friendly Imola circuit by the introduction of those hideous post ’94 chicanes that gave this race such an exciting finish. Had this been the pre ’94 track Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari would have simply swept up behind Alonso through the flat out Tamburello sweeper, cruised around the outside at Villeneuve, outbraked him on the inside at Tosa and vanished into the distance. Nowadays the atrociously designed chicanes at Tamburello and Villeneuve disrupt the flow so much that overtaking at these corners is now virtually impossible even if you are in a car that is 2 seconds a lap faster such as the Red Baron was in on Sunday.

Winner, Fernando Alonso admitted that his strategy was to slow right down on the entry and beginning of these corners to slow Schumacher and rely on the Renault’s better traction and acceleration to keep him at bay. The sort of tactics you would expect at the Hungaroring, not the once majestic and flowing Imola. It is even more ironic that this emasculation of the track named after Enzo Ferrari’s son, Dino, cost the Ferrari team it’s first victory of the year and allowed Renault to keep it’s unbroken victory record this season. Schumacher however, was the sensation of the race. After his qualifying mistake left him 13th on the grid he was stuck behind his brother until the first stops. The German then unleashed a blistering series of laps to climb from 10th to 3rd before he stopped on lap 27. He then closed remorselessly on Button in 2nd and passed him for the lead on lap 47 after Alonso had made his final stop. He came out from his final stop just 1.5 seconds behind Alonso and this set the stage for the final, nail-biting 12 laps. This is not to take anything away from Alonso. He showed all the skill, speed and intelligence that we knew was there, soaked up a massive amount of pressure on worn tyres without cracking to claim his first hat-trick of wins and give him a comfortable lead in the championship. Even if Schumacher won every race for the rest of the year and Alonso finished second, it would take Schumacher till the second last round to take the lead in the championship. It is not very likely that either driver will have such reliability and even less so that they will finish every race in that order, especially now that McLaren have found qualifying speed so we look to be in for a very, very interesting year. It would be interesting to know where Raikkonen would have finished had the McLaren not broken a drive shaft. He was, after all, pulling away in the lead quite nicely from Alonso when his car let him down. How hard was he pushing? Did the McLaren have the same raw pace as the Ferrari? Assuming he was on a similar fuel strategy to team-mate Wurz (he pitted third last on both occasions) one would conclude that he would have finished well ahead of Alonso. What if Schumacher had not made the mistake in final qualifying and started somewhere in the first couple of rows? The battle-royal between him, Alonso and a reliable Raikkonen would have been an absolute beauty. Maybe in Spain…If, if, if…F1 is if spelt backwards.

These three drivers team-mates had totally opposite weekends. Giancarlo Fisichella in the Renault had his recent woes continue with a failure on the Renault that pitched him off the road at Tamburello and into the tyre barriers. He has not finished a race since his win at Melbourne. Rubens Barrichello in the Ferrari lasted just 17 laps before an electrical gremlin put an end to his day and in the McLaren, Alexander Wurz had all the reliability that Raikkonen didn’t and finished a strong fourth. An exceptional drive for someone who has not started a race since he finished 7th in Malaysia in 2000 in the uncompetitive last Benetton. Will Montoya be back for Spain? Who knows, but if Wurz is to stand in again an even more competitive showing is likely so that is something else to look forward to.

BAR seemed to make just as much of a leap back to the right end of the grid since Bahrain as Ferrari with Button starting and finishing in 3rd and Sato starting 6th and finishing 5th. On paper a fine effort, however, Button’s car was found to be underweight after the race and fuel was removed from a “hidden” compartment. Whether this was an innocent mistake by the team or deliberate cheating is now the subject of an FIA enquiry and the teams placings at Imola are still under question. If the team is found guilty of deliberate cheating, a team official had advised the scrutineers at the weigh-in that the car was empty of all fluids prior to the extra fuel being found, then even harsher penalties are likely to be applied. The last two teams to be found guilty of deliberate cheating, Toyota in the World rally Championship in 1996 and Tyrrell in F1 in 1984 were both disqualified from the championship and banned from competing for the remainder of the year. The results of the enquiry should be made public on Wednesday so watch this space.

With so many teams making great strides forward, someone had to go backwards, Someone was Toyota and Williams. Toyota started 5th (Trulli) and 10th (Ralf) but ended the day in 7th (Trulli) and 8th (Ralf) on the road. Ralf was then penalised 25 seconds for unsafe driving in the pits and this dropped him back to 11th in the final standings. Williams weekend started well with Webber a fine 4th on the grid and Heidfeld in 8th, about where the car should be on it’s current pace. Both drivers lost places at the start but Webber showed great fight to regain 5th place from Sato around the outside at Piratella on lap 1. From there he was stuck behind Trulli’s Toyota until the first stops. It was then that the team made a very bad mistake and called Webber in early for fuel. It meant that he pitted at the same time as Trulli who beat him back out onto the track even though the Williams team had short fuelled him. All this meant that once again he was stuck behind the Toyota until the second stops and as he then had to stop early, he came out with a heavy fuel load while every one else was running light on almost empty tanks. Webber eventually finished in a miserable 9th place behind his team-mate Heidfeld. More points could still be theirs however, with the BAR saga still to be finalised.

The other excellent performance of the weekend came from the Sauber boys. Massa would have started in eighth place had he not changed a down on power engine. Starting 18th effectively finished his weekend but it still gave us a spirited dice with Coulthard in the Red Bull. Villeneuve was finally allowed to set his car up in the seemingly bizarre fashion that he likes and his performance was transformed. Still not quite as quick as Massa, who has had a lot more time to get it sorted out, but he was breathing down the Brazilian’s neck all weekend. He started 11th and had a fine race to finish in a worthy 6th place, taking advantage of every opportunity given to him. Again it will be interesting to see how JV progresses if he is allowed to continue with this set-up.

As for the rest, Red Bull are slowly slipping down the grid as the larger teams get their acts together with both drivers qualifying only in front of the Jordans and the Minardis. Debutant Liuzzi got the jump on Coulthard at the start and there he stayed. It was a fine debut for the Italian as he qualified within a tenth of a second of his team-mate and led him through-out the race. The Jordans had their usual reliable run near the rear of the field with Karthikeyan again out-doing team-mate Montiero in qualifying as well as the race. The sleek new Minardis were never likely to finish and so it proved. The cars were simply too new to either qualify well and with limited testing none of the teething bugs had been ironed out. A lengthy test this week at Mugello should be a great help and we are likely to see a more representative performance in Spain next weekend. Not likely to be on pole though. Even with the new car their stated aim is only to beat Jordan in the Championship. They need a lot more money to do anything else.

RESULT/DRIVER CAR LAPS/GAP COMMENTS 1 Fernando Alonso Renault 62/1"27'41.951 Ave Speed 129.947 mph/209.085 kph 2 Michael Schumacher Ferrari +0'00.215 - 3 Jenson Button BAR +0'10.481 - 4 Alexander Wurz McLaren +0'27.554 - 5 Takuma Sato BAR +0'34.783 - 6 Jacques Villeneuve Sauber +1'04.442 - 7 Jarno Trulli Toyota +1'10.258 - 8 Nick Heidfeld Williams +1'11.282 - 9 Mark Webber Williams +1'23.297 - 10 Vitantonio Liuzzi Red Bull +1'23.764 - 11 Ralf Schumacher Toyota +1'35.841 Includes 25sec penalty-pit lane violation 12 Felipe Massa Sauber 61 - 13 David Coulthard Red Bull 61 - 14 Narain Karthikeyan Jordan 61 - 15 Tiago Montiero Jordan 60 - RETIREMENTS Christijan Albers Minardi 20 Hydraulic fluid leak Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 18 Electrical Kimi Raikkonen McLaren 9 Drive shaft Patrick Friesacher Minardi 8 Clutch Giancarlo Fisichella Renault 5 Accident

FASTEST LAP Michael Schumacher 1'21.858

LEADERS Fernando Alonso 46 (9-23,25-42,50-62) Kimi Raikkonen 8 (1-8) Jeson Button 5 (24,43-46) Michael Schumacher 3 (47-49)

POINTSCORE Alonso 36 Trulli 18 Fisichella 10 M.Schumacher 10 R.Schumacher 9 Coulthard 9 Barrichello 8 Montoya 8 Raikkonen 7 Webber 7 Heidfeld 7 Button 6 Wurz 5 Sato 4 De la Rosa 4 Klien 3 Villeneuve 3 Massa 2

Renault 46 Toyota 27 McLaren-Mercedes 24 Ferrari 18 Williams-BMW 14 Red Bull-Cosworth 12 BAR-Honda 10 Sauber-Ferrari 5

Sam Snape

27-4-05

BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX

Bloody Hell…two entertaining Grand Prixs in a row. What will they think of next, overtaking for the lead, that might be asking a bit much. Although just think of how much fun it would have been had Pedro de la Rosa been in second place and putting some of those moves on the blur in blue. Speaking of whom, the young Spaniard added to his already glittering reputation by showing just how well he could deal with pressure. Perhaps it’s a national trait, after all being chased by very large bulls with very, very large horns probably puts having the Red Baron, von Schumacher (or the Red Devil as some would describe him) up your arse in a F1 race into perspective.

The fun all began in the week before the race when Juan Pablo Montoya fractured his shoulder after falling in a game of tennis. Some nasty folk suggested that he was playing tennis whilst on a motocross bike at about 80 kph and DC, now that he is out of Ronspeak central, commented that this is what happens when fat guys go into training. Oh what these wags will say when they are let off the leash. This gave Pedro de la Rosa his chance to show what he could really do in a car worthy of the name “Grand Prix car”. After out-qualifying his much vaunted Finnish team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen and having a very aggressive, and highly entertaining, drive to fifth place he was asked if he thought that he had proved a point. He responded by saying that he had proved a point to Niki Lauda. Those with a sufficiently long memory will recall that Lauda sacked de la Rosa from Jaguar and replaced him with that highly talented racer, Antonio Pizzonia, just before being sacked himself.

Yet again “les Blues” looked the most likely once practice started and so it proved for the Italian run, British based, French team. Although until the first qualifying session neither driver topped the sheets they were always there or there-abouts. In session one Alonso planted his Renault on pole with time to spare and Fisichella, who had to go out early due to his non-finish in the previous race (the mistake in Malaysia, the prang in Sepang, the blunder down under you really could go on for ages) did very well to end up fifth, just six tenths down on his team-mate. Fisichella then had a huge lock up early in his second run and would start from a disappointing tenth. Not that it made any difference to his race as on lap 4 le engine went le pop and he popped off into the shade for a cool one. Alonso on the other hand was simply impregnable. Under huge pressure from a revived Ferrari of Schumacher in Q2 he took pole without any hint of an error and then fended off the German’s almost intimate attentions for the first twelve laps before the Red Baron’s Focker, sorry, Ferrari, spiralled out of the fight. After that it was a cruise for “les blues” to yet another untroubled win.

Thankfully this was not in France so the ITV TV director didn’t concentrate on the Renault lapping like a metronome all by itself and showed the fun that was being had behind. And what fun it was. The new Ferrari showed promise with the Red Baron being well up in all practice sessions and qualifying second. The new Ferrari showed no promise at all with the Red Baron shot down with hydraulic problems early in the race and poor Barrichello having to sit out all but the first practice session while a new gearbox was flown in from Maranello. He eventually qualified a hideous 16th. Or perhaps Bridgestone had come with some very sticky tyres that would quick early (hence good in qualifying) but would fade as the race went on. By the way that Barrichello came up through the field in the first half of the race and then went back down through the field in the second half of the race gives us a clue in this matter. The Bridgestone press release after the race titled “Bridgestone encouraged by Bahrain Performance” gave everyone a good laugh.

BAR had their now customary awful weekend again qualifying in the lower half of the grid, 11th for Button and 13th for Sato, and both failing to finish. Sato’s brakes melted after just 27 laps and Button’s clutch melted 19 laps later. One wonders if Honda, who are spending lots of money to have TV adds in every break on Australian TV stating that all this wonderful F1 technology is going into their road cars, is getting across the image it really wants. It was also hard to tell if Jenson Button was less pleased with yet another car failure or that the ITV camera man was getting a wonderful shot of the inside of his flaring nostrils as he stalked back down the pit-lane.

Williams found loads of pace and then lost it again. Mark Webber actually set the fastest lap of the weekend in the fourth practice session with a 1’29.527 that was three tenths better than Alonso’s best in qualifying. Both drivers qualified well with Heidfeld in fourth and Webber in fifth but the race didn’t go quite to plan. Heidfeld went out when his Bimmer went bang after 25 laps so the Bimmer boys told Mark to back off on the revs. He was then driving so hard to keep the Flying Finn behind him that he had what will have to be the biggest lose of the year without hitting anything. It is a good thing that the walls are a long way back in Bahrain. He recovered and got back onto the track in fifth, having lost two places, but then had to defend against the flying De la Rosa with some very large flat spots on his tyres. With knackered tyres it was just a matter of time before the “other” Spaniard got past but what a great fight it was. De la Rosa set fastest lap of the race catching Webber and then tried passing at just about every corner. Webber defended as if his life depended on it but with just four laps to go the inevitable happened and Pedro disappeared into the distance.

In a complete mirror image of the Williams weekend, McLaren had no pace and then found it. For whatever reason the McLaren just is not quick enough in qualifying and they started in 8th and 9th places with De la Rosa surprisingly the faster of the two. Raikkonen however had the better start and proved that the McLaren has good race pace by coming through the field in his usual quick, but non-spectacular way, and finished a strong third. De la Rosa on the other hand was nothing if not spectacular. In his chasing and passing of first Sato, then Button, Barrichello and Webber, he tried every which way (including loose) to get by. He overtook more drivers in this one race alone, including himself twice, than most do in an entire season to finish a hugely entertaining fifth and took the fastest lap of the race as well. Almost makes you hope that Montoya is not fit in time for Imola in three weeks so that we get to see this again. There is no certainty however, that Montoya not being fit, De la Rosa will get the drive. It might well go to Alexander Wurz who is McLaren’s official reserve driver and who was very quick in practice, setting Friday’s fastest time.

Sauber had another average weekend with both drivers qualifying well down the field. They managed to salvage something however with both Massa and Villeneuve having steady races running in line astern for much of the event. Massa finished a fine seventh to give him and the team their first points of the year and Villeneuve, who made a good start had his best race of the year and would have taken the ailing Barrichello and captured the final point had he not been butted off the road by the Red Bull of Coulthard with just two laps to go.

Red Bull continued to impress with Klien taking a fine seventh on the grid ahead of both McLarens and Fisichella. Coulthard was not as quick this weekend and started from 14th. Klien unfortunately had an electrical gremlin and they could not get the car started until the race was five laps old so in the end he didn’t bother going out. Coulthard had a tardy start but then had a steady race and, apart from doing something to Villeneuve’s rear end that is illegal in many countries, especially Muslim ones such as Bahrain, finished in eighth place to take that final point. To the amusement of many, Red Bull are still in front of Ferrari in the constructors championship. Who would’ve thunk it?

The other form team of the year so far, Toyota, had another good meeting. Trulli, who seems to be in the process of showing Ralf Schumacher that he (Ralf) is not as good as he thought he was put it all together again to start from third, almost take second at the start from an over aggressive (how surprising) Michael Schumacher, and finish an un-troubled second after the demise of the Ferrari. That he stayed close enough to Alonso to again lead the race during the pit stop sequences says much about his race pace this year. In contrast, Ralf was again off the pace after first qualifying and the team had to send him out in the second with a light fuel load to make up places on the grid. Starting from sixth he lost a ton of places at the first stop but ran fast enough to keep just in touch with Webber and Raikkonen and would end up in fourth place at the end after a solid race.

Down in the Bridgestone shod back-marker world all the rookies had another solid weekend with three out of the four, Montiero, Friesacher and Albers, making it to the finish in the last three places. At this point that is about all they can dream of as they are being supplied with tyres that are totally unsuitable, they are designed for Ferrari remember, and the cars are generally at least a second a lap off the pace of the slowest Michelin runners. Karthikeyan was the unlucky one of the quartet pulling out after just two laps with electrical dramas in the Jordan.

Sam Snape

6-4-05

RESULT/DRIVER CAR LAPS/GAP COMMENTS 1 Fernando Alonso Renault 57/1:29;18.531 Ave Speed 128.702 mph/207.082 kph 2 Jarno Trulli Toyota +0'13.409 - 3 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren +0'32.063 - 4 Ralf Schumacher Toyota +0'53.272 - 5 Pedro de la Rosa McLaren +1'04.988 - 6 Mark Webber Williams +1'14.701 - 7 Felipe Massa Sauber 56 - 8 David Coulthard Red Bull 56 - 9 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 56 - 10 Tiago Montiero Jordan 55 - 11 Jacques Villeneuve Sauber 54 Suspension 12 Patrick Friesacher Minardi 54 - 13 Christijan Albers Minardi 53 - RETIREMENTS Jenson Button BAR 46 Clutch Takuma Sato BAR 27 Brakes Nick Heidfeld Williams 25 Engine Michael Schumacher Ferrari 12 Hydraulics Giancarlo Fisichella Renault 4 Engine Narain Karthikeyan Jordan 2 Electrical NS Christian Klien Red Bull - Electrical

FASTEST LAP Pedro de la Rosa 1'31.447

POINTSCORE Alonso 26 Trulli 16 Fisichella 10 R.Schumacher 9 Coulthard 9 Barrichello 8 Montoya 8 Webber 7 Raikkonen 7 Heidfeld 6 De la Rosa 4 Klien 3 M.Schumacher 2 Massa 2 Renault 36 Toyota 25 McLaren-Mercedes 19 Williams-BMW 13 Red Bull-Cosworth 12 Ferrari 10 Sauber-Ferrari 2

MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX

How things can change in just twelve months. This year at Sepang it was hot, very bloody hot and at the end of the race there was not a Ferrari in sight. It was hot enough to turn the usually “cool” Flavio Briatore of Renault into a sweat soaked wet patch and hot enough to ensure that the Bridgestone tyres, that had such a good run with cooler than normal weather last year, were woefully off the pace. So much so that the only cars behind the Ferraris on the grid were the Minardis, Jordans, Saubers and stand in driver, Anthony Davidson’s BAR. Added to the heat were the “1000%” humidity, a smoke haze from God knows how many forest fires, two fairly vigorous illnesses (Sato & Trulli), one bereavement (Trulli) and one set of broken ribs (Webber). It all added up to a fairly uncomfortable weekend. Thank the lord it was a good race.

And unlike the Melbourne snooze fest two weeks ago this one was full of incident and actual overtaking. Not all the overtaking worked, admittedly, but many of the drivers have probably forgotten how to do it over the last few seasons. Fernando Alonso in the Renault, who had actually figured out how to overtake people at Melbourne didn’t need to refine that particular skill here as he was only ever headed during the pitstop sequences in an untroubled run to the victors flag, much like his team-mate Fisichella in Melbourne. Alonso was simply imperious, a driver on top of his game in the best car in the field and on the best tyres. From Saturday morning onwards it seemed inevitable that he was going to win the race and so it proved. Team-mate Fisichella on the other hand had the exact opposite type of weekend. Seeming to be overly cautious about his engine, he was a couple of tenths slower than Alonso in every session from Saturday onwards and apart from one lap in the lead during the first stops, was running an ever decreasingly comfortable third until his unflattering exit, taking out Webber’s Williams after having already lost third to it on the previous corner. For whatever reason, Fisichella had been in fairly serious tyre and handling difficulties from the start and was loosing whole seconds per lap, not only to Alonso at the front, but to the rather dramatic Webber, Heidfeld, Ralf Schumacher battle that was looming large in his mirrors. It is to Fisichella’s credit that he tried to fight back after having lost the spot, but very much an entry in the debit column for the application of that fight-back. To dive down the inside, on the very dirty line where there is so much rubbish and so little grip, on completely knackered tyres and brake so, so late was not just asking for trouble, but demanding it. He obviously believed that he had to retake Webber immediately to have any chance of a podium finish but with twenty laps still to go he should have realized that he really had no chance of holding Webber off for ever and tried to conserve his car for the best finish possible. That team boss Flav was in his ear on the radio all day telling him to speed up probably didn’t assist in a calm reflection of the situation but it was still a pretty serious case of brain fade from the likable Italian.

Webber and Williams were having one of those weekends where everything is going as well as can be expected and having qualified a very strong fourth, Webber was getting stronger as the race progressed. Apart from getting nurfed by Ralf Schumacher in the Toyota in the final turn, a very similar move to that of Fisichella I might add, but with less severe consequences, and almost losing his spot to team-mate Nick Heidfeld in the ensuing confusion, Mark was well on his way to his first F1 podium. He would not have caught Alonso or Trulli but he had already taken third from Fisichella when he got bitten by the brainless bolt of blue. This left Heidfeld to run comfortably to third in his place after a strong drive from his tenth place on the grid. Had he not made a mistake in second qualifying session who knows, he may have threatened Trulli for second.

Trulli in the Toyota had one of those drives that he is capable of when inspired, like Monaco last year, and the fact that he had lost a friend in the past week and had a nasty stomach bug that required medical treatment seemed to put him in the mood. He was on the pace all weekend, putting the Toyota on the front row for the second time in succession, and held a comfortable second for the entire race. He even led for a couple of laps after Alonso made his second stop. A brave and brilliant drive by the much maligned Italian. Not something that could be said for team-mate Ralf however. A competent performance that was not quite on Trulli’s level all meeting. The ham-fisted passing attempt on Webber could have cost him third or fourth as the bingle busted his barge-boards (well named in this instance) and he began to drop back immediately from the battle with Webber, Fisichella & Heidfeld. That he finished fifth is only thanks to Fisichella.

McLaren had another odd weekend. Both drivers chances were compromised by mistakes in qualifying although the cars again had the speed to be podium contenders. Raikkonen looked set for third at least after passing Webber during the first pit stop sequence only to have his right rear tyre disintegrate just after leaving the pits. This dropped him to 14th in front of only the Jordan’s and Albers’ Minardi but in typical fashion the Finn charged back through the field and just miss scoring the final point by 0.6 of a second. Montoya had a fairly quiet but effective race, steadily moving up through the pitstops and others retirements and finally passing Ralf for fourth place with fifteen laps to go. The Red Bull boys were at it again, proving that Melbourne was no weather induced fluke. Seventh and eighth on the grid, a full two seconds faster than the best Ferrari shows that they are a competitive little team this year. After dropping a couple of places at the start both drivers settled down and battled with the likes of Heidfeld and Montoya and kept the Ferraris behind them until Michael Schumacher jumped Klien at the final pitstop. Sixth for Coulthard and eighth for Klien was a great result and leaves the former Jaguar team in third in the championship behind Renault and Toyota.

Ferrari had another shocker by their recent standards. Actually it was a shocker but just about any standards. The Bridgestone tyres are simply not competitive at the moment. In the heat of Malaysia they were either too hard to be quick in qualifying or not hard enough to last the race distance. Schumacher chose the harder compound hoping for race pace but they were so hard that he could get no warmth into them, and hence no grip, for the one lap qualifying runs and end up in 13th place, a massive 4 seconds off Alonso’s time. His only problem then was that the tyres really had no race pace either and he had to fight hard initially to keep Felipe Massa in the Sauber in sight. That he ended as high as seventh was only due to the carnage in front of him. He passed no-one on the track and only picked up two places during the pitstops, those of Massa and Klien. Barrichello went the other way but had no more success. Qualifying 12th he ran as high as 8th after the first stops but then his tyres gave up the ghost. That and a chunk of rubber, probably from Raikkonen’s shredded rear embedded in his rear wing made the Ferrari undrivable and he finally gave up with seven laps to go.

Much to Honda’s embarrassment, BAR got just what they deserved after their cynical “retirement” on the last lap in Melbourne. After their unimpressive qualifying performance (Button was 9th and Davidson, subbing for the very ill Sato, 15th) both cars lasted just two laps before the Honda engines detonated. There was not much sympathy for the team but a fair bit for poor Anthony Davidson. After not being allowed to join Williams this year he would have been hoping to make a good impression in his first race outing in two years. Beginning practice only on Saturday, Sato had driven on Friday, he did reasonably well in qualifying and would have wanted to finish the race and put on a good show. It was not to be.

Sauber had another miserable weekend. Massa showed well early and battled hard with the Ferraris, even holding off Schumacher until the first stops but then faded to a distant 10th at the finish. Villeneuve had another very poor meeting being over a second off Massa’s pace in qualifying and lasting only 26 laps before throwing the car off at the first corner under braking. The less said the better.

The rookies could again hold their heads high. Karthikeyan had a better weekend than Monteiro in the Jordan just edging him out in qualifying but finishing a whole lap ahead in the race. Friesacher out-qualified Albers in the Minardis but he spun out on the Honda oil whilst Albers had a consistent drive through to 13th and last place. Not much more could be expected at this point.

RESULT/DRIVER CAR LAPS/GAP COMMENTS 1 Fernando Alonso Renault 56/1"31'33.736 Ave Speed 126.418 mph/203.407 kph 2 Jarno Trulli Toyota +0'24.327 - 3 Nick Heidfeld Williams +0'32.188 - 4 Juan Pablo Montoya McLaren +0'41.631 - 5 Ralf Schumacher Toyota +0'51.854 - 6 David Coulthard Red Bull +1'12.543 - 7 Michael Schumacher Ferrari +1'19.988 - 8 Christian Klien Red Bull +1'20.835 - 9 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren +1'21.580 - 10 Felipe Massa Sauber 55 - 11 Narain Karthikeyan Jordan 54 - 12 Tiago Montiero Jordan 53 - 13 Christijan Albers Minardi 52 - RETIREMENTS Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 49 Handling Giancarlo Fisichella Renault 36 Accident Mark Webber Williams 36 Accident Jacques Villeneuve Sauber 26 Spun Jenson Button BAR 2 Engine Anthony Davidson BAR 2 Engine Patrick Friesacher Minardi 2 Spun

FASTEST LAP Kimi Raikkonen 1'35.483

LEADERS Fernando Alonso 51 (1-21,25-40,43-56) Kimi Raikkonen 2 (23-24) Jarno Trulli 2 (41-42) Giancarlo Fisichella 1 (22)

POINTSCORE Alonso 16 Fisichella 10 Barrichello 8 Trulli 8 Coulthard 8 Montoya 8 Heidfeld 6 Webber 4 R.Schumacher 4 Klien 3 M.Schumacher 2 Raikkonen 1

Renault 26 Toyota 12 Red Bull-Cosworth 11 Ferrari 10 Williams-BMW 10 McLaren-Mercedes 9

Sam Snape

22-3-05