BIG AL

I hate team orders, but Ferrari has proved their worth

Juan Pablo Montoya, Japanese GP 2001

Juan Pablo Montoya, Japanese GP 2001 

 © The Cahier Archive

Listening to various members of the Ferrari F1 team, Michael Schumacher included, it is quite clear that the Italian squad is extremely confident it can hit the ground running at Melbourne on March 3 and get its title hat trick bid off to a spectacular flying start.

Let's hope they're wrong, is all that I can say. The last thing F1's media image requires in 2002 is a third straight Championship success for Schumi and his mates at Maranello. Yet I fear that is exactly what is going to happen. And the crucial reason it is going to happen is that Michael will be allowed his customary droit-de-seigneur(italics) when it comes to having a fast track ahead of his team-mate Rubens Barrichello.

Clever them, I say. But if I even made the hint of a suggestion to Jean Todt that he really ought to desist from all this priority treatment for Michael, he will just reply "my job is to make the best of my resources and achieve the best results for my employers." And he is absolutely right. And he could be forgiven for thinking that the rest of the F1 starting grid is utterly made not to give absolute priority to one or other of its drivers.

It really knots me up to admit it, but he could be right. McLaren-Mercedes and BMW Williams could well prove themselves as possible World Championship contenders in 2002, but it is quite possible that their title hopes will slip through their fingers like sodden bars of soap. Think about it.

The hot tip in the pit lane is that the new BMW type P82 V10 is pumping out around 870bhp which, if the case, almost certainly makes it the most powerful engine in the F1 business. There's little doubt that the new Williams FW24 will be an aerodynamic improvement on its immediate predecessor, but Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya are certainly both good enough to take sufficient points off each other during the course of the season to ensure that neither takes the Championship.

OK, I'm sure every Williams driver contract since Carlos Reutemann won the Brazilian GP ahead of Alan Jones - and against team orders - has contained a clause which says Frank and Patrick Head reserve the right to invoke team orders as and when appropriate. But such strategy goes so directly against the grain of the Williams racing philosophy that it is likely to be applied too little and too late.

Both McLaren and Williams need to give serious thought to playing Ferrari at its own game. Rather than giving them another clear run to the championship.

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