As the dust clears

Michael Schumacher, Japanese GP 2003

Michael Schumacher, Japanese GP 2003 

 © The Cahier Archive

With the 2003 World Championship done and dusted, the Formula 1 teams will be looking back at the successes and failures of the season and all will have plenty to consider. Ferrari has won the World Championship again but it was a victory which was botched together and had none of the dominance nor elegance of previous seasons. Michael Schumacher's scramble to eighth place in Suzuka was in many respects a reflection of the season itself. Ferrari came out the winners but the team (and specifically the tire manufacturer) did not make it easy for themselves.

But the opposition will have more pain than Ferrari because it is very clear that the BMW Williams team should have won this year's title and blew its chances. In part this was down to mechanical failures and in part because neither of the two drivers lived up their wage bills. Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher made far too many mistakes to warrant being paid the salaries they get. At the same time the team also made mistakes as well so all parties need to consider the detailed preparations for next year with great care lest they make the same mistake again.

McLaren is a similar story with the Mercedes-Benz engines being down on power and less reliable than they should have been given the money being invested. Kimi Raikkonen made the kind of mistakes one expects to see from a driver his age and David Coulthard's dislike of the one lap qualifying format was a huge disadvantage. One can sympathize a little with David but the fact is that one must play with whatever rules exist and he has fallen short in this respect. He still races very well but starting too far back has cost the team points. McLaren's biggest failure however was that it never produced the much-touted new MP4-18. A great deal of time and effort was wasted trying to develop this and perhaps that effort would have been better used if it had been directed at developing the MP4-17D. McLaren has enormous industrial capacity and can get away with a lot but up against Ferrari it will have to do better. Perhaps the pain encountered this year will pay off next year. Perhaps not.

Renault did a good job with a poor engine compensated for by a good car. They say that next year we will see a new upright V10 but we have heard recently that given the fact that the new engine may produce more power but will negate the advantages of this year's car (the low center of gravity) there is a possibility that the team will stay with the wide-angled package for one more season if the engines can be made to live for a whole Grand Prix weekend.

Of the others, all have identified weaknesses and will be trying to strengthen their packages for next season.

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