JUNE 2, 2004
Here is a quiz: When was the last time that a Formula 1 driver was publicly disappointed when he drove a new car? Drivers are by nature optimists and so always look on the bright side of life. Thus it was not surprise that Kimi Raikkonen should say positive things about the McLaren MP4-19B when it first appeared at Silverstone yesterday. The car is bound to be better than the original but the big test will come in a fortnight when we see the MP4-19B in action in Canada. It is unlikely that the team will go on with the MP4-19 unless there are fears about the logistics of taking new cars on a flyaway race in mid-season. The fact remains that the new car has the same engine and the same chassis as the original car and the MP4-19B has only benefitted from having a few nips and tucks made to the chassis, to bring down weight and lower the centre of gravity. It was simply not possible to start again from scratch. The big step forward will be in terms of aerodynamic performance because the changes to the chassis have allowed for a completely new aero package. Virtually all the mechanical parts are the same.
The biggest problem will be the engine which is not only uncompetitive but in recent weeks has also become very unreliable as the teams takes bigger risks in an attempt to improve performance in a hurry. This is the logical strategy given that the performance of the engine is not going to give the team any major results this year if major steps are not taken.
The team will probably continue with its strategy seen at the Nurburgring of running the cars light so as to appear to have better performance and while big results are unlikely the strategy could cause a few upsets for others, as was the case in Germany where Raikkonen held up Fernando Alonso and Takuma Sato to such an extent that Michael Schumacher was able to pull out an advantage of two seconds a lap.
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