Thursday, July 08, 2004

French GP comments

Another race, another 10 points for Michael. But this race the Ferrari team had to do some serious work to keep Fernando Alonso and Renault from take the race. It all started out fairly normal. Alonso got the poll with Schumacher in 2nd. At the start Alonso and Schumacher led off 1-2 and it looked like the standard Ferrari strategy in action. The race was looking like a 3 stopper and Michael would just sit on Fernando's tail and then rip off some fast laps when the Renault took it's first pit stop. But that's when things went out the window. Alonso stayed out so long that Schumacher had to bring his car in first. Now what? The whole Ferrari game plan just went out the window. Well, in the fly, Ferrari switched to a 4 stop strategy. This let Michael take the lead about mid-race and then it was just unreal. Michael whipped off fast lap after fast lap like he was riding a jet. He took a 9 second lead and extended it to 22 seconds within 8 or 9 laps! By the time Alonso brought his Renault in for their third pit stop there was no way to catch the world champion. But that wasn't the last Ferrari surprise. Rubens Barrichello, who had problems during qualifying and started 10th, had worked his way up to 4th behind the other Renault driven by the only other driver to win a race in 2004, Jarno Trulli. Having the French team take 2nd and 3rd at the French GP wouldn't be to bad. But on the last turn of the final lap, Barrichello made a gutsy move inside of Trulli and finished on the podium. Ferrari now has double the points in the Constructors Championship, 158 to the 79 that Renault has. And the only driver with a realistic chance of winning the Drivers Championship at this point is Rubens.

But the season is only half over. Many things could happen. It looks like Renault has a really strong car. BAR-Honda is still carrying a lot of potential. [Side note: Takuma Sato left the race again with a blown engine. IMO, there's definitely something funky about the fact that it's his car blowing up while his teammate Jenson Button hasn't had any engine trouble.] McLaren-Mercedes debut their new chassis, though it didn't seem to help them much.

This Sunday it'll be the British GP at Silverstone. We'll have to see if anyone can come up with something that can keep the German and Italian National anthems from being played after the race for an unprecedented 10th time this season.

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