Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Mid-Season Report

It seems we haven't gone trackside in a while. So let's remember where we were.

Frustrated by the fact that Michael Schumacher dominated the World Drivers' Championship (WDC) while Ferrari simultaneously dominated the World Constructors' Championship (WCC) the boss of the FIA -- Max Mosley -- changed the qualifying rules and weekend schedule suddenly at the beginning of the year. This annoyed the powerful teams a lot (a good thing) and didn't seem to have much effect at all on the backmarkers (an indifferent thing).

Fast forward to now, just past the halfway point of the season and we find that Michael Schumacher is leading the WDC and Ferrari is leading the WCC. But not dominating. Looking back over the races, however, it seems that it is more a combination of race-day weather and improvements by the rival teams, and especially Michelin, that have kept Ferrari's lead in check this year.

This was demonstrated in fine form at the French GP, when bad but improving weather in pre-qualifying allowed a number of back-markers to get prime qualifying spots, near the end of the session on Saturday. Despite running on a hotter, more rubberized track the back-markers qualified at the end of the grid and were serving as moving chicanes only a few laps into the race. This was probably the best demonstration that many of Max's improvements are largely inconsequential.