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Race weekend review 16 Jun 2003

(L to R): Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams, Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari, Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams and Chris Dyer (AUS) Ferrari Race Engineer on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, Canadian Grand Prix, Race Day, Montreal, Canada, 15 June 2003

Just two seconds separated the first three finishers in Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix. But should Williams or Ferrari really have won the Canadian Grand Prix?

If you asked Patrick Head, the answer was definitely the former. "We are never happy to be second and third and we are aware there was the potential to be first and second," the Williams technical director said. "Without that spin I don't think Michael would have ever gotten by Juan and it would have been a tussle between Ralf and Juan for the win."

It was clear from the manner in which Montoya was later able to reel in the world champion and his own team-mate that Michael Schumacher was controlling the pace of the race once he had taken the lead on the 20th lap, and the reason was that the Ferraris had been in serious brake trouble in the opening laps. Interestingly, that was when Ralf Schumacher said he had a tyre graining problem with his Michelins, and at that stage of the race the blue and white car was able to control the red one.

Later, when Michael had taken the advantage, he was able to minimise his braking shortcomings, while retaining the same front tyres throughout the race helped Ralf to avoid further graining problems.

Had everyone been in the position to push as hard as they wanted - and Ralf admitted that while he was bottled up behind his brother there was nothing he could do about overtaking - it might have been a different story.

The interesting thing in all of this is how much progress Williams has made in the last three races. It has been a contender for victory in all three, and its leap to 64 points in the constructors' world championship is clear proof of its growing threat.

If Williams went up, McLaren went down in Canada. Raikkonen's qualifying spin compromised his chances even before the race began, while a recalcitrant transmission let Coulthard down. Ron Dennis was nevertheless adamant that the MP4-17D had the pace to have won, had it not been slowed by brake problems, something that pretty much everyone experienced at one stage or other on the punishing stop-go Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

This bodes well for the remaining half of the season, as does the growing menace of Renault. Jarno Trulli's wretched luck continued, but Fernando Alonso's qualifying performance was brilliant and he drove a fast and intelligent race and yet again picked up points.

Jaguar and Toyota had cause to be satisfied, with Webber and Panis respectively scoring points, but the former ran the wrong aero set-up, according to the Australian, and the latter lost the da Matta car close to the finish with a suspension problem. Nevertheless, they had better races than Sauber, Jordan and BAR, all of whom still have a way to go on reliability. Likewise, Minardi almost got both cars home, before Justin Wilson's great drive was thwarted by a gearbox problem.

The real lesson of Canada did not concern the technical side, however. Michael Schumacher's pluperfect reading and execution of his race was yet further proof that, quick as the young lions may be, the world champion is still the man to beat when the chips are down.