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Race weekend review 30 Jun 2003

(L to R): The podium finishers Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams, Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams and Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, European Grand Prix, Race Day, Nurburgring, Germany, 29 June 2003

A month ago BMW and Williams had yet to cement their new alliance and the engine manufacturer was openly critical of the race team's performance in the opening races of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship. But what a difference a month can make in Formula One!

Since the Monaco Grand Prix, which Juan Pablo Montoya won, the team has finished second and third in Canada and now it has finished first and second in Germany. Those three races yielded the team 47 points, compared with 31 for Ferrari and only 13 for McLaren.

And BMW and Williams have now officially extended their agreement until the end of the 2009 season.

Sir Frank Williams was asked after Sunday's success if his team, which is now only 13 points adrift of Ferrari in the constructors' championship after moving ahead of McLaren, could challenge for the 2003 title. "No," he replied, but few are being fooled by his deliberate caution. Everybody at the Grove factory firmly believes that it might snatch the title from under the noses of Ferrari and McLaren.

Certainly, Ferrari has issues to address regarding the balance of its F2003-GA. "It was a difficult race for us," technical director Ross Brawn said in Germany. "Our rivals proved to be clearly more competitive and there was not much we could do to change that situation. I don't think there is one specific area that was to blame today. We must work on the whole package to improve our performance level."

However, Schumacher said: "Considering that my lead in the world championship has now increased to seven points I cannot really complain about the result of this race. Especially as with the new points system it takes longer to catch up, except in the case of a non-finish."

Meanwhile, McLaren left Mercedes-Benz's home turf bitterly disappointed by the engine failure that probably cost Kimi Raikkonen the race, and which now leaves him those seven points adrift of Schumacher in the drivers' world championship.

"Obviously I'm extremely disappointed as we could have won today," Raikkonen said. "I had no indication that it was going to happen and the car was feeling great. But that's motor racing."

The one consolation for the team that was initially the class of the field this year, was that the MP4-17D is still every bit as competitive as the team claimed when putting back the debut of its new MP4-18 contender.

But where Ferrari has performance issues to address, and McLaren reliability issues, Williams is beginning to look like a team on the move. Another 1-2 in France next weekend could seriously change the face of the title fight.