Rivals powerless to halt Ferrari title charge
When Michael Schumacher used the word perfect in reference to Ferraris performance in Hungary, he could not have put it better.
Today we have written another extraordinary page in this companys history book: six consecutive Constructors titles and the certainty that one of our drivers will take the Drivers for a fifth consecutive time are dream results, said president Jean Todt.
It was indeed one of those very special weekends for the Scuderia, and it went deeper than that, for as well as assuaging the embarrassment that they suffered in Budapest last year at the hands of their Michelin-shod rivals, Ferrari and Bridgestone hit back by enabling Schumacher to set a new record of 12 victories in a season, and seven consecutive wins in a season. He also has doubled Ayrton Sennas victory tally of 41. They were so totally superior that all anybody else had to pick up were crumbs.
Renault got the most, with Fernando Alonsos third place finish boosting the teams points tally. Of course, Ferraris 202 points leave them untouchable, but Renaults focus is really on BAR. Going into the race their respective scores were 85 and 76; afterwards they were 91 and 83, so the gap is now only eight points with five races left. Jarno Trullis engine problem, however, proved very hurtful.
Numerically, BAR pocketed a point more than Renault, but taking fifth and sixth places after starting third and fourth has to count as a disappointment. On raceday the 006s just didnt have the edge the team had expected, and technical director Geoffrey Willis blamed that on the drivers poor starts, while team principal David Richards put on a brave face by pointing out that they pulled in a point on Renault, held station with Williams and pulled even further away from McLaren, but really they would have expected better. Willis suggested that they simply hadnt got the best out of their Michelins.
After the glitches in north America, Williams have started moving forward again, and Juan Pablo Montoya was able to pass Sato and Button on the opening lap and stay ahead without difficulty. Team mate Antonio Pizzonia had a poor start from the dirty side of the grid, but fought back again to score two points for seventh place which helped take the team to 54. Unlike BAR, Montoya thought that Williams got the best out of their car and are heading in the right direction again.
Sauber were the other happy team in Hungary, with Giancarlo Fisichella driving a very tidy race to pick up eighth and the final point. This was not what had been expected after Friday, when the teams inability to test the latest Bridgestones (because of the summer test ban) had left the drivers struggling initially with understeer. Felipe Massa, however, had that engine failure on Saturday morning and then a brake problem in the race.
There were plenty of really disappointed runners, and probably the biggest of these were McLaren. There was little sign of their Hockenheim speed after Friday, and subsequently they blamed the choice of Michelins hard compound. That left David Coulthard to struggle after Fisichella, while Kimi Raikkonens chances of points evaporated on lap 14 with a glitch in the electrics which affected the Mercedes engines fuel injection drive powerbox.
Jaguar had hoped to repeat Mark Webbers 2003 form at the Hungaroring but were unable to do so, and the Australian was only 10th, though his fastest lap left him eighth overall in the same 1m 20s bracket as Renault, BAR and Williams, so there was cause of cautious optimism. Not so at Toyota, where Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta struggled and the team failed to unlock the potential that the revised TF104B demonstrated in Germany.
Once again Nick Heidfeld did a bit of a giant-killing job for Jordan, before losing time in his second pit stop when his EJ14 fell off the jack. The German did not believe that the incident affected his finish position of 12th. Giorgio Pantano had an adventurous afternoon, bumping Zontas Toyota in the first corner, sliding off-course under pressure from Massa, and eventually succumbing to a gearbox problem.
Finally, Minardi got both cars home, albeit a long way behind.
Now that the constructors championship is settled, the main interest will centre on whether Ferraris rivals can hit back on an ultra-fast track such as Spa, where BAR, Williams and McLaren, not to mention Sauber, all fancy their chances.