Ferrari and Michael Schumacher cracked under pressure on Sunday, but cool-headed Kimi Raikkonen proved himself a future world champion, writes CAR deputy editor John Bentley.
Malaysia showed us the future of Formula One. Kimi Raikkonen (23), the man many believe will one day take over the mantle from Michael Schumacher, notched up the first of many expected victories.
And 21-year-old Fernando Alonso, a driver many expect to become one of his major rivals, took a brilliant third after putting his Renault in a sensational pole position. The only member of what could be F1’s future triumvirate to lose out was Juan-Pablo Montoya, a victim of the first-corner chaos sparked when Michael Schumacher drove into the rear of Jarno Trulli.
Schumacher’s impetuous effort to hold off David Coulthard’s McLaren while apparently not noticing that Trulli was rapidly closing the door on him, was the defining moment of the race. If all the protagonists had got through turn two intact, we might have seen a very different – but no less exciting – battle, with old enemies Ferrari and McLaren at each others’ throats, and Montoya and the Renault pair playing a spoiling role.
That said, the outcome of the second grand prix of the season owed much to the new qualifying regulations. The need to make rapid strategy decisions on far less information than previously, has introduced a wild card in qualifying and the races.
When front-runners start further down the grid as a result of running heavier fuel loads, there’s obviously a greater risk of contact as they jockey for position at the start. And different fuel strategies can create a really jumbled-up order in the race itself until all the pit stops have been played out.
Ironically, the biggest beneficiary of the new order has been McLaren, a team that remains implacably opposed to the new format. The Woking team’s new-found pace – the result of better power from the Mercedes V10 and more suitable tyres from supplier Michelin – has put huge pressure on Ferrari, and the reigning champions, who accepted the new rules with little protest, have lost out rather badly.
In both races this season, Ferrari has been wrong-footed by what I can only call “the jitters”. In Australia the problem was a poor tyre choice at the start, compounded by a minor error by Schumacher that damaged his barge boards. And in Malaysia the Scuderia’s efforts were once again compromised, this time by poor staying power from the team’s Bridgestone tyres and the resultant need for Schumacher not to lose track position to the challenging McLaren’s.
In short, Ross Brawn, Jean Todt and Michael Schumacher are being forced to make quick decisions under pressure – and their slips are showing. – John Bentley
Original article from Car