The Atlas F1 2003 Gamble
At the start of every season, the Atlas F1 team members do the brave thing and put their bets down on who will be the World Champion and which team will win the Constructors Championship. Each member was asked to bet on the top 5 drivers, ranking them from first to fifth, and likewise for the top 5 teams. The Number One received 5 points, Number Two received 4 points, and so forth. Collecting together everyone's votes results in what Atlas F1 predicts will be the WC and CC standings at the end of the season. Eight months from now, we'll know if we rule or if we're just a bunch of fools...
The Atlas F1 Drivers WC Gamble
The Atlas F1 Constructors WC Gamble
Jo Ramirez (JR)
1. M. Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Coulthard; 4. Montoya; 5. Raikkonen
Michael, in addition to being the fastest driver, has the best racecraft of all of them. This, together with the new rules, a faultless Ferrari and Ross Brawn's brains, will enable him to shine again in 2003. Rubens will only have to follow.
David Coulthard has been very quick in testing, coupled with a fierce determination which will only need the reliability of his equipment to make him a force to be reckoned with. JP Montoya is eager to show his bosses that their criticism is unfounded and that he is a serious contender for the WC. Kimi is just a joy to watch, gathering more and more maturity as time goes by.
Ferrari cannot lose their supremacy of last year in just 12 months. Impossible! McLaren have been working harder than anybody, and they just hate to lose. Williams should put to good use all that BMW power and go for it. Renault have to be there and BAR, with its new management structure and Honda concentrating to one team, must produce results. Is it now or never?
I do not know about you, but I definitely have mixed feelings about this year's Formula One show. For those of us who have devoted our lives to the sport, it is quite embarassing to keep seeing all these weekly changes on the eve of the season, initiated by our governing body, the FIA. But let's see how it pans out!
1. M. Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Montoya; 4. R.Schumacher; 5. Coulthard
'Coward' is the first word that comes to mind when I look at my list of who I consider will be the top five drivers and teams in 2003. The first time I ever went to Las Vegas I sat on a black jack table for about three hours, started with 20 dollars and left with 60. At the end of it the dealer, who had been kind to me as he realised this was my first time, told me I was a card player and not a gambler! I think this sentiment is true from my contribution to the Atlas F1 Gamble.
I always watch with interest the winter testing but know the times mean absolutely nothing. Just because at the end of a day one of the less successful teams sends its driver out when the track is at its fastest with the minimum amount of fuel doesn't mean we suddenly have a new star. It usually means they want to get some good publicity for their sponsors as they know once they get to the real thing in Melbourne it will be back to the status quo.
I do hope Ferrari will let their drivers 'race' this year, but still think Michael will come out on top. He is a brilliant driver and lives and breathes the sport. He deserves a record breaking sixth Championship, even though I would love to see my mate the Monster - Juan Pablo Montoya - up there.
I have thought long and hard about who will be best of the rest in the teams and I have plumped for Renault and Jordan. The reason I have put Jordan above the likes of BAR and Jaguar is I think they have a good engine and perhaps the reality shock they have got from losing sponsors may focus EJ's fertile mind on how to get his team back up there winning again. People such as Eddie are often best when their backs are against the wall, and he is certainly in this position for 2003.
My one main wish for 2003 is we see the end of wranglings that can only harm the sport, and that F1 puts on a show - remember this is show business and not sport - for the paying public at home and at the races.
1. M. Schumacher; 2. Coulthard; 3. Barrichello; 4. R.Schumacher; 5. Raikkonen
The new qualifying scheme and points system will place a strong premium on consistency, experience and reliability. For that reason it's hard to bet against the strongest teams and drivers. Michael will collect an unprecedented sixth drivers' trophy and lead his team to the constructors' cup as well. McLaren will bounce back from its disappointing 2002 season to put DC second among the drivers and Kimi fifth and to put the Mercedes-powered cars second among the car makers.
Benefiting from the new points system and the experience of Olivier Panis, Toyota will surprise with strong reliability and strong finishes to take the coveted fourth place in points behind the Big Three, followed by Renault. Ralf Schumacher will show again that he's the winningest BMW Williams driver with a fourth-place finish in the drivers' points, behind Rubens.
1. M. Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Raikkonen; 4. Coulthard; 5. R.Schumacher
When the rules change, budgets rule. More than ever. Ferrari have the biggest and the best, plus they already have Schumi. McLaren are throwing everything at staying in the chase, Williams will gain ground - but not enough - and both Toyota and BAR (with Honda) will have too much for the rest of the mid-fielders.
At the back, Minardi are in danger of perishing. Sauber could spring a major surprise and hit the top five, possibly as high as fourth, but will need more budget through the year to stay there.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Coulthard; 3. Montoya; 4. Barrichello; 5. Raikkonen
Head or heart? That's really the issue in trying to make any sensible predictions going into a season that has already had more off-track drama and aggravation than any other in the last decade, not to mention a series of rules changes - the full ramifications of which are still to reveal themselves. But despite all this, Michael and Ferrari are surely just too smart and have too much of a performance advantage to be overtaken by anything other than a combination of minor miracles.
If Michelin finally get real with their F1 effort, then DC might just be the man to benefit from a tyre advantage, and Montoya must surely realise by now the mental effort required to win on a regular basis. Either of these two drivers have the ability to mount a Championship challenge given the right equipment. Rubens as always will do as well as he is allowed to do, but should still outscore Raikkonen over the entire season.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Coulthard; 4. Raikkonen; 5. Montoya
It's hard to see how Ferrari will be beaten after improving their dominant F2002 with the all new F2003-GA machine. And Michael Schumacher will be Champion again. This is a crunch year for Williams, but they will lose out to McLaren to be runners-up. Renault will retain their fourth place and Jordan will make the leap back up to fifth after a winter of struggle.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Montoya; 4. Coulthard; 5. Trulli
Who the hell knows? There have been so many rule changes in the off-season that it seems to be a bit of a crap shoot to pick who is going to do well. It's always easy to pick Schumacher and Ferrari, as he is the best current driver and the team is the class of the field, and Barrichello should be there to pick up the crumbs. The question for me is how much longer will this streak of finishes last for Michael?
McLaren are best of the rest, with the drivers expected to be pretty close to each other in the points, and Montoya getting on top of his teammate, who will look for an easier drive elsewhere. Renault should be good (and I picked Trulli because of his qualifying abilities, and a desire to see anyone not from the top 3 teams do something). Sauber should get by on driver strength and Ferrari engines, but it'll be close in the mid field, as ever.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Montoya; 3. Barrichello; 4. Raikkonen; 5. R.Schumacher
Once again, the top six will be drawn exclusively from the Ferrari/Williams/McLaren struggle. With both Ferrari drivers virtually assured of a top five spot due to their expected mechanical superiority, that leaves a toss-up between the Williams and McLaren pairings. It would be tempting to omit Kimi Raikkonen, based purely on his lack of experience. Yet I feel that the Finn has the ability to build on an impressive second season with McLaren, and become even better. Thus, teammate Coulthard is my pick to miss out on the Top Five in this year's WDC.
McLaren's much-vaunted efforts to catapult themselves back to the top will only pay off by 2004, and this will be a season of stabilising and consolidating. Williams will pip them to second behind Ferrari. Renault did just enough last season to merit a 'best of the rest' classification, and my heart (if not my head) tells me that Jordan will re-emerge as a serious threat to the major corporate players this season.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Raikkonen; 4. Montoya; 5. Coulthard
Michael Schumacher is the best driver with best car, an unbeatable combination. His teammate, Rubens Barrichello, while a much improved driver in 2002 and in the best car as well, is unlikely to overtake Schumi to clinch the top spot but will be a very creditable second.
Kimi Raikkonen is the best driver of the rest, has potential for speed and consistency, largely depending on whether his team gives him a good car. Juan Pablo Montoya, the hot headed Colombian, has been given a strict team talk - wife out of pits, more time with mechanics etc., so I think we could see Montoya combine incredible speed with consistency. David Coulthard can be very fast on his day, but I think he has peaked for the World Championship, although he might well surprise us all and clinch it if McLaren produce the amazing car being built for the start of the European season.
Ferrari looks set to be even more impressive in 2003 than in 2002 - they will run it by a mile even with all the changes. McLaren will end up as best of rest if they can combine power with reliability. Their new car promises to be a winner.
Williams have not looked too promising in testing, but I think they'll have the horsepower and also more reliability this year. Renault are making steady progress and might well edge into the top three. As for the fifth team? Who really cares!
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Raikkonen; 4. Montoya; 5. Alonso
Even Michael Schumacher probably wishes that someone could produce a competitive car to the Ferrari, but the pre-season testing shows that a used F2002 is still faster than most of the other 2003 entries. So 2003 can only be another walkover for Maranello, with Michael and Rubens splitting the wins more evenly between them, but Michael getting his sixth WC.
McLaren-Mercedes will get the Best of the Rest award and Raikkonen (with better luck than DC) will spend his whole season battling Montoya and Ralf Schumacher, but the Finn will prove more consistent than both.
The Sauber team, with Ferrari's powerful and reliable 2002-spec engine and the Consistency Twins from Moenchengladbach, Germany - Heidfeld and Frentzen - on board, will threaten for third place in the Constructors' Championship by both cars finishing in the points lots, now that Heidfeld is fully matured and Massa is not around to wreck race cars. Peter Sauber will get a Bernie Battle of Britain award when it is all over: never has so much been done with so few on so little.
Renault's Fernando Alonso, with a decent car for the first time in his career, will be the rising star of the season, racing better than the higher-rated Trulli, who will be run off the track once too often and fall behind his 21-year old teammate in the points. Look for Alonso to manage a podium in Spain and the Regie to show some muscle this year.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Coulthard; 4. Montoya; 5. Trulli
Pretty much a carbon copy of the 2002 season at the front. Barring some form of Divine Intervention it seems that Ferrari will once more emerge triumphant, the Schumacher and Barrichello duo circulating at the front and the rest dicing for best in class. I don't think it will be quite as easy as 2002 was, but close enough. McLaren should narrowly edge Williams for the runner-up position, but Renault and Toyota will not be that far behind these perennials, with both earning wins during the season.
Last year I predicted that either Arrows or Minardi would not finish the season. While the new regulations should allow Minardi to at least get off life support for awhile, the long term health of F1 will become more of an issue than the racing this season. Look for BAR to continue to struggle and more than a few flashes of real hope from Sauber, Jordan, and Jaguar in that order. On the driver side of things, I think da Matta will have a good season and so will Raikkonen. The real battle may well be the one between Coulthard and Montoya and it just might salvage the season for the fans.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Raikkonen; 4. Montoya; 5. Coulthard
Ferrari show no signs of letting up and it will be a case of the same again this year, with Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello sharing the victories between them. The title will go in the German's favour for a record sixth world crown, but it will not be as easy as 2002.
McLaren will win the battle for second marginally ahead of Williams, while the in-fighting between Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button at BAR will inspire them to fourth place. Sauber's reliability will earn them fifth ahead of the remainder of the field.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Montoya; 3. Barrichello; 4. Raikkonen; 5. Coulthard
With the speed that the new Ferrari has shown in its first few tests, I see no reason to believe much will change. However, I expect Montoya to be the more dominant within Williams and take profit from his number one status. With Raikkonen maturing in F1, I expect him to have the upper hand on his teammate as well.
No rule change will prevent further Ferrari dominance. McLaren look better than Williams, mainly because their drivers aren't such big rivals as Montoya and Ralf. Sauber have an experienced drivers pairing this year and it would surprise me if they wouldn't score good. For the fifth spot, I'm quite undecided between Renault and Toyota. Da Matta might have a good arrival, but for the moment I give Renault the edge because Alonso already knows F1.
1. Barrichello; 2. M.Schumacher; 3. Raikkonen; 4. Montoya; 5. Coulthard
Money's not involved here, so I'll stick my neck out and say, 2003 will be Barrichello's year. Rubens will be quickest to adapt to the new qualifying format and a spate of victories early on will bolster the Brazilianís confidence. The car breaking gremlins that plagued him last season will migrate to the other side of the garage to frustrate Michael Schumacher's record breaking aspirations.
McLaren will be the most consistent threat to Ferrari with Kimi Raikonnen a regular face on the podium. Coulthard won't know what's hit him as he fails to match the iceman in what will be a very disappointing final year for him at Mclaren. Williams will be off the pace of the frontrunners until Monaco and it is Montoya who will benefit come the turn around.
The early season lack of pace will upset Ralf Schumacher resulting in repeated unforced errors sealing his out of favour status with Frank Williams and Patrick Head. Frentzen, revelling in a reliable and quick Sauber, will power the Swiss team into a comfortable fourth slot followed by a consistent if unspectacular Renault.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Raikkonen; 4. Coulthard; 5. R.Schumacher
Unless McLaren and Williams pull a big rabbit out of the magic hat I can't see any of them challenge Ferrari in 2003. Ferrari will once again be the strongest - maybe not as strong as in 2002 but still better than the other two top teams.
Behind the top three I hope it will be more exciting with BAR, Renault, Sauber, Toyota and Jaguar battling it out for 4th in the Constructors' Championship.
We can only hope that 2003 will be about racing and not about off-track battles, rule changes, folding teams, team orders and gifted wins - because the world has seen enough of that in the past 12 months.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Montoya; 4. Raikkonen; 5. R.Schumacher
2003 has seen a host of rule changes, but I don't think it will cause a big shake-up of the field at the end of the year. Ferrari, Williams, McLaren will remain the top trio, with Ferrari once more leading the way.
Pre-season testing form of McLaren and Williams has caused quite a deal of confusion, though I am hoping that Williams can shake off their seemingly poor pre-season form to hold off McLaren. Renault and Sauber should fill the last two places in the top five constructors, though they may come under pressure from other teams, BAR in particular, if they let their standard slip.
1. M.Schumacher; 2 Barrichello; 3. Raikkonen; 4. Montoya; 5. Coulthard
In years gone by teams used to get several years out of a chassis design. As recently as the late eighties the FW13 served two seasons with Williams. Why bring that up? Ferrari could run the F2002 all year and still win the title. As it is, though, the car named in honour of Gianni Agnelli will be the greatest F1 car ever. It looks like the gap from first to second has widened, and it could be McLaren in the number two spot. Schumi will take the title in a canter, with Rubens the only effective Championship rival.
Montoya, Raikkonen and Coulthard will threaten on occasion but Championship contention will probably have to wait for the Scuderia's team supreme to break up. While Ralf was only one of two drivers to take a victory off the Scuderia last year, his star is waning. The only real 'gamble' of the choice of five is Kimi in third place.
Old driver to watch: Frentzen. Young driver to watch: apart from Kimi, look for Alonso. He has a few points to prove, especially after the splash the man whose career he's paralleled in recent times, Mark Webber, made last year.
McLaren appears to have the edge on Williams in pre-season testing and Williams look to be struggling. Sauber have enough Ferrari bits on board to be better than all the top three but Renault will give them a fight. Status quo in other areas is likely to be maintained, with Toyota the potential wildcard.
1. M.Schumacher; 2 Barrichello; 3. Montoya; 4. R.Schumacher; 5. Raikkonen
I can't see any reason why Ferrari won't dominate again this year. It's possible that the introduction of new rules will unsettle them, but I doubt it. The Williams and McLaren drivers will take points off each other for the final podium place and both teams will likely again finish a distant second and third, respectively. This will be a make or break year for BAR, and I expect them to produce under pressure, taking the 4th spot from Jordan.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Raikkonen; 4. Montoya; 5. Coulthard
New season, new rules, same old scores. Schumacher, recently nicknamed 'il cannibale' by the Italian press because of his insatiable hunger for victories and Championships, isn't retiring just yet, so he takes the top spot by default. Barrichello, having raised his game last year also thanks to a near-perfect car, shouldn't have too much trouble in securing second position. The fight to look forward to will be for third spot, with the Williams and McLaren boys trying to prove who's best of the rest. In the end, I expect Raikkonen to score his first victory and take third spot slightly ahead of Montoya, who'll have a small car disadvantage. Coulthard will round up the top five.
In the Constructors' Championship, things won't change much at the top. Ferrari should yet again be in contention to win the first fly-away races with the 2002 car, before the F2003-GA will make its earth-shattering entrance. Winter testing suggests that McLaren has gained the upper hand over Williams, and with Michelin hopefully having made a step forward with their tyres, I expect the two British teams to win more races than last year. Renault should again get fourth in the Championship, while BAR will improve to fifth.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Montoya; 3. Barrichello; 4. Raikkonen; 5. Coulthard
Despite so many rule changes and the best of their rivals' efforts, Michael Schumacher and Ferrari will dominate once again, although their dominance is unlikely to be as amazing as in 2002; or at least that's what most of us racing fans are hoping for.
McLaren will be the second best team, but Montoya will show his speed with the new Williams and he will be Schumacher's main challenger. With a not-so-dominant Ferrari, Barrichello will languish a bit, while Raikkonen will consolidate his position as McLaren's main man, outperforming Coulthard more often than in 2002.
Although it's hard to predict whether it will be an advantage or not, I believe Renault's and Jordan's decision to take up the Friday testing option will pay off and I'm not ruling out some surprisingly successful results from them, especially from the French squad.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Raikkonen; 3. Montoya; 4. Barrichello; 5. Coulthard
A difficult season to predict. Michael Schumacher will once again prove he is the master of adapting, and perform better where others will surely fail in one lap qualifying. McLaren's pre-season testing form is encouraging, and I have hopes Raikkonen can take his performance one notch higher and out perform teammate Coulthard, who I have placed 5th, with Montoya a perhaps disappointing but more consistent 3rd and Barrichello 4th.
Ferrari will face a very close run for the Constructors' Championship from McLaren who, by the end of the year, should be right on the pace of the Italian team. Williams will suffer perhaps another mediocre year, with BAR and Renault both showing improvement in 4th and 5th. High hopes for a more interesting year.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Raikkonen; 4. Montoya; 5. R.Schumacher
It is hard to see anything other than continued Ferrari dominance this season, with Schumacher showing no signs of slowing, Barrichello improving all the time, and the F2003-GA seeming to move the team on another level.
There's little to choose between McLaren and Williams, who are both raising their game, and have capable drivers: perhaps, amongst them, this will be Raikkonen's year, but there should be little to choose between them.
From the midfield, Toyota could be the dark horse that upsets the field, and Renault seem keen to maintain their form, so they are getting the nod, though it is a brave man who doubts a Ferrari powered Sauber or persistent Jordan might put the other - manufacturer backed - midfield teams to shame.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Raikkonen; 3. Alonso; 4. Panis; 5. Villeneuve
I rate the drivers by being the best in their team and from the team most likely to do well. Having seen the new Ferrari first hand, I know how big a technical leap it is for an F1 car and Michael is clearly the man to exploit both the car and change in the 'driver aid' rules.
Kimi comes next - I feel his performances will be best at the end of the season, when he has a car advantage. His near victory last year has tempted him and I can see him outpacing Coulthard who might get disheartened at not having a car to propel him to a year long championship fight.
With Alonso's first competitive drive in F1 and the team's high regard for him, I think he might outpace the Williams on occasion and beat them overall on consistency. Toyota are the next big team in F1, the new car brings them to the front of the grid technologically and Panis knows how to drive well consistently and keep the team pushing him from behind. This will edge him ahead of his teammate, who still has the F1 learning curve to endure.
Lastly, I vote for Jacques, not because he is such a great driver, but because the new BAR is top line design and he has his back against the wall, so will fight for every lap that the car can carry him. This could be his swansong season but may also be his finest.
1. M.Schumacher; 2. Barrichello; 3. Coulthard; 4. Montoya; 5. Raikkonen
It doesn't matter how many changes you make to Formula One; it doesn't matter how many artificial hurdles you add. Spread nails on the track if you like - Michael Schumacher will still be the one to gain the most. And while 2003 is going to be Schumacher's 13th season in F1 - don't be fooled by the number, the German seems to have a deal with lady luck.
Behind Schumacher comes Barrichello by virtue of a superior car, a growing confidence and experience. The same applies to Coulthard: he is going to find himself in the second best car, with the experience and maturity required to handle the new 1-lap qualifying rule and other changes added to the formula. And if there's anything to really look forward to in 2003, it's the continuing duel between Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya. It will be close, but I give Montoya the nod - especially once the electronic aids are banned.
As far as the teams go, nothing conspicuous in my choice other than, perhaps, fifth place. But I have faith in Toyota to break into the midfield location. Or maybe I just hope...