Nelson's column

Because of the fact that there's only a one-week gap between the European and French Grands Prix, the blokes over at AUTOSPORT magazine just couldn't cram everything they wanted into this week's issue. Because nobody should miss out on triple Formula 1 world champion Nelson Piquet's unique and insightful punditry, autosport.com is delighted to present Nelson's preview of this weekend's French Grand Prix. Nelson's column will return to its usual place in the magazine when he previews the British Grand Prix in a fortnight's time

Nelson's column


Lil' Schummy managed to ease a notch on the pressure that was strongly pushing him after the no-spark show in Canada. This time he kept everything together, and with a good strategy managed to win another GP after a frustrating year and a half. This victory also has to be credited again to Michelin, which had the clear upper hand at the Nurburgring, and BMW who once again had a powerful and reliable engine. Poor Raikkonnen, who was left with only the smoke from his Mercedes engine. Bravo Montoya, who was bold enough to try to overtake Big Schummy, and succeeded after the pushing (a normal racing situation, from what I saw on TV) between them resulted in his favour. At the end of the year it is probably Big Schummy again as champion, but 2003 will definitely go down as one of the best years for a long time. Keep up the superb show guys!


The strategies are becoming more similar each day, at least in the beginning of the races. The crucial point has been the capacity to slightly alter these strategies to cope with race rhythm, tyre graining, traffic control, car balance and driver mood. Radical approaches like too few or too many pit-stops are out of the question as the computers leave little space for guesses in their race simulations. McLaren, thanks to the Raikkonen effect, looked well in the picture until the Mercedes mill decided to give all the BMW fans something to cheer about for another whole week. Ferrari, thanks to the Big Schummy effect, was en route to another controlled race... if it wasn't for Montoya's bravery. Barrichello ended up on a podium that was far, far away from his and Bridgestone's expectations. Renault also has its own effect (the Alonso one) and managed to stop almost dead on its tracks to save a hard-fought fourth place, leaving Coulthard with more than his usual share of troubles in the process. Once again Webber was very good, as was Button, both fighting with their cars, but both for different reasons. Last point went to a 'never-say-die' Heidfeld who profited from all the troubles that hit the others in front of him. So with a full house cheering for their local heroes (men or machine) it was for sure a very pleasant Sunday afternoon at this German Race Garten, mainly because it was so full of promise for next week's French Bistrot de Course.



Magny-Cours is once again F1's next bus stop. By the supreme effort that everybody makes to talk good things about the place you can all imagine how it is. As you know my memories from that particular place are very few, and it has certainly changed since I was there 12 years ago. Never mind, the battle between Ferrari, Williams-BMW and McLaren/Mercedes has outgrown people and places and will keep us all more than satisfied once again. More satisfied for sure than I was in Castle Combe in the F3 race. Not having the extra time on Friday to test the team wasn't able to help Lil' Nelson the way it should. Next race in Oulton Park should be different because there are tests scheduled on Friday. But this is not (yet) F1 stuff, so I will just let them pass.


What we will see is the enormous capacity that F1 has to astonish and surprise. Even with just four days between coming to a halt on one track and starting to accelerate on another one we will all be surprised by details that will affect the performances of the cars and will give us a brand new scenario. The reason for such speed and clever thinking is that some of the developments is already done and tested, and is just waiting for the right timing to get into the limelight. There is always more than one way to try and catch your adversaries off-guard. This is a permanent mode in Motor Racing.


With my last predictions you all didn't get rich, but at least you still got your money back to try again this week. Wanna surprise everybody? Just choose Coulthard. Wanna sit comfy and collect crumbs? Mark either Big Schummy or Kimi. Wanna pass the whole race wondering and waiting for a miracle move that for sure will come? Montoya is your man. If it rains opt for Bridgestone products and to drink something with calming effect before the race that is surely to be memorable.

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