Mixed opinion on title challengers

Mixed opinion on title challengers

Although there are half a dozen drivers who could, mathematically at least, win the 2003 championship, it's Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya who are the hotly debated favourites. Opinion is split as to which one will win the Driver's...

Although there are half a dozen drivers who could, mathematically at least, win the 2003 championship, it's Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya who are the hotly debated favourites. Opinion is split as to which one will win the Driver's title; many think Schumacher's experience will carry him to a sixth championship but others believe Montoya has the better car and will topple the German. The battle between Ferrari and Williams for the Constructors' title is just as close.

Michael Schumacher.
Photo by Elmar Vat.
"I think that Michael Schumacher's experience will be the key element," said Toyota boss Ove Andersson. "Montoya is immensely talented but his weakness is inconsistency." Andersson also believes the Williams is not superior to the Ferrari, it just has better tyres. "Juan is just lucky to have very good Michelin tyres," he added. "That's why he is quickest."

Jordan director of test and race engineering Gary Anderson agrees that Schumacher is the favourite but he thinks the Williams is a better package. "I am convinced that Juan Pablo Montoya has the best package but he still have a way to go before becoming world champion," is Anderson's opinion.

"Maybe he will succeed next year. He is still young so time is on his side but he has no experience of this kind of finale while Michael Schumacher already knows about that, which is a great advantage. Ferrari usually don't make too many mistakes and know exactly how the weekend will unfold. At Williams on the other hand, the team is still young and each race is a step in the unknown."

Former champion Jacques Villeneuve can't make his mind up: "Michael Schumacher is always very self-confident in his ability and that is an advantage. On top of that, his team is totally devoted to him," he said, adding that Montoya lacks consistency but has the aggression necessary to make a difference.

"He still makes too many mistakes," he said of the Colombian. "He is not as consistent as Michael Schumacher but much more aggressive. He is always on the attack and is not afraid of anybody. If the championship must be decided in the last race at Suzuka, Montoya's qualities could be very important."

Juan Pablo Montoya.
Photo by Elmar Vat.
Of the Montoya supporters, ex-champion Niki Lauda is convinced of Williams' competitiveness and thinks Juan Pablo will win if he keeps his head: "I think Montoya, because the Williams is the best car," the Austrian said. "It is the quickest. If Montoya gets his act together and does not make any mistakes, then I think he is the favourite."

Renault technical director Mike Gascoyne is also in favour of Williams and Montoya: "I would be very surprised if Ferrari can hang on," he said, adding Juan Pablo should take the title this year. "If he doesn't do it now he might regret it for the rest of his life."

While Schumacher and Montoya grab everyone's attention, most seem to have written off McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen despite the fact the Finn is only one point behind Montoya. Villeneuve is mindful of Raikkonen's presence: "We have to watch for McLaren and Raikkonen because they are still in the battle for the title," he said. "Their car seems to be slightly inferior but anything can happen."

A key factor is tyres -- Michelin, who supplies Williams and McLaren, seems upset about the FIA decision to check tyre width before and after the races. It appears that once the tread wears down on the Michelins, the width exceeds the FIA 270mm rule. The manufacturer could be forced to build new tyres for the remaining three races which would throw another unpredictability into the fight for the title.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Jordan