Formula One: The Formula One Circus Rolls Into Germany
16 May 2000David Treffer
Contributing Editor-The AutoChannel
Officially it is called the Grand Prix of Europe even though the venue is the Nurburgring in the Eifel Mountains of Germany. It is also known as Round 6 of the FIA World Championship for the Formula One Constructors Association. Whatever you want to call this Sunday's race it will boil down to another battle of the engine manufacturer's- Mercedes v.Ferrari with an ever-increasing presence by BMW.
After the first three races of this year's schedule everyone was seemingly writing off the McLaren/Mercedes effort. 2000 was finally going to be the year that Michael Schumacher would present Ferrari a much awaited World Championship. Their were even some so bold who were practically ready to present Messer.Schumacher the title. Borrowing a phrase from ESPN American-football analyst Lee Corso, "Not so fast their my friend."
Mercedes has struck back with a vengeance. Ferrari's (49 points) seemingly insurmountable lead in the constructor's championship has shrunk to a pitiful 7 points over McLaren/Mercedes (42 points). Schumachers' driver championship lead, while not in danger of being lost this week-end, has been reduced to 14 points over Mika Hakkinen. Can you say "The Empire Strikes Back." Not to imply that McLaren/Mercedes has Darth Vader on their team but you truly had to be an extreme optimist to believe that McLaren/Mercedes would not get off the floor and fight back.
With the setting of the Nurburgring the two German based companies (Mercedes and BMW) will be trying to display their superiority. National pride is at stake in front of what is anticipated as a record attendance crowd. Not to mention the World Championship. What a setting.
The Williams/BMW team has turned in consistent impressive performances for a first year team. Ralf Schumacher has finally shown the required patience to score points in Formula One. His former, sometimes erratic, driving style has been replaced with a mature and reasoned approach to each race this season. Whatever the reason for Schumacher's new style it has elevated the team's attitude. Williams/BMW has returned to the stage to contend, perhaps not this year, for a future World Championship.
The one team that has been, to put it mildly, a bit of a disappointment is Jordan. The team made huge strides the past two year's. However, the engine deal that was desired at the end of the season did not materialize. The team has put forth some solid showings but not with the consistency that was exhibited in 1999. Insiders have been reporting that the Jordan ship is not in good shape. Perhaps they will begin to turn things around.
With 17 Rounds in the World Championship a lot of things can happen between now and the season's ending race in Malaysia. But for those who were ready to give Michael Schumacher the title a little reassessment might be in order.