A great driver is not enough to win races. There are other factors and they’re all crucial
Many people say the battle between Ferrari and Renault is all about the tyres. It is not, it is about many other things.
You need five factors in place to have any chance of winning a grand prix, let alone a world championship. If one is missing you cannot win even a lucky race.
These factors are the team, the driver, the engine, the chassis and the tyres. Bridgestone and Michelin have different approaches to construction, and as happened at Hungary, Michelin had the better wet tyre on that day. Renault started the season with all five elements in place, whereas Ferrari had one, or more, missing. And you can assume that Schumacher was not one of those.
Now, if you have a crap car then it’s never going to be right whatever you do, but little bits you can fix and that’s what Ferrari has done to bring them level with Renault. Gradually all five factors have come together and there’s little to choose between the two. I believe it was grossly unfair to ban the mass damper technology and was a real blow to Renault which had this sorted better than any of their rivals. Alonso had got used to it and a modern Fl car is so very critical everywhere on the lap, tiny discomforts to the set-up mean big losses in performance and it may take three races to recover fully from this. The damper was a very clever way of improving performance and should have been left alone.
An area of interest from here on in may be in the teams themselves as much as the cars. The team is one of those five crucial factors and world champion drivers tend to have very special relationships with team principals. Piquet was with us at Brabham for seven years and we won titles. There’s a magic formula here if you can find it with a top driver. Schumacher has built relationships at Ferrari and he has a team-mate in Massa who is consistently supportive.
This is not so much the case at Renault where Fisichella is sometimes there, sometimes not. It’s rare to have two potential champions in the same team. We had it with Pace and Reutemann at Brabham, and of course at McLaren. And there’s the hidden factor — the driver feedback. At McLaren with Prost and Senna we insisted that all information was shared, no secrets. That way the engineers receive the best possible feedback and, despite today’s computer technology, it still counts. McLaren and Raikkonen have not found this formula. Kimi perceives that the team is not delivering in some areas. Once words have been exchanged there’s no going back.
It’s not easy to call the 2006 championship. It will be a very close-run thing and it may well come down to the tyres. But I think Alonso will take it, he’s the fastest driver in the fastest car, the most complete package. The constructors title could go to Ferrari, though, they’re scoring consistently with two cars whereas Renault has been more of a one-car team in terms of points.
I’m pleased that Alonso is moving to McLaren for next year. I think F1 would have become boring during the next few years had he decided to stay in a Renault.