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Ferrari have become so used to winning in recent years that maybe the loss of their star driver, technical director and team boss and master strategist won’t phase them, but I doubt that any team can lose the services of Michael Schumacher - retired -  Ross Brawn – sabbatical - and Jean Todt – promotion within the Ferrari corporate structure - at one go and still carry on winning as if nothing had happened.

In testing so far there have obviously been some mechanical problems with the new car and the times have been poor. Kimi Raikkonen, newly moved from McLaren, looks less than happy, says he is not comfortable in the car or with the new tyres which he says don’t suit his driving style and his testing times have been poor so far.

Team mate Massa is looking happier and going a couple of seconds a lap faster so far, could be uncomfortable in the garage this season if the differential persists.

Early days yet, perhaps the Ferrari glory years are over but I’d be very surprised if they don’t catch up in the testing times and still have a strong season, Kimi has a lot to prove … to Ferrari and to himself. The one team in F1 you can never write off as a threat is Ferrari, they’ve been going racing a very long time and even with Todt at a remove he won’t let the team slip, their successes in F1 are far too important in terms of road car sales.


ATT Williams

ATT Williams had a disastrous 2006 season, their worst for many years but they seem bullish about returning to the front of the grid this coming season and if the cars testing performance is anything to go by they surely will.

There has been something of a palace revolution at the factory with some heads rolling and others barely hanging on as Patrick and Frank have wielded the Williams axe with vigour.

Williams unveiled its new-look FW29 at its factory at Grove in Oxfordshire and Frank Williams says that they have redoubled their efforts after scoring only enough points for eighth place in the constructors' standings last year, not a podium in sight and the cars were simply slow and unreliable, the worst season since 1977.

The driver pairing looks strong with Nico Rosberg staying and building on the experience gained in 2006 and the hugely under-rated Alex Wurz being promoted from test driver to full time race driver. They both seem re-energised and their testing times so far have shown the car to be both quick and reliable and the new engine relationship with Toyota seems to be working well already.

Testing has been a bit erratic so far but their times in the most recent tests have been good with Nico in the top 6 which bodes well. I interviewed Nico at the end of last season and he has a strong desire for success with Williams, the sort of success that his father Keke enjoyed with the team, the bond is strong as is the will to succeed.

One or two have derided Williams as a Toyota B team, but I don’t think that’s how any of the parties see it, Toyota have invested massive amounts of money in F1 in the last 3-4 seasons with little to show for it, for them success with their engine in another package is still success and all parties are very aware of the many successes enjoyed by the Williams Honda partnership in the 80’s.

I expect a very substantial turn around in the Williams fortunes in 2007 and podiums are very much back on the agenda for the Grove outfit.

Article © 2007 Graham Benge

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