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Ferrari pass the acid test

Alan Baldwin | March 22, 2004 12:08 IST

Formula One has nothing to fear even if Ferrari return to their old ways and win race after race this season, according to Jordan-Ford team boss Eddie Jordan.

Six times world champion Michael Schumacher and Ferrari passed the acid test in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, triumphant in a race that they had not won since 2001.

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The thinking held that if Ferrari could win there this year, they could win anywhere.

The circuit has in the past played more to the strengths of rival tyre supplier Michelin rather than Bridgestone and Malaysia was to be a truer test of Ferrari's strength after a runaway one-two win in the Australian season-opener.

If Sunday's evidence gave little comfort to opponents, then Jordan saw no cause for concern.

"It is not at all a bad thing," declared the man who gave Schumacher his first drive in 1991. "In fact I think it's a good thing in some respects because it makes other people be more aware."

"He's the best," the Irishman added. "He's the consummate brilliant driver. In the same car, same situation and everything Rubens (Barrichello) was fourth.

"It was a tight competition, the first four cars were very close together. I don't see what all the commotion is about. When Tiger Woods wins nine majors in a row or thereabouts, everyone is singing his praises.

"Whereas in our sport we seem to be critical that the show is impaired. And I don't see how that works," he said.

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"We can all talk ourselves doom and gloom, we know that we talked ourselves into a recession before and we're doing similar things with our sport," said Jordan. "This is magic what is happening. It is so competitive at the front of the grid, it's just phenomenal."

Sunday's race was certainly closer than Australia, where Ferrari were in a class of their own.

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, in a Williams, finished a respectable five seconds adrift of the German after leading during Schumacher's first pitstop and setting the fastest lap.

Mario Theissen, motorsport director of Williams' engine partners BMW, tried to look on the bright side after a race his team had won with a one-two finish in 2002.

"I think what we have seen today was quite encouraging," he said. "Our team was really competitive, Juan Pablo was able to go at Michael's speed from the first to final lap.

"Of course if you look across the season, Ferrari certainly has an advantage now but it's something we experienced last year as well and during the season the balance changed more than once, so I think this gives confidence for the future."

Ferrari, constructors' champions since 1999, have twice before started a season during the Schumacher era with two wins in a row and in both years they won the titles.

But they stayed cautious on Sunday.

"Today's battle has confirmed that we must leave nothing to chance in order to be competitive," team boss Jean Todt said. "The championship will be very close."

Technical director Ross Brawn said: "We are still keeping our feet on the ground, because McLaren and Williams could always close the gap and we are ready for that.

But he added: "I think Michael has shown he is even stronger than in the past and I don't know where that comes from."


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