Monday, March 19, 2007

Australia – Race Analysis

Nice country, good weather, great public. The first race of the 2007 F1 season had the perfect scenario, yet the race itself was not that exciting. The front runners were not fighting for positions, the real action was happening on the back of the pack. Kimi Raikkonen did not worry about this, though. He took 10 points for the win, knowing that Ferrari is better than all the other teams and that his main rival at this time – his teammate, Felipe Massa – is 7 points behind him in the Drivers’ Championship. Let’s analyse the details...

Kimi Raikkonen: Great start for his Ferrari career

What else can we say when a driver takes pole, times the fastest lap of the race and wins? He did not have to push, as his main contender – Massa – had already been defeated by a gear box failure in qualifying. Kimi drove perfectly except for a lack of concentration on lap 46, in which he braked too late and put a wheel on the grass. He had no radio communication, because it broke just before the race. But he is the ‘Ice Man’, isn’t he? His focus was enough for that not to have an impact on the final result.

I also like the fact that he took both his hands off the wheel and raised both arms to celebrate, just before crossing the finish line. He almost lost control of his car, but that was fun to watch. He is becoming a little more Italian as he spends more days in Ferrari. This will help him inside the team, as mechanics tend to like drivers who put up a good show.

Alonso is Alonso once again, with a helping hand from McLaren

Alonso was himself once again. Or was he Alain Prost? I have certainly seen this ‘not so fast, but constant’ approach to racing before... Fernando Alonso did manage to score 8 points in a race that should have been a Ferrari 1-2. He also drove some very fast laps as Hamilton got in for his second pit stop, and managed to overtake him in the pits.

What McLaren will never tell us is that it was their intention for Alonso to beat Hamilton. Otherwise, they would never put 3 more laps of fuel in Alonso’s tank. OK, someone has to pit first, but why change the order from the first stop? Strange, to say the least.

Hamilton shows why he drives for McLaren

I have already written that I find Lewis Hamilton to be a very intelligent, self-controlled person, and that would help him become a great F1 driver. I just did not think he would be this good in his first race. The move he made just after the start was amazing, overtaking two cars at once. Also impressive was his pace. He was as quick as Alonso for the entire race. He lost the second position for two reasons: 1) he was held by backmarker Sato before his second pit stop; 2) McLaren’s strategy favoured his teammate (as I wrote in my comments about Alonso, just above).

Hamilton has shown why McLaren hired him. It is almost a shame that he is not driving for a smaller team. It would be a good show. Who can forget when then-rookie Ayrton Senna drove for Toleman in 1984? What would Hamilton do if he drove for Super Aguri, for example?

Trouble for Massa, but satisfactory results

If Felipe Massa learned anything from Michael Schumacher, it was that he needs to take whatever points he can when the day is not right. Starting in 22nd, Massa drove all the way to 6th. I have read over the Internet forums many complaints for his lack of attitude when he was behind the two Hondas. I guess Schumacher would not wait as many laps, but it was not that bad. In the end, it cost Massa 1 point, as he would probably have had time to overtake Fisichella. Felipe would never reach Heidfeld, though, as the latter finished almost 28 seconds ahead of Fisichella.

Australia’s quick notes

- Mixed results for BMW, with Heidfeld in 4th but Kubica forced to retire with gearbox problems. This is the tale of this car since pre-season testing. It seems like most of their reliability problems are related to the gearbox, though. They will certainly correct these problems in a few races, but until then they may have a few more DNF’s on the gearbox’s account.

- David Coulthard did what was probably the most stupid move of his career as he tried to pass Alexander Wurz for 13th. He was sensate enough to recognize his mistake and apologize. I must say that Coulthard is a true British gentleman, because nothing less would make Wurz accept his apologies – as he did –, since Coulthard’s wheel almost hit Wurz’s helmet during the crash.

- It is expected for rookies to make mistakes, but Heikki Kovalainen made so many that it makes me wonder if Nelson Piquet Jr. Renault’s test driver could not do better. I still believe Kovalainen will improve and will have more points than Fisichella by the end of the season.

- Nico Rosberg drove a quiet race and managed to score 2 points with his Toyota-powered Williams. In a bold overtaking move, he took 7th place from Toyotas Ralf Schumacher, who finished 8th.

Star of the race:

Lewis Hamilton

Shame of the race:

Heikki Kovalainen

--Andre N.