Monday, July 02, 2007

France – Race Analysis

Since I am posting this after 1200 GMT, it will be more like Formula One Tuesday for some of the readers. It is still Monday for me, so I will write about yesterday’s race; just consider it the day before yesterday’s race if this is your case.

The 2007 French Grand Prix was a good race, and even included some overtaking manoeuvres so uncommon in today’s Formula One. Kimi Raikkonen drove a great race and got his second win of the season, making it two for each of the main title contenders – himself, Massa, Hamilton and Alonso. Hamilton increased his championship gap to Alonso, but the Ferrari drivers are a little bit closer now.

Kimi Raikkonen finally seems to be himself

Kimi Raikkonen can say that he was very lucky once in his F1 career and that was yesterday. For a driver who has had so many misfortunes over the years, it was unexpected for him to win with what was probably the wrong strategy. The logic was that Kimi should have qualified with less fuel to make sure that he would start on the front row in order to have a chance. Although Hamilton started on the front row – on the dirty side of the track –, Raikkonen was able to jump ahead. That move gave him a chance to win the race.

The problem was that he had a heavier load of fuel than Felipe Massa, who opened a reasonable gap before his first pit stop. Massa is doing a wonderful job at Ferrari, there was no way that Raikkonen could drive any faster than him. Then the strange strategy worked out for Kimi, as Massa had problems overtaking the backmarkers and was not able to increase the gap during the second stint. Kimi drove two superb laps before his stop, and that guaranteed his return in first place. That was the driver we got used to, the same one that challenged Schumacher and Alonso in two championship runs.

Merit goes to Ferrari as well. The car has changed for better. Now it has also received some of Kimi’s inputs, therefore it is easier for him to drive. He is also more adapted to the Bridgestone tyres than he was in the beginning of the season. The two drivers are really pushing. Massa deserved the win as much as Raikkonen. Ferrari is back. Let's see for how long.

Different strategy for Hamilton, but one that would never work

After losing a place to Raikkonen at the start, Lewis Hamilton could have gone for two pit stops and easily finished third. McLaren tried three, though, knowing that they could not beat Ferrari in a straight fight and anything different would give them an opportunity. The strategy proved to be wrong, but since the gap to BMW was large enough, it was worth trying. At least it reduced the chances that Hamilton would spin out due to tyre wear.

Hamilton keeps proving that he has what it takes to be a champion. He finished a good third and did not try anything stupid. After the start on the dirty side of the track, third was the most he could get. Third was what he got.

McLaren made Alonso earn his salary

Mclaren started to ruin Fernando Alonso's race on Saturday, since he was not able to finish qualifying due to gearbox problems and had to start 10th.

During the race Alonso was helped by the early melee involving Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen. Then he had to follow Nick Heidfeld for a long time, though, and lost a lot of time. 'Follow' may not be the best verb, as Alonso tried everything he could to overtake. Heidfeld is one of the most difficult drivers to go by. Alonso showed his talent by passing at an unexpected spot, returning the favour for Heidfeld's great move in Bahrain. The scorecard is now 1-1. As a Formula One fan I am delighted to see their fight. It is very clean. They are both great drivers. I only wish that the current F1 cars depended less on aerodynamics so that we could see more fights like that.

Later in the race I believe McLaren changed the strategy and called Alonso in earlier for his second pit stop. In the end, this proved not to be good, as Alonso was held by Giancarlo Fisichella until the end of the race. Two long fights with two of the most difficult drivers to overtake. Alonso certainly earned his salary, although he was not able to beat Fisichella.

France’s quick notes

- Honda scored their first point of the season as Jenson Button finished 8th. It is still too little if we think about their budget. I think that Honda should change the team's management to get better results. Toyota too.

- Jarno Trulli is not helping Toyota out, as he hit Heikki Kovalainen from behind entering the Adelaide corner. I did not expect that from a long time veteran.

- Robert Kubica showed that he is a great, fearless driver. After the horrible crash in Montreal, he returned to score his best result of the season, finishing 4th.

- Christijan Albers has no excuse for leaving the pits before the 'lollipop' was up. That was a stupid mistake and he knows it. I think that the pressure he is getting from Sutil is making him a bit nervous. Albers was one of the best DTM drivers but is yet to make something happen in F1.

Star of the race:

Kimi Raikkonen. I really did not think that he could pull out a win until I saw the gap he opened before his second pit stop.

Shame of the race:

Christijan Albers.

--Andre N.


Keith said...

Is it just me or would the two McLarens have fared better had they been on each others' strategies?

Hamilton wouldn't have fallen behind Kubica (although his pass to regain the place was masterful).

And Alonso would have had more time lapping in clean air and might not have ended up finishing the race behind two drivers he'd already passed on the track.

Anonymous said...

I have also the opinion that McLaren failed on their strategy for the race.
Hamilton had to go to the pits 3 times, and his luck was that he was really ahead the 4th place.
Alonso, who was always known by his luck, has to face now a different reality, and McLaren is not helping him to find his best performance. The pits did not help him to take a better position on the track, but he showed his ability to drive (considering what was possible), and his manoeuvre over Heidfeld proves that he is still alive and eager to fight for the championship.

Robert Kubica had a great merit in this race, once he just had a terrible accident and he is already racing as if nothing happened, and had his best performance since the start of the championship.
Let’s see what happens in Silverstone, but my bet goes to Ferrari.