Monday, July 09, 2007

Great Britain – Race Analysis

Before starting, I would like to make a few comments not related to the race itself. Every time I watch the British Grand Prix, I feel like it is the perfect place for a Formula One race. For many years it has been in Silverstone, but no matter where you chose to race at British soil, you are at a place full of history and the most knowledgeable fans. I mean, real F1 fans are knowledgeable everywhere, but the average citizen in Great Britain knows more about motorsports than anywhere else I know. I have the feeling that Bernie Ecclestone himself does not want this atmosphere to go away. By threatening to cancel the British GP, he only is making what he does best: more money.

No matter how great the venues like the ones in Bahrain and Malaysia are, Formula One needs the history behind countries like Great Britain, Italy, Germany, Brazil, and France. These are the countries where some of the greatest drivers ever were born. They represent the places where people have continuously been racing cars over the years. Formula One would not be the same thing without races in these countries. Yet it seems like France will be gone for next year. Let’s hope Britain stays.

After the ‘save the British GP speech’, let’s move on to yesterday’s race. It was a clear display that this year’s championship is going down to the wire. Every couple of races we either have a stronger Ferrari or McLaren. Yesterday it was fun to watch, although the winner could be picked beforehand from one of the leading four cars. Does anyone out there think we are going to see a winner that does not belong to these two teams until the end of the year? Not in normal conditions, I have to say...

Yesterday was actually a three-car plus 1 bonus showdown, as Felipe Massa’s engine died on the starting grid – he had to start from the pits and make his way past a lot of people to finish 5th. Besides his great aggressive driving, there were not many overtaking manoeuvres on the race, but there were many good fights. Raikkonen vs. Hamilton was a great close range fight, and Raikkonen vs. Alonso was more like a sniper battle. Since Raikkonen won these two battles, he won the race. Great driving for the Iceman.

Two in a row again, now for Kimi

After Lewis Hamilton’s display of power in North America, Kimi Raikkonen returns the favour and wins twice in Europe. These victories mean a lot more to Raikkonen than they did for Hamilton. Everyone expected Kimi to win. In fact, everyone expected him to beat his teammate. It was not happening until now. At some point even I thought that the Iceman had finally melt down, but it was certainly not the case.

If we consider that Massa had two mechanical failures this year – Australia and Britain – that did not prevent him from scoring a few points, we can compare that to Kimi’s race ending problem in Spain. Add to that the fact that they are now only separated by one point on the championship standings, and we realize that they are as evenly matched as Ferrari teammates have ever been since 1982, with Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi. Let’s hope Ferrari keeps it fair until the end of the year, as I believe McLaren will.

Kimi was as consistent as ever yesterday, and that gave him the race win. Besides that, he had the fastest lap of the day and was very fast just before his two pit stops. He is still not a Michael Schumacher. He may not even speak to him a lot, but he has certainly learned something from him.

I also have to point out that Ferrari did a wonderful job improving their start system. Although he was on the dirty side of the track, Raikkonen had a better jump than Hamilton.

Once again the strategy failed for McLaren

After Saturday qualifying I thought I had seen Ayrton Senna again when Lewis Hamilton beat the clock and everybody else to get the pole. It was the first real display of geniality I had seen from Hamilton. Everything was going for him until then; he did not have to face any real adversity. Then, under pressure, he clocked the pole. After the race started, some of my feeling was taking away, as Hamilton was clearly lighter. Still, that meant that he had to pull out the impossible to win. If he did, that would make me finally agree with the ‘Hamilton histeria’ and put him up there with the greatest ever, although he is still a rookie.

He did not win, and this was probably his worst F1 race. He only finished third because Massa would never reach the 3 front-runners. He almost made the same mistake as Albers did in France, by leaving with the fuel hose still attached. He destroyed his tyres in the beginning of the stints and had no grip in the end. He saved third and he is still the championship leader, but I would still put my money on Alonso to be the best McLaren driver on the long run.

For the past two races, McLaren lacks the pace and they try to compensate by changing the strategy. For the past two races, Ferrari has won. I believe that their main problem is the tyre consumption. They had an edge after implementing that flexible front wing element – although they say it is not, it clearly drops down on the straightaways –, but that alone is not enough now that Ferrari has also improved the aerodynamics.

Massa put up a show, but stopped one place short

Ferrari has sometimes seen some small reliability problems over the years. Yesterday trouble hit Massa. By the way, it certainly was not his fault, as F1 cars have a button for neutral, and the driver does nothing to control the revs.

He then did what he had to do, overtaking as many cars as aggressively as he could in his chase for the best possible result – 4th place. He was one place short, since Robert Kubica closed the door for more than 10 laps in the end and he could only finish 5th.

Kubica has made an impressive return from his Montreal accident. Usually it takes drivers a couple of races to return to the same form after large accidents, but Kubica seems to be better than before! The high torque of the BMW engine helped him out in order to hold Massa, though, as he would get away at every corner exit except for Club.

Britain’s quick notes

- We may say that Heikki Kovalainen has finally adapted to F1. He overtook his teammate Giancarlo Fisichella and did not show any of his rookie mistakes from the first races of the season. If he continues like this until the end of the season, the only thing that will make Fisichella keep a race seat is experience.

- Alexander Wurz tried to take advantage of the blue flags as Alonso was going by him and the car ahead, Scott Speed’s STR. As Scott opened the way for Alonso, Alexander tried to squeeze to the inside going into Vale. I do not like this kind of attitude. He should just have waited for Speed to let Alonso go by and got back to the fight they had before. It would be OK if Speed had made a mistake, but he did not. Scott got the worst of it as they touched, his left-front suspension broke down and he had to retire. Wurz went on to finish 13th. At least he got an award. My ‘Shame of the Race’ award, that is...

- Honda did a nice race for the bad car they currently have, but since no Ferrari, McLaren, BMW or Renault had race-ending troubles, all they could do was to finish 9th and 10th – Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button respectively.

- Toyota disappointed everyone – again, if it is possible. After a strong testing in Silverstone a couple of weeks ago, a lot more than a double retirement was expected. To make it worse, Jarno Trulli’s problems are still unknown; he was just sliding all over the track with no grip at all. Just for the records: Toyota has what is said to be the 2nd largest budget in F1, yet they are 6th on the Constructor’s Championship standings.

Star of the race:

Kimi Raikkonen. Had Felipe Massa finished 4th, he would probably have gotten the award.

Shame of the race:

Alexander Wurz.

--Andre N.


Maximillian said...

Good job!

But I don't agree with your criticism on Wurz for trying to sneak past Speed. Speed had all the chances in the world to let Alonso by, particularly at Stowe where he simply slammed the door shut on Alonso. Had he just lifted a bit, Alonso would have been through and Speed wouldn't have to deal with the difficult Priory and Luffield section with both Alonso & Wurz closely behind at the same time. Poetic justice for Speed I would say.

As for Wurz, it is not his responsibility NOT to overtake someone when given the chance. He is paid to race fast but not to follow a slowing down car. I would have dived for the gap if I were him too.

Andre N. said...


Thanks for the compliment!

Let's say we partially agree on the Wurz vs. Speed situation. You say you would have dived for the gap. So would I; we agree on this. What I disagree is that I don't think there was a gap - at least not one that was big enough to fit Wurz's car. Remember that the next corner was to the right and Wurz would be on the outside.

You are right when you say Speed created the whole situation, because he should have lifted before Stowe. It is always a tough situation when the blue flag is shown to two drivers fighting for position, especially for the one who is defending the position - the one who has something to lose. So we may say that he committed a mistake in choosing where to let Alonso go by, but I don't think he ever made a mistake that would give Wurz a clean overtaking chance.

My idea of 'racing ethics' is that a driver should not force the issue in a blue flag situation like Wurz did. He should just have waited for Alonso to go by and returned to his fight against Speed. They were getting lapped, they should already be ashamed of the situation...

If all agreed with me, though, a blog with my point of view would make no sense! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

--Andre N.