News and views on motorsports

Monday, May 30, 2005

Notes from Nurburgring

Absolute heartache if you're a Kimi fan but the result today quite possibly seals it for Fernando Alonso this year. The race today took on a strange amatuer hour look to it. It began with Jarno Trulli's Toyota crew failing to clear the grid in time for the warm up lap start. Then on the grid Giancarlo Fisichella's engine stalled and it got stuck in first gear and was left stranded.

At the start, we saw Juan Montoya turning into the path of a flying Mark Webber, who was again trying to defend yet another poor start. He may be Mr One Lap Specialist to some but his starts are atrocious. This incident sent Montoya spinning and triggering off massive confusion among the ranks with just about everyone behind Heidfeld affected by it. Even race winner Fernando Alonso was thumped in the back.

During the race, again Kimi Raikkonen looked to run away with it but this time he was shadowed by a lightly fueled Nick Heidfeld at the start of the race. Behind the leading duo, a Jarno Trulli was leading David Coulthard (surprise, surprise) and Fernando Alonso. Behind them was Barrichello. Now Barrichello may have qualified ahead of team mate Michael by a few tenths but that was really a poor performance by the Brazilian. His car lightly fueled came in after just 9 laps. I think Ferrari must have meant for him to qualify higher up the grid to spoil the guys in front.

In any case Trulli had to come in for a drive through penalty because of the antics of his mechanics. This promoted David Coulthard who made full use of the start incident with Montoya to leapfrog from 12th on the grid to third by this time ahead of Alonso. Fantastic stuff. But just like everyone else today, he suffered from amatuer hour as well. In his enthusiasm he forgot to switch on the rev limiter in the pitlane for his stop and had to suffer a drive through which probably cost him maybe second on the podium today. How fantastic would that have been?

Heidfeld pitted early. Kimi Raikkonen came in some time later. Both of them came out behind Alonso and Coulthard both having yet to pit. Coulthard for a while before that first stop was leading the race. Alonso, clearly fueled quite heavily was now low on fuel and demonstrating some excellent pace and using that to eat away at Raikkonen's lead. After Alonso made his first stop, it was clear that he'd gain plenty of time on Raikkonen's McLaren.

Now maybe its a combination of the slippery surface today and perhaps Kimi was simply jittered by Alonso's turn of speed, the Iceman started to lose his cool and made a number of mistakes. He ran off the road a couple of times into the scenery and that had probably damaged his bargeboards. Then lapping Villeneuve, he flat spotted his tyres under braking. That would prove his undoing.

Michael Schumacher meanwhile was caught out at the starting incident and was delayed. As usual when his car runs light, the man is nigh uncatchable. Banging in a number of fast laps. His race was dominated by a duel with Juan Montoya and Filipe Massa who successfully kept the both of them behind him for a long while during the race. Michael again running heavily was able to overtake the both of them after the second round of fuel stops. And he ended up in fifth. But what's significant is that while Michael was undoubtedly quick, this time his race pace was only on par with the others. Clearly he too was suffering a bit because he also had an amatuer hour moment in the grass. Still he won the duel with Montoya and left the Colombian for dead.

Meanwhile, Kimi's car was clearly suffering from the strain of damaged bargeboards and especially that flat spotted tyre. I'm sure the conditions had something to do with it but I felt that Kimi had just been a little too rough on his car. And he paid the price. He was still able to keep Alonso behind him but his pace was erratic.

Fernando Alonso meanwhile was setting fastest lap of the race trying to leapfrog into second ahead of Nick Heidfeld. This he managed to do. But after having done that, he managed to go amatuer just like a lot of people and had a moment in the sand at the hairpin. This was just getting ridiculous. But thankfully for him, he kept it together and the Renault team sensing that all was not well with Kimi's McLaren told him to push and go for it.

In truth, Kimi was doing a great job doing just enough so that by the end of the race, he would still have a margin over Fernando. But alas, 59 laps was just one lap too many for the McLaren's suspension. The vibration and wobble of the flat spotted left front tyre was just too much for the carbon fibre parts to handle. It broke spectacularly going into the first corner as Kimi was starting his last lap.

Game over. Fernando merely had to finish the race and collect maximum points for this race and extending his lead over Raikkonen to now 32 points in the championship. Kimi felt that his retirement at this very circuit two years ago cost him the 2003 world championship. It looks as if it will cost him this year's world title as well. But really he can blame no one else but himself for it.

Now Fernando had an off but really the conditions proved very hard for the Michelin runners today. The Bridgestones on the Ferraris look to be in better condition but even Michael Schumacher his the scenery as well. All in all, Fernando is proving that he deserves the world title more than anyone else. He's certainly driving like a world champion. He's now 32 points ahead of his deadliest rival and a massive 43 points ahead from the other danger man Michael Schumacher. Fernando can only lose the championship now. It really is there for the taking. One more race win like this will put the result beyond all doubt I believe.


cccp said...

do you think it was a good decision from mclaren to 'gamble' on continuing? i don't quite understand how people can salute such dumb decision from mclaren. nothing they said to the media made any sense to me. plus, i do hate emotional people reacting hypocritically to similar scenarios occuring at different teams. those people are full of shit!

Michel said...

Nice re-cap of the race, don't think I can disagree with any of it.

I think that the only option Mclaren had was for Kimi to stay out. H eis battling Alonso for the WDC, and needs to outscore him. Yes in retrospect we see that the pendulum swung 12 points thw rong way, but that is hindsight 20/20 vision.


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