News and views on motorsports

Sunday, July 10, 2005

British Grand Prix

At last, Juan Pablo has made it to the top step in a McLaren. After all the crap he's received (and dished out) over the season its all come good at last for the man from Bogota. He attributes his win to the first corner on the first lap, but in truth it was much more than that.

Luckily for him Kimi Raikkonen unfortunately had to start with a 10 spot penalty on the grid after an oil pump failure in his McLaren forced the team to change his engine. It was the second time in as many races poor Kimi had been penalized as such. Norbert Haug has hit out at the rules against this but really, the fault lies squarely at Mercedes on this one.

Now for many sentimental reasons I like the McLaren team. However, I believe they have this nasty habit of letting their drivers down. It certainly happened a lot to Mika Hakkinen in the past. Its happening again with Kimi. Unlike last season when McLaren had no chance at the title, this time its happening at a most critical time in the world championship. You can see at the post race interview, the frustration boiling up in Kimi despite trying to maintain a cool composure.

Luckily also for Juan Pablo, Fernando Alonso experienced traffic problems during the race. In one clear incident he was badly baulked by his good mate Jarno Trulli. He was forgiving enough of Jarno preferring instead to heap the blame on the marshals. Indeed, had he not lost time behind Jarno, he may well have been able to leapfrog Montoya after the second round of stops. Fernando chose a heavier fuel load after the first round of stops to run a longer stint. He had five extra laps on Montoya and he certainly was catching up the time lost very quickly. Alas, it was not to be.

What should not be surprising is that whilst the McLaren is ultimately the quicker car, the Renault is not far behind. Helped of course by some stellar driving by Fernando. He truly deserves to be world champion. So do Renault for giving him such a reliable and fast car. Not forgetting of course Michelin, who despite dropping the ball big time at Indianapolis, gives them both a tyre to murder Bridgestone.

Kimi though, was always going to be the focus of attention in this race. Everyone knew he'd be supremely quick in that McLaren but would the slower cars delay him? In fact they did. Both the mobile chicane of Jarno Trulli's Toyota and that scarlet pig driven by Michael Schumacher conspired to delay the Finn whilst the front runners pulled the gap up to 30 seconds at one point during the race.

The Toyota was slow but the Ferrari cannot claim to be much faster. Raikkonen was all over the back of Schumacher. In an incident at Stowe, the Ferrari was so slow Raikkonen not only had to lift off, he had to side step Schumacher as well. But as at Magny Cours, once both these cars dived into the pits, Kimi was well and truly on his way. He caught up to Jenson Button by the time of the second stop and was able to pass him in the pits.

After the first round of stops, Raikkonen in fact was just behind Alonso and made a move stick through Stowe. There was little point for the Spaniard to resist since his car was brimming with fuel and Raikkonen was miles quicker. But it was nice to see. Raikkonen capped him podium with the fastest lap of the race on the final lap. It was only 0.4 seconds off Alonso's pole. Demonstration, if there needed to be one, of his vastly superior pace. He ended up just 15 seconds behind the leaders at the end despite his huge delay.

Another guy who had a good race I thought was the ever luckless Giancarlo Fisichella. He certainly was able to give his team mate something to think about. After passing Barrichello and Button in the pits after the first stops, he was running solidly in third and shadowing his teammate and Montoya. Alas, during his second stop, he stalled the engine and it was all Raikkonen needed to take the final podium spot away from him.

The Ferraris again had a torrid weekend. This time, there were no retirements to help them and they ended up where they deserve to be, down in sixth and seventh for Schumacher and Berrichello respectively. Michael had completely botched up his qualifying through Stowe and Ferrari tried a three stop strategy for Barrichello that failed miserably. Barrichello, running light was able to stay with Jenson for a while but after the first round of stops was completely blown away. Michael's only feature in the race was to play Minardi in front of Kimi Raikkonen.

All the "cheating" Ferrari have done in the last week seems to have been to no avail. They still ended up 75 seconds behind winner Montoya and a little over a minute behind Raikkonen who started behind them. Yet again, they were almost lapped and this pleases me. I hope Renault and McLaren can repeat the trick where it really counts, at Monza in front of the tifosi. Tall order I know.

Another team finding it tough was Williams. Webber and Heidfeld finishing a lap down in 11th and 12th. Ever since the Sauber announcement, the team's performances have deteriorated tremendously to such a dismal state. Not too long ago, Heidfeld was sharing podiums with the likes of Alonso, now he's finishing behind Filipe Massa. The team have a lot of work to do but not much time to do it with. Unlike some teams, Williams do abide by agreements and choose to compete honourably. But really, Silverstone is normally a circuit where Williams does well. In the past they've simply blitzed the opposition there. That they've struggled so badly today shows the troubles they are in.

Toyota's Ralf Schumacher picked up the final point in eighth whilst Jarno Trulli who qualified ahead of him finished ninth. This is another team that have slipped up badly over the last few races. They had been picking up podiums early on in the season but it seems they've been left behind badly in the development race. They can take heart of the fact that they were not very far behind the Ferraris but really they should be ahead and fighting at the front. I wonder whats going on now at Cologne but Mike Gascoyne has plenty to do.

The best action on track this weekend must go to the midfield battle between the Saubers, Williamses and the Red Bulls. Their battles were actually getting in the way of the leaders but it looked absolutely superb. David Coulthard pulling some good moves. Jacques Villeneuve especially pulling a good one on him. Pity this wasn't the battle for the lead but then again, Formula 1's battles have always raged on in the midfield.

A great result for Montoya then. He did drive superbly and he was quick. I thought he deserved to win. Up next is the Tilke castrated Hokkenheim cicruit where I suspect it'll be more of the same as this weekend. Overtaking at Silverstone was difficult with the cars experiencing massive aero turbulence, no thanks to this stupid FIA 2005 aero rules. But Hokkenheim is a circuit where overtaking is possible despite all the slowish corners. It should be another exciting battle between the Renaults and McLarens. But only if Mercedes can give Kimi an engine that doesn't blow up.

Before I sign off, my heart goes out to the people of London, my home for many years.

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