News and views on motorsports

Sunday, March 18, 2007

2007 Australian Grand Prix

The Steeles of the recently revived F1Talk feared a Ferrari domination this year. They may be right. The way Kimi Raikkonen quite serenely won the Australian Grand Prix is an ominous sign for the other contenders. Serene is perhaps the right word for this race because nothing much really happened. Unless you're English and are absolutely over the moon with Lewis Hamilton's debut.

As in qualifying yesterday, I would have liked to see how Kimi stands against Filipe Massa during a race. Yesterday the Brazilian experienced gearbox and engine troubles. Today, he was following a completely different strategy having to come from right at the back. Yes, Kimi managed to lap him during the course of the race. And that must have been a psychological blow to him. But it would have been interesting to see how Massa would have run under a normal race strategy.

Do I sound like I'm behind Filipe? Well, actually no. For I still think Kimi will beat him over the course of the year. I just hope though that Ferrari will let the both of them duel it out together come what may.

The other team that had any hope of matching the Ferraris were McLaren. But lets face it, Kimi was really toying with them today. Setting that 1m 25.235s fastest lap was just rubbing it into Ron Dennis' face. He didn't need to go anywhere near that lap time and he was still simply pulling away from the two McLarens.

Alonso or Hamilton? For pure speed I think there's very, very little to choose between them. They are both equally as fast. My word, this could be quite a driving partnership for Ron. They've both got long careers ahead of them. One is a double world champion, the other can match the former. One slip, and its easily one or the other. There is very little margin if today's performance is anything to go by. Still, Alonso's strategy was the better one. Yes, Sato got in the way but even if he didn't I estimate Alonso would still have come out ahead of Hamilton at the end.

The ITV commentators were over the moon with Hamilton but lets put things into perspective. The 2005 GP2 champion, Nico Rosberg also had a great debut in the first race last year. Somehow it seems the GP2 championship does prepare a driver quite well for the challenges of Formula 1. And why not? The GP2 cars do have some massive performance all without traction control and other driver aids. But the challenge for Lewis now is to sustain this performance and not fade away like Nico did last year. Although one could say that Williams did not give Nico a great car to show off his talents.

Can McLaren catch up? Well, if you look at their qualy performance particularly on low fuel they do have some pace. Its when the fuel goes in and the races progresses that they seem to lose out to Ferrari. I think McLaren will need to work very hard to get the best out of those Bridgestone tyres if they are to have a chance. On some of the tighter circuits however, I think McLaren have an excellent chance of besting Maranello. The Ferrari you see has a longer wheel base. Great on circuits where aero performance is all important. Not so great in some of the slower bits. Still I think for McLaren, optimizing the aero with the Bridgy tyres is the key. As for driving talent, the do not lack any.

The BMWs much touted long distance pace could eventually was not enough to sustain a challenge to the front runners. But nevertheless, they have vastly improved and I believe they will improve still further as the season progresses and they have a better understanding of the new Japanese rubber.

And I was somewhat disappointed that the Super Aguris could not beat the works Hondas during the race. But Sato beating Jenson was a nice thing to see. Nico Rosberg did well I thought beating both the works Toyotas to seventh ahead of "I'm one of the top three" Ralf Schumacher. The fact that the Toyota engined cars have had a years greater experience on Bridgestone rubber is perhaps one of the reasons why the Hondas simply could not get on terms with their deadly rivals.

Again, if there is to be a Ferrari domination of 2007 I hope the two teammates will put up a good show for the rest of us. Kimi did a supreme job of the race today bar the odd mistake whilst fooling around. It'll boost his confidence and standing with the team and I'm sure he's going to get even better still in the car.

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