Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Chinese GP Winners & Losers

There was more incident in one corner at Mount Fuji than the whole of the Chinese Grand Prix, and absolutely no moving under braking. Everyone happy now...?

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1st An excellent pole, the fastest lap of the race and a race win. It doesn't come much more emphatic than that. Hamilton was a model of control from the moment he got a clean getaway. One more good start at Interlagos and he's home and hosed.

In fact with a seven-point lead going into the final race the McLaren team could probably buy the front row in Brazil. By going light they could take the first two places and avoid any opening lap trouble. Even though the strategy would probably work against them finishing 1-2, they could slot back into a steady 4th and 5th, which is all they need. Because they need a major Ferrari failure to win the Constructors' title now.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 2nd Though commentators are citing Massa's blown engine and comedy pit stop in Singapore for his failure to have won the Drivers' title already, he's now been handed points by Raikkonen as well as the race stewards. It's a luxury that his rival doesn't have.

This was definitely a favour repaid from Brazil 2007 because Massa looked surprisingly ill-at-ease with his car. However he did enough to keep the Drivers' title going to Interlagos, which Bernie and all the F1 broadcasters will be grateful for. Now it's going to be Big Box Office.

That's if the Sao Paulo police officers resolve their pay dispute. There were reports this week that police were rioting in the streets after a pay dispute escalated and some of their colleagues had to get out the riot control gear to subdue the strikers. Not a great environment for what is the most feared GP for team personnel.

Perhaps it will be an even bigger home advantage for Felipe Massa who basks in the adoration of his home crowd. And love him they should, win or lose he's had a brilliant 2008. And Fernando's definitely joined the fanclub.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 3rdMassa managed to hand the lead of the 2007 Brazilian GP to Kimi Raikkonen in a much more subtle fashion than Raikkonen handed his second place to Massa at Shanghai. But nobody's that bothered with team orders this late in a season.

Raikkonen showed that for a change he can be fast in the opening laps of a GP and all but guaranteed that Ferrari retain the Constructors' Championship. For Kimi, like Felipe, it's a question of what might have been.

Fernando Alonso, Renault, 4thFernando Alonso didn't look capable of competing with Ferrari or a fully fit McLaren, but the Renault team are faster than BMW now. Or at least one of them is. This result secured fourth place in the Constructors' Championship for Renault
Nick Heidfeld, BMW, 5thHaving endured quite a few qualifying low-points in 2008, for once Nick managed to establish an edge over Robert Kubica and held it through the race, despite his grid demotion.

Robert Kubica, BMW, 6thKubica did well to haul his BMW up to 6th place after qualifying 11th - though three of those places were down to Bourdais and Trulli nudging each other at the start and Heikki Kovalainen getting a puncture.

So the World Championship dream is over, but he did a remarkable, if unspectacular job in getting this far.

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren, DNFKovalainen may have had a brake problem, but that doesn't explain away another poor qualifying performance. To finish the first round of Q3 runs in P1 and then slump to P5 is worrying.

Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, 17thFisi may have acted like a mobile chicane in the race, but at least he was consistent. He impeded everyone at the front. As it was, Raikkonen lost the most time, but it was time he wouldn't need anyway as he was never going to challenge Hamilton and spent his race waiting for "the call".

Mark Webber, Red Bull, 14thIt's interesting to see some of the fall-out after the Japanese GP. Perhaps the most ill-advised comment came from Mark Webber. Mark's view on F1 is refreshingly lacking in the usual F1 posturing and normally I agree with most things he says, but not this time. To talk about "cars moving around under braking" and then use the death of a fire marshal to underline the consequences, in this instance was wrong.

Though a tragic event in F1 history, and one that left the usually chilled Michael Schumacher with tears in his eyes after the race, it transpired that Paulo Ghislimberti, the marshal that Webber had been talking about, tragically died because he was not in his safe position.

The Independent's David Tremayne described it at the time as being a case of "someone in the wrong place at the wrong time" and that he'd sprinted from his position for a last minute check of his equipment when he paused, just as a Jordan wheel came flying at him after a five-car incident.

Mark backtracked immediately when the media turned the "someone could get killed" into "Lewis could kill someone" but it was wrong even to mention the two incidents together. Heinz-Harald Frentzen wasn't blamed for that incident and neither Jacques Villeneuve nor Ralf Schumacher were blamed when in March the following year another freak accident occurred.
A marshal died after a tyre found its way through an unfeasibly small gap in the fence at the Australian GP after the pair collided unnecessarily.

When you go to a motorsport event there are notices around that warn you that motorsport is dangerous. That's part of the attraction. If these were replaced with signs that confided that motorsport was a processional event interspersed with clearly defined overtaking moves in well-defined areas, it would lose a lot of the thrill. There will always be an element of risk and danger, but if you minimise it to such a degree, you lose the appeal, the thing that brought you to the sport in the first place.

Let's get this in proportion, there are more deaths in Three-Day Eventing than there are in F1.
Ironically, Webber's remarks also came in the wake of the Singapore GP when his team-mate David Coulthard had veered towards Hamilton in the braking area of Turn 7, yet Lewis made no mention of it.

However, that said, Hamilton should sign up to the GPDA and get involved. Not doing so is a mistake.

Interesting also to hear the views of Mark's fellow GPDA director Jarno Trulli bellyaching about being held up by Lewis Hamilton for two laps at Mount Fuji. It's the job of the flag marshals to wave blue flags at those cars that are being lapped. Ignore three and you've got another penalty.
Judging by the extreme way Lewis jumped out of the way of a car that was lapping him later on, he must have assumed Trulli was not catching him. It's more likely to be the case that Trulli couldn't get close enough to Hamilton for the marshals to realise he was being "held up".
It's all so much, miaoow miaoow miaoow.

In the GP the Red Bull team still appear to be stymied by the lack of power from their Renault engine, and it seems slightly odd that the Renault team can make excellent progress while the customer is languishing at the back.

ITVMy heart sank when the ITV coverage started with all the images of past British World Champions. They did it last year and I thought it was ill-advised then. As it was, it proved premature and they'll have to wait another week. What would be nice is less presumption and a much better highlights programme if and when it does happen.

There was a bit of post-Japan revisionism going on about the pundits views of the race and Lewis's part in it. But as Mark Blundell wisely said: "both the guys in Japan were a little adrift with their train of thought."

For the race he guessed that: "Alonso will be in there, watching and hovering."

And afterwards he left us with thought of the day with regards to Lewis's chances in Brazil: "If he does what he done today in Brazil then it's done and dusted."

Andrew Davies
Source : Planet F1

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