Thursday, October 16, 2008

CHINESE GRAND PRIX PREVIEW

At the Chinese Grand prix Lewis Hamilton could become World Champion... or end up 12th again. It could go either way. After his moment of madness at the Japanese GP and all the criticism that has got him, he could easily produce an immaculate drive in Shanghai. He had to weather a lot of criticism before the British GP at Silverstone and we know what happened then, he produced the race win of the season.

Sadly for Lewis fans I can't see that happening in China, for the very reason that the World Championship is at stake.

Equally Felipe Massa will be on edge too. Whereas Lewis can afford one more slip-up before the end of the season Felipe cannot afford a single error. He knows that Lewis has still got his get-out-of-jail-free engine change before the last race so he'll have maximum revs on the Mercedes for both events.

He also knows that he screwed up in qualifying for Japan by driving too fast on his outlap and setting the fastest sector time of anyone in Sector 3... of his outlap.

What he doesn't know (but if he were a statistician he could probably guess - see Pete Gill's brilliant feature below) is that he has the stewards on his side. He may have been given a drive-through penalty at the Japanese for side-swiping Lewis by cutting the chicane, but Hamilton got one for just running a little bit wide at the first corner.

What's more he was given a World Championship point for an incident with Bourdais of which Bourdais was entirely blameless. Race Director Charlie had told drivers that in just such an event of two drivers heading for Turn 1 together, one from the pitlane, racing for position, that the driver from the pitlane has the right of way.

Bourdais had the right of way. What was even more suspicious was the fact that the stewards couldn't work out what to do until the race was over and that nice Mr Donnelly could talk to them. Unlike the opening phase of the race, the last 16 laps at Fuji weren't exactly packed with incident were they?

And what was most worrying of all was the lack of outcry about what appears to be one of the most blatant sporting result manipulations of all time. What if French punters had bet money on Bourdais scoring a point...?

We'd like to think there was a logical explanation to it all, and so Max Mosley - in the interests of sporting fairness - should explain the process. Because there must have been a process behind the stewards' thinking.

This is all grist to the mill for Robert Kubica. He is just 12 points behind Hamilton with two races to go and we all know that Kimi Raikkonen was a massive 17 points behind Hamilton and had Alonso in front of him as well going into the last two races in 2007.

Should Hamilton and Massa have another little bash at Turns 1 and 2 (quite easy at Shanghai) then he could easily arrive at Interlagos with a mathematical chance of becoming World Champion.

I have to confess, a little part of the PF1 office thrills at the prospect of BMW walking away with both titles having endured a season of watching Ferrari and McLaren taking all the headlines.

With seven drivers winning races and some epic dramas through the season, it's hard to see that there needs to be a major change in the F1 regulations other than: save money, give more to the smaller teams and elect three professional stewards who will oversee every race and report to the race director.

Fernando Alonso will be out to make it an unlikely three in a row in Shanghai. Now that Renault have embraced the 'safety and reliability' issues that Ferrari and Mercedes have been addressing with their engines all season, they seem to be a lot quicker.

Alonso just needs two more races to make it an 18-0 qualifying whitewash over team-mate Nelson Piquet Junior. Junior himself looked to be vying for third place in Japan but made a critical error in the closing laps when he was on Raikkonen's tail. We hope he's got something interesting planned for 2009.

Toyota will need to go some to take fourth in the Constructors' now, while Toro Rosso haven't given up the chance of taking fifth ahead of Toyota - they're 16 points behind with two races to go - and it should have been 14 points behind.

That could equate to around $5m difference in prize money, so I'd be interested to hear Gerhard Berger's end-of-season views if Toyota snatch it by a single point.

Or alternatively if Mark Webber scores the kind of result for Red Bull that he's been threatening all season, they might lose 6th place to the sister team who are just five points behind them.

For Williams, Honda and Force India it's a question of damage limitation. It would be a nice reward for Vijay Mallya to get at least a point with his team in their debut season. They lost the best chance at Monaco when Kimi Raikkonen punted Adrian Sutil off the road when he was in fourth place.

Raikkonen wasn't penalised for that incident even though Hamilton was penalised for ramming into him at Montreal. Still, it certainly wasn't as dangerous as when Lewis ran a little bit wide. Now that was shocking.

 

1 comment:

John said...

Hi Alvin,

Kimi hit a wet spot coming out of the tunnel to lose control of his f2008 before colliding with Sutil; therefore deemed as race accident. Sutil overtook cars during the yellow flags which meant he would finish out of the points had he finished the race in p4.

Kimi's mistake was out of control, where as Lewis ran into a stationary car where he totally missed the red light when both Kimi and Robert saw and stopped for.