Hamilton’s second place finish in Valencia combined with Raikkonen’s retirement means that Hamilton’s championship lead is now 2 points bigger than it was prior to the European GP. But whether he really extended his lead or not depends on whom he considers to be his main title competitor.
Realistically there are only 3 title contenders left – Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen. Although McLaren will deny it anytime anyone asks, Hamilton is clear number 1 and can expect full support from the team and also from his team mate.
In Ferrari the situation is different. Both their drivers are still in the fight as was the case last year at McLaren all the way to the wire. We all remember who has won it at the end… Raikkonen may be going through a slump period but only a fool would write him off. His gap to Hamilton is still smaller than it was last year with 2 races to go. His problem this year however is, that his team mate, Felipe Massa is clearly outperforming him at the moment.
To win the title Raikkonen would have to not only beat Hamilton, but also his team mate. To do that he would first have to start outqualifying Massa and that is not an easy task. So far this season Massa leads Raikkonen 8:4 in qualifying and 4:2 in pole positions. Massa qualified on front row in last 3 races, Kimi’s last front row start came way back in France (pole position).
It is hard to tell if Raikkonen’s recent race performaces would be any different if he started from pole and lead the race. But in last few races he did not seem to be too keen on racing. From the sofa in front of TV or from the grandstands in Valencia it looked like he is just there to get over with the race. That was in sharp contrast with Massa’s very committed performances. Raikkonen only finished on podium twice in last 6 races and it has to be remembered that his last podium, 3rd place in Hungary, was only thanks to Hamilton’s puncture and Massa engine blow up.
So, without trying to write off Kimi, it does look like Felipe Massa is the man of the moment and the guy whom Hamilton should see as the main threat to his title hopes. Also, as it stands now, Massa is the only driver that only needs to rely on himself to catch Lewis Hamilton.
So, did Hamilton really extend his championship lead ? Well, I do not think so. It looks to me that his actual lead was cut by 2 points by Massa and the chase has just begun.