Several things happened yesterday that could have changed the podium line up. While Hamilton’s drive through penalty is still one of the talks of the race the opinion of the majority is that the penalty was justified. From what I have seen I tend to agree with that. There were however 2 other incidents that I am not sure were handled correctly by the race control.
Incident one – Raikkonen’s exhaust pipe
If there is a car on track that may pose danger the stewards can call it back to the pits to get rid of the danger. There is even this nice black flag with orange circle for that purpose. When Raikkonen’s car suddenly lost some pace on lap 36, a piece of the loose exhaust pipe appeared to be bouncing arround chassis hanging there only on a piece of wire. It was only matter of time before that piece of car gets loose and flies away. Ferrari were aware of that and based on post race words from Domenicali chose to let it fly away itself rather than bringing the car to the pits and cutting it away. Even when Raikkonen came for his regular pit stop nothing was done with the pipe in order not to waste valuable seconds…
Question: Why was it not possible to remove the exhaust at the pit stop?
Domenicali: It had already fallen off. It was already flying away. There was the cable of the lamda and we decided not to cut that because we were maybe losing more seconds, and we had Trulli pushing behind so we took that into consideration, and I have to say that in terms of strategy, in terms of teamwork everything was done correctly.
So everybody was aware that piece Kimi’s car will eventually get loose and fly off and nobody found that to be a potential danger to other drivers or to spectators ? I am happy for Kimi to be able to finish the race and in 2nd place under such circumstances. But I do wonder why the race control did not take any action to make sure his car poses no danger. After listening to the French GP digest at Sidepodcast I see that I am not alone …
Incident two – Trulli vs. Kovalainen
One journalist suggested at the post race press conference that Trulli and Kovalainen touched the wheels while fighting for the 3rd place with a lap to go. I do not think their wheels touched although they came very very close. It however looked to me that Trulli did make a sudden movement in Kovalainen’s direction when the cars were almost side to side forcing Kovalainen off the track. Was this a display of excellent racing we all want to see or an example of dangerous defensive driving from Jarno Trulli ? After watching the replay several times I do wonder why Trulli’s maneuvre was not at least investigated by the stewards …
At the end no flag to Raikkonen no penalty to Trulli – Was that right ?
First two races, more than 10% of the season are behind us. Ron Dennis may claim that only Spanish GP will show the true form of the teams but why wait. Let’s look at who has been good and who has not so far.
BMW Sauber – They had worrying start to their winter tests with their new car but how they turned things around. Fernando Alonso considered them to be the dark horses of the 2008 season and it looks like he has been right. The team may not be yet ready to mount the title challenge. But they are surprisingly close to the pace of McLarens. It may not be impossible to score a race win on merit later on this season. And with the current reliability and Massa woes Ferrari are experiencing, the maiden win may not be too far.
Toyota – Surprise surprise. But looking back to team’s performance in the last winter test it perhaps should not be that unexpected. Jarno Trulli claims they are now 4th best team (same claim Rosberg has about Williams). I would not probably say that. But Toyota firmly claimed their place in stronger end of the midfield, along with Williams and Red Bull.
If I am to finish this series of posts before I take off for Australia, I need to hurry up. So let’s continue with the McLaren Mercedes team.
Lewis Hamilton – United Kingdom (England I believe)
Born: 7 January 1985
In F1 since 2007, McLaren
Best Result: 2nd 2007
Career wins: 4
Pole positions: 6
This time a year ago few people outside the F1 hard core circle even heard of Lewis Hamilton, several months later he was on the verge of claiming the driver’s title. Not everybody will agree with me, but it was his title to throw away, and that is exactly what he has done. Now he has another shot at it, but it will not be easy. After his pretty much faultless season (bar the last 2 races) the expectations and resulting pressure on him will be much higher in 2008. The British press and media “Hamilton obsession” is something that he probably could live without. It remains to be seen how will he handle all this when he is no longer considerd rookie.
Many consider Hamilton to be the de-facto McLaren’s number 1 driver. I would however be very careful with this sort of claims. Heikki Kovalainen did not go to McLaren to play a support role …
Hamilton does not seem to have much trouble adapting to driving without the electronic driver aids and he will very likely be one of the privileged few to fight it out for the title. He has enough skills to win the title but so have few others. If last season was tough, this one will be even tougher.
It will also be interesting to watch how he handles another season with very competitive team mate. The public blamed mostly Alonso for all the troubles last year, but one should not forget that it was Hamilton who decided to defy instructions from the team in Monaco and then in that fateful qualifying in Hungary …
Heikki Kovalainen – Finland
Born: 19 October 1981
In F1 since 2007 Renault, 2008 McLaren
Best Result: 7th 2007
Career wins: 0
Pole positions: 0
Podium: 1 (2nd in 2007 Japanese GP)
Unlike Hamilton, Kovalainen’s start to his rookie season was only just short of disaster. Whether it was the lack of F1 racing experience or lack of confidence, his performances early on last season raised some questions about his future. The turning point of his season was probably the incident filled Canadian GP where he finished 4th. From then on he more than matched his team mate Giancarlo Fisichella. He would probably still race for Renault if not for certain Fernando returning home. He was lucky that Nico Rosberg was not available, but he did land the McLaren seat and he looks ready to grab his chance. There are many in F1 circles who consider him to pose a serious threat to Hamilton’s title aspirations and rightly so. He does not go into the season as favourite to win the title and that may be his advantange … I see him as one of the dark horses this year.
F1Wolf’s prediction for McLaren drivers in 2008:
Very evenly matched pair of drivers, but whether the title goes to Maranello or to Woking, I think it will be in Finnish hands … Ooops
2008 F1 Season – Team Mates – Ferrari
Heikki Kovalainen will race for McLaren in 2008 F1 season. The expected straight swap Alonso to Renault Heikki to McLaren has happened. This means McLaren will enter the 2008 season with 2 young guns. The experienced Pedro de la Rosa will have to accept the 3rd driver role again.
Here is the first official photo of Heikki Kovalainen in McLaren Mercedes team:
Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren Mercedes, photo Daimler Media
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren-Mercedes:
“We had a number of options open to us and as always we want to make sure that we have the most competitive driver line-up and I think that Lewis and Heikki will be a formidable combination. Both enjoyed great rookie seasons in 2007 and share a genuine passion for winning and being the best. Heikki made a strong impression and Lewis’ performance so far has been outstanding and speaks for itself. I am confident that they will push each other on track and work well together off track. In addition with Pedro remaining our primary test driver alongside Gary, we really have a strong package and look forward to 2008.”
“I am so excited to join a team like Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. So far I have been blown away by the dedication and commitment to winning which is clear through the entire organisation and I am really excited about our joint future. As a Finn it’s an honour for me to follow in Mika and Kimi’s footsteps. I haven’t really spent a lot of time with Lewis so far but from what I know I think we will work well together and do our best for the team.”
“As soon as the chequered flag went in Brazil I began to count down the days until Australia. I am really looking forward to 2008 and working with Heikki as my teammate. Together with the team we will do everything we can to ensure that our Championship challenge is as strong and focused as possible. My first year in Formula One was incredible and I was so fortunate to spend it with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and I hope that Heikki will enjoy his first year with the team as much as I did mine.”
The 2008 Formula 1 grid is almost finalized. Only Force India and Super Aguri are yet to confirmed their 2008 driver line up.
After yesterday’s announcement from Renault there are only 3 teams left with vacant race seats for 2008 Formula 1 season and there are several drivers aiming to land one of them.
The vacancy in McLaren always attracts big interest and this is the second year in a row when 1 seat is up for grabs (last year it went to Lewis Hamilton). The drivers most often mentioned in connection with 2008 McLaren race seat are McLaren’s test driver Pedro de la Rosa, freshly unemployed Heikki Kovalainen as well as Force India’s Adrian Sutil. The other McLaren test driver Gary Paffet seems to be a distant 4th option.
While the “big” announcement on Fernando Alonso is now after the Renault ruling expected anytime soon, there were some other interesting developments elsewhere over the past few days.
The Jerez tests were kind of a shoot out for the Force India seat. There are no clear winners yet, but there is one obvious looser – Ralf Schumacher. Even he himself now admits, the Jerez outing might have been his last appearance in Formula 1 car…
Unlike Ralf, the other serious candidates – Fisichella, Liuzzi and Klien – did not do themselves too much harm.
Part 6 of 2007 Formula 1 high resolution downloads – Renault and their drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen. It is well possible that Renault will enter 2008 season with all new drivers line up. All the photos are free but for personal use only. Right click on the links below and save.