Saturday, 26 May 2007

Hamilton will be hard-pressed for a Monaco victory

In what is something of a tradition, two questions circulate my household on the eve of a grand prix: who do you think will win and who do you want to win – although the former usually ends up getting repeated and prefixed with an expression along the lines of “no, seriously”. The plight of F1’s British competitors in recent years – and a corresponding sense of increased family loyalty – has meant that the two answers rarely match. The sensation that is Lewis Hamilton however, is starting to change this.

What then lies in store for tomorrow? One thing is stopping me from answering both questions with the word Hamilton: strategy. Ron Dennis has openly admitted that his two drivers are running different fuel loads:

“Clearly we had to put them on different strategies and we’re absolutely delighted with the outcome of qualifying,” he told ITV Sport after qualifying.

Alonso’s advantage has led to a tentative paddock consensus that Hamilton is fuelled slightly heavier than Alonso. I have doubts about this. Hamilton’s demeanour and language before qualifying suggested he was gearing up for an aggressive strategy. He was clearly up for pole. And if you take into consideration the mistakes on his flying laps and the time lost behind Mark Webber, I reckon Hamilton could have ended up at least a couple of tenths ahead of Alonso. Remember, his eventual time of 1m15.905 was set much earlier in the session when the Mclaren drivers were given orders to pre-empt the mid session drizzle. With a clear track on a lighter fuel load Hamilton would surely have out qualified Alonso. As he acknowledged:

“The lap was fantastic; it was really on the limit. I think I touched one of the barriers on the exit of turn four and I was three tenths up on my previous best, and then I got held up by Webber.

“He was on an ‘out' lap. I don't know whether he saw me or what but he didn't let me past until turn eight, so I lost half a second behind him.”

So if anything I think Hamilton is slightly lighter than Alonso with Massa quite possibly lighter than both Mclarens. This will surely give Alonso the advantage in the race.

But please, prove me wrong Lewis…

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