Saturday, 16 June 2007

Hamilton seals Indy pole

Lewis Hamilton grabbed pole position for the second time running this afternoon after he edged out team-mate Fernando Alonso by just under two tenths of a second. Once again Mclaren got the better of rivals Ferrari with Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen making up the second row of the grid for tomorrow’s US Grand Prix.

How about that then? Huge psychological blow to Alonso; he really needed to send out a message to Hamilton today reinstating himself as the team’s number one. I have to admit that I thought Hamilton would be lucky to get on the front row of the grid let alone take the front spot. But then maybe I read too much into practice. [Cont...]

Let’s wait until the fuel loads are revealed but Mclaren will be pleased to have pulled one over Ferrari again especially at Indianapolis where a strong showing has been something of a given for the Italian team.

BMW were looking particularly strong with Nick Heidfeld eventually finishing in fifth position – a mistake in the final sector prevented him splitting the Mclarens and Ferraris – and debutant Sebastian Vettel lining up seventh. Past form hints at a possible one stop strategy for the BMW cars which would be no bad thing at Indianapolis with its long pit lane. And who knows, another safety car situation could see the blue and white cars come away with a podium.

Vettel was impressive but not mind blowing. The problem is that Hamilton has set a new benchmark as Vettel himself acknowledged:

“Lewis set the bar high so all the beginners have to do something to get close to him,” he told ITV Sport.

But the young German will have to get closer to Heidfeld than seven tenths of a second if he is to show he deserves a full time race seat at BMW.

Mechanics will be scratching their heads at Maranello. Ferrari have made a number of aerodynamic changes since Spain where they last enjoyed a performance advantage over Mclaren. Most notably a new ‘double curved’ rear wing that was introduced to suit the medium to low downforce demands of Canada and Indianapolis. The changes clearly haven’t been as effective as Mclaren’s for the medium downforce tracks. Rob Jones suggests HERE that Ferrari’s problems may also have something to do with getting to grips with the now standardised Bridgestone tyres.

I think there is another factor to consider: driver competition. It is something that is prevalent at both Mclaren and BMW in abundance. There is no doubt in my mind that the rivalry between Alonso and Hamilton is pushing the team forward with both drivers finding that crucial extra tenth on driving resource alone.

At BMW Nick Heidfeld has been under pressure to retain his seat since last year. And he is a different driver because of it, no question. Would he have achieved the same results as this year if Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel hadn’t come into the scene? I doubt it.

With Ferrari though there just doesn’t seem to be that same sense of rivalry and infighting. I don’t understand what is going on in Raikkonen’s mind at the moment. I still think on a clear day he is quicker than Massa he just needs some kind of hurry up. Maybe he should start accusing Ferrari of favouring the Brazilian.

But perhaps I’m jumping the gun. Ferrari could well be one-stopping which could enable them to mount a challenge on Mclaren. If not it’s going to be seventy three laps of Alonso vs. Hamilton. Game on.

Further down the grid it will be interesting to see if Nico Rosberg and David Coulthard can make their way through the pack. And can Webber and Trulli finally shake off their ‘qualifying only’ images?

Qualifying times

1. HAMILTON McLaren 1m12.331s
2. ALONSO McLaren 1m12.500s
3. MASSA Ferrari 1m12.703s
4. RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1m12.839s
5. HEIDFELD BMW 1m12.847s
6. KOVALAINEN Renault 1m13.308s
7. VETTEL BMW 1m13.513s
8. TRULLI Toyota 1m13.789s
9. WEBBER Red Bull 1m13.871s
10. FISICHELLA Renault 1m13.953s
11. COULTHARD Red Bull 1m12.873s
12. SCHUMACHER Toyota 1m12.920s
13. BUTTON Honda 1m12.998s
14. ROSBERG Williams 1m13.060s
15. BARRICHELLO Honda 1m13.201s
16. DAVIDSON Super Aguri 1m13.259s
17. WURZ Williams 1m13.441s
18. SATO Super Aguri 1m13.477s
19. LIUZZI Toro Rosso 1m13.484s
20. SPEED Toro Rosso 1m13.712s
21. SUTIL Spyker 1m14.122s
22. ALBERS Spyker 1m14.597s

Picture Source: BBC Sport

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