Sunday, 22 July 2007

Alonso storms to chaotic Nurburgring win

If ever there was an indication of just how dramatic today’s race was going to be it was BBC Five Live’s decision to bring Murray Walker back to the helm. What a race to have the old boy back.

I was a bit unsure at first as to whether to put ITV on mute but it was worth it if only for the start. Without any disrespect to James Allen – and I think he has taken a lot of unfair stick from fans, myself included – nobody captures the buzz of F1 quite like Murray Walker

“One light, two lights, three lights, four lights, give lights… GO GO GO!” beckoned the crackling radio as the grid leapt away from their starting positions. Fantastic, it brought back a lot of memories. If Five hadn’t elected to constantly switch to the Open I would have had Muzza on for the race duration.

As for the race, where do I begin? Perhaps unconventionally with my drivers of the day: Mark Webber and Alexander Wurz. Webber has finally followed up a strong qualifying performance with a decent race result, the Red Bull and its dodgy gearbox at last making it to the finish. I wonder if Geoff Willis had anything to do with the improved reliability – I think he is a huge coup for Red Bull, Honda were mad to let him go.

I am developing an increasing interest in Wurz. Rosberg is a future star of the sport, no question about it, and Wurz is finally looking as though he has can match the young driver. His fourth place today adds bundles to his credibility and he got agonisingly close to a podium after Webber stumbled at the final chicane. Canada was no fluke and I hope Williams keep him for next year.

It was a disappointing day for Lewis Hamilton. After yesterday’s crash in qualifying rain looked to be his get out of jail card. In the end it cost him dear and like so many other drivers he aquaplaned into the gravel trap at turn one.

I was amazed and astonished that:

•He didn’t crash into the wall
•He didn’t get taken out by the five or so other cars following him into the tyre wall
•No one smashed into the crane
•He kept the engine running
•He was allowed back into the race after assistance from the crane

But after being gifted an opportunity to get back on terms with the leaders on the race restart – the safety car allowed him to unlap himself – he went on to blow his chances by pitting for dry tyres on a still otherwise wet track. He lost his championship lead today because he broke the golden rule of wet weather race strategy: regardless of what the reports are telling you about the future, react only to the present. Whether rain is expected in 2 minutes or 20 minutes put on the tyres that are right for the current track conditions. Gambling on the weather is only worth it if you have nothing to lose, as the now legendary Winkelhock demonstrated today. Hamilton, unlike Winklehork, had everything to lose and not very much to gain.

The tyre blunder aside I thought he looked in good shape today; his failure to pick up a point didn’t do justice to his performance. He showed fantastic pace in the early stages and was by far the quickest of the top three once things had settled down.

With Hamilton out of the picture, it was all about Alonso and the two Ferraris at the sharp end of the race. It wasn’t long before we were down to one Ferrari after Kimi Raikkonen retired with a hydraulics problem. This is a huge blow to his championship hopes and I fear for his contention. He will be praying for a ruling of points deductions at the Mclaren hearing next week.

We saw the two-faced Massa today: brilliant without pressure, useless under it. He had the measure of Alonso pretty much throughout the race until the last few laps when Alonso came alive in the rain. There is no way Raikkonen would have relinquished the lead as quickly as Massa did today. The rain robbed Massa of his Ferrari performance advantage. It was a straight fight between Alonso and Massa and therefore no doubt in the outcome. I don’t know what Alonso’s problem was with Massa; or Massa’s with Alonso for that matter, he won didn’t he?

As we head to Hungary in a couple of weeks time all the momentum is with Alonso. Hamilton is going to have his work cut out to defend his two-point lead. And to say that Raikkonen has got a mountain to climb is a massive understatement.


vroom said...

Nothing like the pipes of a great broadcaster!

F1Voice said...

Damn Straight.

The guy is a total legend. ITV should bring him back into the commentary box!