Monday, 2 July 2007

Raikkonen leads Ferrari 1-2

Kimi Raikkonen led a reinvigorated Ferrari squad to dominant 1-2 at the French Grand Prix this afternoon after coming out on top of a race long battle with team-mate Felipe Massa.

It was a disappointing day for Mclaren. Lewis Hamilton was unable to make any inroads on the leaders after switching to a three-stop strategy and Fernando Alonso – who was forced to start tenth after a gearbox problem in qualifying – lost a lot of time at the beginning of the race tucked up behind the gearbox of Nick Heidfeld.

I was expecting a closer fight today. Qualifying suggested that the gap between Ferrari and Mclaren was marginal but Ferrari were simply outstanding on race pace today. This combined with the fact that Hamilton – and Alonso too for that matter – was running extremely light pretty much sealed the victory for Ferrari.

Hamilton never really looked as though he had the pace to challenge the leaders. Even if had stuck to a two-stop strategy I doubt he would have been able to make any impact.

It was clearly a frustrating day for Alonso. Once again we saw just how much time drivers can loose in the dirty air of a slower car and something needs to be done to promote closer racing.

The highlight of the race by far was Alonso’s overtaking move on Heidfeld at the super fast Imola chicane. He was taking a huge risk diving up the inside at some 150mph and was completely at the mercy of Heidfeld’s avoidance strategy. I doubt he would have tried his hand if it had been Sato he was dicing with. It’s right up there with his pass around the outside of Michael Schumacher at Suzuka in my view.

Credit must go to Ferrari. It really has been a huge leap forwards in performance. Can Raikkonen and Massa launch an assault on the championship leaders? It’s difficult to say. The points system heavily favours Mclaren and Lewis Hamilton. I still think that Raikkonen will have to rely on reliability problems or a mistake from Mclaren rather than be able to challenge for the championship using a quicker on its own.

Two other drivers that I think are worth a brief mention from the race are Robert Kubica and Jenson Button. It hasn’t been the ideal start to the year for Kubica and he has been consistently out-raced by Heidfeld. But he looked a different man today and was by far the quicker of the two BMWs – no mean feat considering the pace of Heidfeld.

I’m not a huge Jenson Button fan (he came into the sport while Damon Hill was still there) but I was impressed with his drive. The improved Honda seems to be much stronger than its predecessor on race pace and Button was putting in some pretty quick laps to finish in the points.

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