Saturday, 1 September 2007

Ferrari can still challenge

I apologise for the lack of entries recently; I have been pretty snowed under at work.

Some thoughts on Turkey. Ferrari quashed Mclaren with a 1-2 finish but I think there will be some dissatisfaction – or at least a sense of missed opportunity – with the result. Why? Because just as in 2006 when a safety car situation allowed Massa to get the jump on Michael Schumacher, so again this year, the finishing order was less than ideal for the team’s championship challenge.

Don’t get me wrong, Massa, on his day, can be brilliant when out in front. He can also be seriously impressive over the one-lap. But between Massa and Raikkonen who would you really want dicing it out with the Mclarens in the heat of a championship deciding race?

Publicly at least, Jean Todt has been quick to jump on the ‘equalities’ bandwagon instigated by Ron Dennis and Mclaren (I find this so hilarious given the team’s history with Michael Schumacher at the helm):

“At the moment there is no plan to make any kind of strategy between one or the other driver.

“It would be something that would be inappropriate. Our drivers are doing such a good job, after 12 Grands Prix, with just one point difference.

“Most of the problems they had were because of some mistakes that we did. They made some mistakes, but that is normal. We are all human.

“We feel the championship is still open. It will be tough, but it is always tough. And as I always said, we will try the best until the end and I believe we still can carry this on.”

I guess the key thing here is that Todt does not explicitly rule out one-driver support at a later stage in the championship. It wouldn’t surprise me if some people in the team are secretly hoping that Raikkonen comes out on top in the next few races.

Incidentally, there was something else in Todt’s statement that caught my eye. He went out of his way to praise Lewis Hamilton for his damage limiting drive to fifth after his tyre delaminated:

“Lewis did a fantastic race. After what happened he was quite lucky to bring four points home but when you look at what he has done this season he is doing a great job. He was even quite successful when he had a problem today. It can happen to us, and it is part of racing.”

It is quite a rare thing for team leaders to acknowledge other drivers’ performances however impressive. Indeed, I didn’t think Hamilton’s recovery was particularly spell-binding. It was a solid drive and he kept a clear head.

So why the praise from Todt? Has Todt - and more worringly, has Lewis himself - started thinking about what Hamilton would look like in Red? I seem to remember the last Mclaren driver Todt went out of his way to congratulate was a certain Kimi Raikkonen.

With regards to the title hunt, I have argued throughout this blog that Ferrari will be hard-pressed to stop a Mclaren driver winning the drivers championship. But Hamilton’s tyre blow-out – which I now understand was due to tyre ”Chunking” – really hit home and reminded me just how quickly things can turn in Formula One.

There is only one point between Massa and Raikkonen who are only 17 points off the leader. We have five races to go and a maximum of fifty points up for grabs. And the threat of points deductions from Mclaren or even worse, a race ban remains very much real.

If Ferrari can find some consistency and string together some victories we could be in for a thrilling end to the season. Why Bernie Ecclestone is trying to lure Michael Schumacher back into the sport is beyond me.

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