With tensions running as high as possible this morning, the 2007 Formula One British Grand Prix was going to be an anxious race for the young rookie driver Lewis Hamilton. The support for Lewis was immense with cheers and sirens blasting every time the adoring fans lining the circuit caught a glimpse of their hero. Unfortunately though, it wouldn’t be quite the fairy-tale race for either McLaren, as the ever-present Ferrari’s were lingering in the background, and when it mattered, Kimi Raikkonen applied pressure, set blistering pace and went on to take victory. For the second race in succession, Kimi has won and edges closer and closer back towards the top of the Championship leaderboard, where he started from after the first race of the season.
It wasn’t a simple race, not by a long shot, and the lead exchanged between three drivers during the 58 laps. The drama started before the green lights went out, and immediately Ferrari were on the back foot. As Felipe Massa cruised into his grid box, he selected first gear and the engine died. The Brazilian threw his arms into the air and the start was aborted. When Lewis Hamilton led the second parade lap, the F2007 was rolled into the pitlane, restarted and Felipe was sent to the end of the pits, not permitted to join the race until the last placed driver had passed. Initially, it seemed to be a disaster for the Scuderia.
However, in true Schumacher-esque style, Felipe Massa drove a brilliant race, and ended his Sunday afternoon in fifth place. Blitzing past the back markers, Massa made minced-meat out of his colleagues until he found himself behind Robert Kubica in fourth. With the German power pushing the BMW car forward at incredible pace, Felipe could only make attempts. Unfortunately, nothing stuck, and while it was clear the Ferrari was faster, Massa just couldn’t get by.
The McLaren camp didn’t enjoy the race without drama either. Lewis made a good start, and with Massa at the back, Alonso was already promoted to third. The top three left the line and maintained position until the first set of stops. However, it was apparent that Kimi wasn’t letting Lewis run and hide, and the gap yo-yo’d around the one second mark for much of the first stint. Alonso stayed in check as well, viewing the ensuing battle from third.
Hamilton pitted first and it wasn’t the normal routine stop that McLaren have come to expect. When the lollipop controller spun it around to signal the driver to select gear, Lewis reacted incorrectly and let the clutch go. Thankfully he got on the brakes quickly, but the error cost him a few seconds, and the lost time would come back to haunt him later in the race.
As soon as Hamilton pitted, Raikkonen gritted his teeth and set fastest lap after fastest lap. Although Alonso was able to keep up, it was clear that Kimi was pushing for the lead. On lap 17, the Finn pitted, and when he left the pitlane, he was ahead of Lewis on the track. Essentially, the lead of the race was his.
It didn’t end there though. Oh no, because now Fernando Alonso had a clear track ahead of him. And being the experienced World Champion that he is, started to turn out fastest lap after fastest lap. On lap 19 the Spaniard pitted for fresh boots and fuel, left the pit lane and found himself ahead of Raikkonen. He had managed to leap-frog both drivers.
So now Hamilton and Alonso have effectively swapped places, it should have remained that way until the chequered flag, but nothing ever happens by the book in Formula One. The leading pair pulled away from a discouraged Hamilton, and Alonso made his second stop on lap 37. He left the pitlane in third, with Raikkonen resuming the lead and Hamilton in second. Kimi saw the opportunity, and the pace that followed was mesmorising. The Finn seemed to be a different driver altogether, and as he pushed his Ferrari harder and harder, the following McLaren’s didn’t really have an answer for it. When Raikkonen came in for his final stop on lap 43, and retained his lead upon exit.
The Ferrari/McLaren battle wasn’t the only one on the track though, and some teams had great races today. BMW finished in fourth and sixth to claim another eight points in the constructors title. Robert Kubica enjoyed a good race, and towards the end defended his position to a charging Massa very well. Nick Heidfeld doesn’t usually get beaten by his inexperienced team mate, but since Kubica’s return in France last weekend, that is exactly what has happened. But a further three points to Nick’s name in the tables will do him and the team no harm, and with an extension to his contract just around the corner, everything looks rosey in the BMW camp.
Renault also enjoyed both cars in the points today. And just like with BMW, it was the rookie of the team who beat the experienced campaigner, with Heikki Kovalainen claiming seventh place over Giancarlo Fisichella in eighth. Although the team still have a long way to go before reaching the dizzy heights of the podium again, the strong double finish will hopefully motivate the squad.
Just outside the points were both Honda’s, who although experienced a terrible weekend in general, must surely be pleased with a double finish in the top ten. It looked like they would be lucky to take anything away from this event, but ninth and tenth is good for the improving squad, despite Jenson Button being disappointed to miss out on a point by one place.
Williams managed to get both cars to the finish, although I think they will also want to forget about this weekend and concentrate on Germany. Qualifying didn’t go well for the Oxfordshire-based team, and the race didn’t go much better. Nico Rosberg showed a lot promise in the opening laps, but towards the end he just faded into obscurity and ultimately finished in twelfth. Alex Wurz had a coming together with Scott Speed while the Californian was being lapped by Alonso. As Alonso went around the outside, Speed was pushed towards the left of the track, just where Wurz was having a go up the inside. Thankfully, it seems the Williams is built well, as for the second time this year Alex’s car has sustained damage, but continued to the end of the race. Speed retired on the spot with substantial damage to his Toro Rosso.
Team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi also retired his STR later in the race on lap 54. With nothing seemingly wrong with the Ferrari-powered car, commentators were left puzzled as to what the problem was. Speaking to the press after he got back to his garage, it turns out his new and troublesome seamless-shift gearbox caused gremlins yet again.
The Red Bull’s also had a disappointing day at the Northamptonshire circuit, with Mark Webber notching up another DNF and David Coulthard finishing his home race in eleventh. It isn’t the result the team would have wanted, but having extended his contract with the team for 2008, surely the Adrian Newey designed car can only get better.
Adrian Sutil retired mid-distance with an engine failure and Ralf Schumacher – who had been having an inspired weekend (by his standards) – pitted and jumped out of the Toyota. Speaking to Louise Goodman in the pits a little later, it seems the German was undecided as to what the problem was, but it seemed to centre around the suspension. Jarno Trulli also retired towards the end of the race to give Toyota a British Grand Prix they will want to consign to the history books.
Super Aguri had a mixed bag this year, with practice sessions going so well for the diminutive Brit Anthony Davidson. Knocking on the top ten up until qualifying, it looked as though it was going to be a thoroughly British affair at this race, but needless to say it all started to become unraveled, and by the time the race came around, Davidson knew his Aguri wasn’t up to the task. He eventually retired, but only after coming into the pits and parking up for ten minutes while mechanics worked on the back end of the car.
A drama-filled British Grand Prix then, that left the championship leader looking at the rear wings of the returning men, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn moves ahead of his team mate Felipe Massa in the title race, and now sits in third place just 18 points behind Hamilton, and a very tiny 6 points behind Alonso. The constructors has also closed up a little, with McLaren separated by 25 points to Ferrari. BMW and Renault continue to pull away from the rest of the field though, with Renault on 31 points and Williams in fifth with 13.
Lewis still leads the title race though as the teams pack everything up and head for the Hockenheimring in Germany. McLaren will need to work hard to stop Ferrari on its roll, but equally so Ferrari need to ensure that both their cars are fighting at the front if they are going to take the constructors title. With so much to play for, and the titles getting closer and closer, the 2007 championship is really hotting up.