As Kimi Raikkonen stormed over the line to win the Chinese Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren was recovered from the pit entry and the 2007 drivers championship was forced down to the wire at the finale showdown in Brazil in a fortnight. In changeable conditions the championship looked over from the moment the red lights faded as Lewis Hamilton tore away from the line to lead the Ferraris for much of the race. However, by the time the chequered was being prepared Kimi had seen the stranded Number-Two McLaren and was defending his position to a resurgent Fernando Alonso.
Current championship leader Lewis Hamilton had a good start to the Chinese race, and from his perspective, Alonso having lost out to Massa into Turn one could only help his cause. With all drivers starting off on intermediate wet tyres and drizzle falling on the tarmac lap one was certainly exploratory to say the least. Most drivers made it around in one piece though, from here on in the leading duo moved ahead and pulled out a margin.
However, at about half-distance and with a dry line emerging around most parts of the circuit, it became very apparent that dry tyres were the way to go. The drying line was causing the tyres on Hamilton’s McLaren to heat up above their normal operating temperature. With more rain forecast in the near future though, the team were attempting to leave Lewis out for as long as possible. On lap 32 Hamilton was called to the pits, but on this final lap of his, it was very clear that his tyres were seriously struggling. The right-rear looked as though it would let go at any moment, and as the Brit entered the pitlane entry road, he simply went straight into the gravel.
Ferrari, on the other hand, enjoyed a much better race, taking a one-three finish and enabling Raikkonen to still be in with a chance of the title, mathematically anyway. Felipe Massa also had a reasonable race, running well in the difficult circumstances and mounting challenges to Alonso wherever possible. Although the win was gifted to Raikkonen after Hamilton’s retirement, Kimi had a great race and seemed to revel on the greasy track.
Scuderia Toro Rosso moved up the rankings today as well. Having lost their point in Fuji, the little Red Bull B-squad leave Shanghai with a commendable eight points. Sebastian Vettel overcame the embarrassment and humiliation of what happened last weekend to finish in fourth place, ahead of Jenson Button’s Honda and team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi in the sister car. This result now means that all teams competing have scored at least one point in the championship, something that hasn’t happened in all the time I have been a fan of the sport.
Nick Heidfeld managed to recover to seventh place after a terrible opening stint, but this will be a race meeting BMW will want to quickly forget. Although Robert Kubica ran well towards the end, the Pole was eventually forced to retire with a mechanical problem on his car. Although this promoted team mate Heidfeld, the result is certainly not on par with the rest of the season. David Coulthard collected the final point in eighth after a great battle with Heikki Kovalainen right down to the final corner of the final lap.
Ralf Schumacher failed to finish again, this time spinning out of the race at the final corner of the lap. Adrian Sutil also managed to visit the scenery, his accident giving a camera operator a shock as the Spyker sent shockwaves through the tyre wall causing the camera to wobble on its stand.
In all the Chinese Grand Prix was interesting, but only due to the weather. It seems that rain really is the cat among the pigeons when it comes to Formula One, and the changeable weather made the teams strategies interesting to observe. A lot will be asked about McLaren’s decision to leave Hamilton out while his tyres were wearing down to the canvas, for sure damaging his title hopes considerably.
Lewis still leads with 107 points, but Fernando Alonso is only four points down on 103. Kimi is right behind with 100, although it is unlikely he’ll be able to reclaim that deficit in one race. Should Alonso win the Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton will have to finish second in order to steal the title. It all comes down to the final race and the tension at the Woking team must be unbearable. Alonso recently confirmed how unhappy he is at McLaren, but reiterated his sportsmanship by declaring the best man will win. The Interlagos is unknown to Lewis, but that has rarely hindered the young driver.