Lap one saw an incident caused by the inexperienced Yuji Ide when he tried to sneak up the inside of Albers. However, the gap just wasn’t big enough and the Japanese driver clipped the rear right tyre of Alber’s Midland which sent him into a somersault through the gravel. Chistijan walked away from the incident, but it is scenes like these that raise questions as to the validity of running vastly inexperienced drivers in a sport where the smallest of errors or mis-judgment can lead to potentially serious accidents.
After a short safety car period, the field restarted, and again Michael Schumacher fended off his opponents and skated away up the circuit. Until the first stop, it looked as though the
As the second round of pit stops drew closer, the general thought of the proceedings was that Fernando would stop after Michael. With more fuel on board and an obviously faster car, Alonso would have found it reasonably easy to pull out a handful of fast laps and would have been able to pass Schumacher in the pits. However, a late decision from the Renault pit wall made Alonso stop first. His stop was good, but unfortuantely for the French squad, Schumacher pulled a lap from deep within himself and when Ferrari responded on the very next tour of the circuit, Alonso found himself just behind the Ferrari, yet again.
Alonso then had to try and pass Michael before the chequered flag, but found the Ferrari was fairing slightly better then before, and couldn’t find a safe (ish) way around him. Three laps from the end, the young Spaniard made a small error coming out of the Villeneuve corner, running wide and allowing Schumacher to ease out a small gap. This mistake from Alonso made it almost impossible for him to pass Michael, and the 7 times world champion won his first race since the ill-fated US grand Prix last year.
Ferrari have undoubtedly made strides in the performance of their car, but the fact remains that Renault are still the team to beat at this stage of the season. It is hard to fault Michael today and he drive a solid race overcoming problems and keeping himself just enough ahead of Alonso to prevent any upsets. It is worth pointing out though that Imola is tradtionally a Ferrari track and a circuit that favours Bridgestone tyres. In two weeks the F1 circus travels to the Nurburgring in Germany, where Schumacher should have anoother good run, but I feel that unless further strides are made, Ferrari may find to following races even more difficult to beat Renault.
Much talk will be made of Fernando’s final pit stop. Pat Symonds from the team has admitted that they could have gone longer, but hindsight is 20:20, and after winning the first three races, Renault had to surely make one mistake. I’m sure that despite picking up eight points for Alonso and one point for Fisichella, the French squad will want to forget about this race and move on to Germany in a fortnight with the intention of regaining control.
To be fair to Jenson, the blame for the incident was probably 90% in favour of the lollipop man. The lollipop (which signals to the driver to plant the throttle and release the clutch) was raised too early, and Jenson reacted sharply and started to pull away. Seeing that the fuel rig was still attached, the lollipop came back down again and clouted Button on his helmet, but the car had already started to move and the best Jenson could do was stop the car a bit further up the pit lane. Although no one was hurt, things like this make me wince at the TV as they can so easily be a lot worse. I can understand why it took Jenson a seemingly long time to stop the car, as his mind would have been completely focused on going. He wouldn’t have looked in his mirrors, and until he actually hit the lollipop, he probably didn’t even see it coming back down or know that there was any problem. This catalog of pit stop errors ruined Button’s race, and all the Brit could managed was 7th place.
Felipe Massa finished 4th, and whilst he too had a quiet race, the young Brazilian managed to almost peg his team mate in the first few laps. However, the apparent slowing down prior to the first stops spoiled the moment for me. Whilst he is contracted to the team, I still find these occurances somewhat annoying.
Kimi Raikkonen finished just behind the second Ferrari, and Mark Webber had a good day coming home 6th and picking up a further 3 points for Williams.
Fisichella climbed to 8th before the end of the race, and Ralf Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello complete the top ten.
All in all, an uneventful race. Unfortuantely, the only real noteworthy events were for the wrong reasons – Alber’s flip and Button’s pit lane exploits. But it is nice to see someone other than Alonso win, even if it is a Ferrari!
1. M Schumacher – Ferrari
2. Alonso – Renault
3. Montoya – McLaren
4. Massa – Ferrari
5. Raikkonen – McLaren
6. Webber – Williams
7. Button – Honda
8. Fisichella – Renault
9. R Schumacher – Toyota
10. Barrichello – Honda
11. Rosberg – Williams
12. Villeneuve – BMW Sauber
13. Heidfeld – BMW Sauber
14. Liuzzi – Toro Rosso
15. Speed – Toro Rosso
16. Monteiro – Midland
Ret. Coulthard – Red Bull
Ret. Sato – Super Aguri
Ret. Klien – Red Bull
Ret. Trulli – Toyota
Ret. Albers – Midland
Ret. Ide – Super Aguri