Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen took his second consecutive win of the season at the British Grand Prix with an impressive and determined drive. In a race that had three leaders, Raikkonen was at the front for the most important part -- when the...
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen took his second consecutive win of the season at the British Grand Prix with an impressive and determined drive. In a race that had three leaders, Raikkonen was at the front for the most important part -- when the chequered flag waved. McLaren's Fernando Alonso led the middle stint but was beaten by Raikkonen in the last pit stops and came home second, while teammate Lewis Hamilton, who led the first stint, was third.
Amazingly, it was warm and dry for race day with a few clouds but nothing that threatened rain. Ferrari's Felipe Massa, though, started under a cloud when the car stalled on the grid at the end of the formation lap. He had to be pushed to the pit lane and start from there, as did Super Aguri's Takuma Sato who had to swap his chassis. It was a clean start and pole sitter Hamilton defended well from Raikkonen to lead off.
Alonso held third, BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica fourth and the Renaults of Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella were fifth and sixth. The second BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld gained a couple of places to seventh while Ralf Schumacher's Toyota lost a couple to eighth. There were a few scraps further down the field, Nico Rosberg getting past Williams teammate Alex Wurz and Massa was already making headway.
Within six laps the Brazilian had passed the Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button, Wurz, and the Toro Rossos of Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed. Massa then shot past Rosberg and the Red Bull of David Coulthard, who were squabbling. Meanwhile, Mark Webber was an early retiree when his Red Bull cruised back to the pits with yet another hydraulics problem.
"As I came past the start-finish line on lap eight, my engineer told me to switch to a different gearbox map, but there was a problem with the hydraulics," the Australian explained. "As I came into Becketts, I had no power steering. I tried to keep going, but no hydraulics meant no throttle, steering, gearbox, the whole shooting match."
At the front Raikkonen was staying with Hamilton and Alonso was still in touch, about three seconds covering the trio. Massa homed in on Jarno Trulli's Toyota and dispatched it quickly, putting himself into the top 10. Coulthard was 11th, then came Rosberg, Speed, Wurz, Liuzzi, Barrichello, Button, Super Aguri's Anthony Davidson in 18th, the Spykers of Adrian Sutil and Christijan Albers in 19th and 20th and Sato at the back.
Raikkonen was closing in on Hamilton and had a look up the inside of Brooklands but wasn't quite close enough. Alonso was catching the pair up and Massa was still on a mission, then homing in on Schumacher. Kovalainen was first to pit and Hamilton escaped Raikkonen by pitting on lap 16, the first of the front runners in. He very nearly jumped the lollipop in his eagerness to get back out there but no harm was done.
Raikkonen was scorching round and looked certain to leapfrog Hamilton after his stop, which he duly did. But it was Alonso who sprung a surprise; he looked likely to also get ahead of Hamilton in his stop but as it happened he not only beat his teammate but Raikonen as well to take the lead. He ran about four laps longer than Hamilton in the first stint, and two more than Raikkonen, and that gave him the advantage.
Elsewhere, Schumacher was in the pits with what appeared to be a terminal car problem and Massa took his first stop and rejoined seventh. Kubica was holding firmly on to fourth, with teammate Heidfeld one behind him, and Fisichella was sixth. Coulthard was up to eighth but had not taken his first stop and when he did Kovalainen moved into the last of the points' positions.
In the middle stint Hamilton was not quite on his previous pace and was running about 10 seconds behind Alonso and Raikkonen. Davidson was the next to retire, into the garage with some kind of mechanical issue on the rear of the Super Aguri. He did go back out a little later on but it was short-lived. Speed also went out shortly afterwards when he tangled with the Williams of Wurz, resulting in front end damage.
Speed was being lapped by Alonso and Wurz decide to have a go as well, and there was contact with the Toro Rosso. The Williams was undamaged as Wurz went on to overtake Trulli quite quickly. The Austrian appeared to think that Speed hit him but Speed, unsurprisingly, had a different opinion. "It was certainly a bit of a complicated incident, because I knew that for about half a lap the leaders were quite close behind us, but Alex wasn't letting them by," he said.
"When I did, I knew that me Alex and Trulli were so close I decided to let Fernando by at the same point as it would have been foolish to hold the race leader up for so long. As we went into the next corner, really tight together, Alex decided to take a very optimistic move down the inside but he couldn't hold it and ran wide into me. I didn't see Alex until we were in the corner. I went narrow to try and protect my position because I didn't want to brake late and run into the back of Fernando. "
Barrichello, Rosberg and Wurz were nose to tail in 10th, 11th and 12th but not finding a way past. Fisichella was first in for the second round of pit stops and Alonso followed suit not long after. He rejoined in traffic, which didn't help his cause, while Hamilton also pitted and came out in sixth behind Massa. Once again Raikkonen was putting in scorching laps on the run up to his second stop.
The Finn had a 26 second advantage over Alonso, which was surely enough to get him back out in the lead -- his stop was quick and tidy and he comfortably regained the track ahead of the defending champion. After that it was plain sailing to the flag; Alonso was not close enough to challenge and Hamilton was over half a minute down in the closing stages and seemed resigned to third.
With about 10 laps to go Massa was up behind the BMW of Kubica and harassing him all the way. The Ferrari was evidently faster but Massa just couldn't get past him. Kubica had a fairly quiet afternoon up until then and was not about to be deterred, holding Massa off with grim determination. Liuzzi was a very late retiree, within a few laps of the end, with what is thought to be a gearbox problem.
"We need to work on reliability as this is our main problem at the moment," Liuzzi commented. "I had problems from about lap 15 onwards as something got stuck between my back and my seat, so it was really uncomfortable to drive, especially as this is a high speed circuit so it was very painful. That meant I was unable to push as hard as I wanted because of the pain. I also had a lot of understeer right from the start."
It was a deserved win for Raikkonen, who drove superbly and once again had a winning strategy. The result moves him ahead of Massa in the standings, up to third and only six points behind Alonso. However, he's still 18 points behind leader Hamilton. It appears that Massa's stall was caused by a technical glitch but he went on to have a very strong race to make his way up to fifth.
"We had a little bit of traffic but I think we had a good car all day -- all weekend, actually," said Raikkonen. "At the beginning of the race I was just trying to save some fuel and look after my tyres and car and then once Lewis pitted I tried to push and gain some time on him and that went well. And then Fernando did a very short stop, so we knew that we were going to run longer in the second stop so I just tried to push as hard as we could once he came in and it was enough. After that, it was pretty easy. "
Alonso presumably is happy that it was Raikkonen that won rather than Hamilton, as he has closed the gap a little to his teammate in the standings. Still, Ferrari evidently had the better pace today and Alonso won't be happy about that. Hamilton went into this race with a huge weight of expectation on his shoulders so he won't be that happy either, but his ninth straight podium is not poor result by any means.
Alonso thought second was the best he could manage today. "In the middle stint I knew that I had to open a gap, maybe eight, ten second gap, to be able to win the race, and I was only five seconds ahead so when I pitted the second time, I knew already that maybe it was not enough. I think the middle stint, with a lighter car, I was only able to open a gap of three seconds or something like that, and I should be able to open more so we were maybe not quick enough."
Hamilton started well but was evidently not so happy with the car in the middle and last phases of the race. "Throughout the whole weekend, I've been struggling to perfect the balance and driving around the issues that I had with the car," he said. "But obviously qualifying went well and (today) we just lacked, I think, in the race, and I don't know what happened in the last two stints. The last stint was a bit better, I was very consistent but we just didn't really have the pace of the Ferraris."
Until Massa closed in at the end Kubica was virtually anonymous but even if we didn't see much of him he had a good afternoon and BMW will be pleased that they outdid one Ferrari. Heidfeld was pretty quiet too but at least managed to move up the grid from his start position to finish sixth. However, he's losing touch with the leaders in the drivers' standings and Kubica is getting closer.
It might not be much compared to the last two years but both Renaults finished in the points, Kovalainen seventh and Fisichella eighth. It was a case of so near yet so far for Honda, with Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button rounding out the top 10 in ninth and 10th. It wasn't bad for Button, really, as he started 18th and a one-stop strategy worked out quite well but the Honda is still a long way off the pace.
Coulthard was 11th, Rosberg and Wurz 12th and 13th, Sato 14th and Albers 15th. Despite his late retirement Liuzzi was classed as the last finisher in 16th. It was an interesting race as you never quite knew who was going to come out ahead in the pits stops and there was a fair bit of action in the midfield, where the pace is very close. Unfortunately for them it's not close to the front runners.
Schumacher's gremlin turned out to be a "wheel fixation problem" on the front left while Trulli also retired, his car losing balance and grip due to an as yet unknown issue. "We must now analyse everything that has gone wrong today and work hard to develop our cars further," said Toyota team principal Tadashi Yamashina. "But this was just not our race."
If Massa's engine hadn't cut out on the grid it's likely that McLaren would have had a tougher time as Ferrari was quicker. There's still a long way to go in the championship but for the moment one would have to say that Ferrari is on the ascent. Well, Raikkonen is anyway -- the Finn has looked much more at home in the car in the last couple of races.
Massa can't be counted out; his driving today was quite impressive and if Raikkonen is still in contention then Massa must be too, as he's only one point behind the Finn. Can they bridge the gap to McLaren? It's going to be interesting to find out. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Alonso, Hamilton, Kubica, Massa, Heidfeld, Kovalainen, Fisichella.