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Going to the next level

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Going to the next level
Nov 3, 2008, 1:10 PM

This year’s world championship has featured some extraordinary races and great drama.

This year’s world championship has featured some extraordinary races and great drama. The endings of the races at Spa and Interlagos were among the most dramatic ever and the standard of the driving from Massa and Hamilton has been very high. But both have had error strewn campaigns.

If you imagine what would have happened this year had Michael Schumacher been driving the Ferrari or Fernando Alonso the McLaren, you realise that the title would have been wrapped up comfortably by either man against the two title contenders we actually had. Of course Schumacher would not have been able to do anything about the engine failure Massa suffered in Hungary, or the refuelling disaster in Singapore (probably), which really robbed Massa of the title, but he’d have closed out other opportunities, where Massa came up short, like Hockenheim or Shanghai or Montreal.

The reason is that Schumacher and, to a lesser extent Alonso, are both drivers who give almost nothing away to their opposition. They are relentless and they never give a sniff of an opportunity if they can help it. Raikkonen does not fall into this category in my book, despite winning the title last year, he gave a lot of gifts to his opposition along the way.

Alonso being in an uncompetitive car for most of the season has taken away the benchmark and as Hamilton and Massa strove to become the benchmark driver, the season was characterised as much by errors as by brilliance. Both Hamilton and Massa will get better at closing races out and not giving the opposition a chance, particularly Hamilton. But as he is so young and inexperienced you cannot expect him to be at that level yet. It’s the only bit that is missing from his armoury and many people, including people at Ferrari, believe that Hamilton will now go to a different level and be very hard to beat. I happen to believe that too. We’ve seen it before with Alonso and Schumacher and Hamilton is moving up to their level now.

Ferrari will wait and see what the relative level of next year’s cars is under the new rules and will watch closely to see if Raikkonen rediscovers his old magic. If not, I bet they will sign Alonso up for 2011. They may go for Kubica, but Alonso is the only driver who offers them a ready-made possibility to contain Hamilton.

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