Round 8 of the season was a 70 lap race. The French track is an overtaking track, which makes for some very interesting racing indeed, and there’s a threat of some light rain through the day which is usually in Hamilton’s favour. The track temperature was 31 degrees and it seemed a good idea to go with dry tyres, with the Ferraris one of the few teams on the softer compound to start with. The Renault team is on home ground and they both qualified in the top 10, but Rosberg was penalised 10 places from the Canadian race incident involving rear-ending Raikkonen in the pit lane, and he started down in 19th. It is, however, the last race at Magny-Cours for the foreseeable future. The track is in a rural area and there’s very little infrastructure for the racing teams and attending fans.
A little race trivia for you- the cars do 4000RPM when they IDLE, WHEN THEY IDLE! And did you know that even the driver’s heart rate and such is monitored throughout the race? I would love to know what those specs look like… whether or not the driver’s pulse even changes throughout the race!
Raikkonen and Massa took the first and second places on the grid in qualifying- awesome- gotta love an all red front row! Hamilton qualified third, but due to the pit-lane incident in the last race he was penalised 10 places and started in 13th. Kovalainen was also penalised 5 places for holding up another driver in qualifying.
When the lights went out, Raikkonen and Massa shot off the line whilst Alonso lost two places at the same time, and David Coulthard lost four places by the end of the first lap! Hamilton was flying and had made it up to 10th by the end of the first lap- pushing hard to make up the places he lost.
Then Hamilton blew past Vettel, but crossed the following chicane, raking in a drive-through penalty for himself. He did his drive-thru very quickly and emerged in 13th. Button had to replace his nose-cone on lap 6 but was out of the race by the 18th lap when the damage done to his car by his lost front wing took its toll. Meantime, Raikkonen and Massa were flying out front. Hamilton and Alonso- arch rivals- had a bit of a tyre bashing when Hamilton overtook him and then pitted. It simply amazes me what these cars can withstand and how the drivers manage to keep control… I mean, bumping wheels at 200km/hour barely raises an eyebrow but I couldn’t imagine it happening on our highways!!!
Even after the first round of pit-stops the Ferraris were still far in the lead! Then on lap 28, rain was expected whilst everyone was on dry tyres- but it never materialised. The Ferraris totally dominated, with kimi creating a 30 second gap on the third place car by lap 31! On lap 33, then it seemed as though Kimi was developing a problem when Massa halved the gap between them in just a few laps. Turned out Kimi had somehow damaged one of the exhaust outlets on his car and he severely lost time and power while he tried to work out what was potting. The external pipe of the exhaust was flapping around all over the place and the body work around the outlet was badly burnt. The team advisor was happy with the performance of the car though- which the team monitors via telemetry- and said there was no danger to Kimi. With Kimi slowing down so drastically, Massa overtook him and quickly opened up a 6 second gap!
Kovalainen passed Mark Webber with a brilliant moneouvre on lap 42. Bourdais went a little wide at one point and splashed through the kitty litter, but managed to keep control and rejoined the race.
A light rain started falling on lap 57, and the flapping piece of exhaust pipe on Kimi’s car flew off on about lap 60. It looked as though Trulli would lose his podium place to Kovalainen, but shortly after the rain stopped he opened up the gap a little again. The race between Kovalainen and Trulli for 3rd place was simply awesome. I haven’t seen a fight for position like that in a REALLY long time and they were both deserving of the podium I think. It was marvellous. Button was the only one retirement in France, and Felipe Massa’s average speed was 201km/hour!!! Can you imagine it!!?!?? The damage to Kimi’s car from his very hot, and flailing exhaust was substantial. This race put Massa into the championship lead, and at the same time made him the 5th leader for this year’s championship title! The Ferraris maintained their lead in the constructor’s title race, and a very dejected Lewis Hamilton finished 10th after having a shitty day.
Today’s race marked 60 years of racing at Silverstone- and the FIA soured the occasion a little by announcing that the British F1 will be run at Donnington as of 2010. I reckon they could have announced it later and left the celebrations to continue! Anyhoodle. It was typical British summer weather, cool and rainy, with an average ambient temperature of just 17 degrees Celsius.
Some F1 trivia: the fuel goes into the cars at 13 litres a second, so timing their pitstops means the commentators can tell us more or less how many laps their fuel loads will last them!
Heikki Kovalainen- surprisingly- qualified for his first ever pole position with an all but flawless flying lap in qualifying and was ecstatic with his performance. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing) took second and Kimi Raikkonen started third in a Ferrari. Hamilton only qualified fourth on his home soil after running wide into the kitty litter exiting Priory.
Silverstone started very damp with the threat of more rain… and it looked like all the teams had opted for the intermediate tyres to start the 60 lap race. As the lights went out, Raikkonen had an awesome start, and Hamilton came flying up the inside of the track to try and take the lead- he and Kovalainen bumping wheels in the process- but the pole sitter managed to hang onto his lead. This dropped Webber to fourth while Raikkonen kept his third place. Then Webber spun on the wet track shortly afterwards and this dropped him down to 18th. Massa then also spun, just after Nakajima shot off the track and just before Coulthard and Vettel had a run in with each other and flew off into a gravel trap with some synchro-sliding! This meant that poor David Coulthard (who announced his retirement for the end of the season) had seen the end of his last ever British grand prix… stalled in the sand. Massa managed to turn his car around after his spin- and I was having a fit watching the other cars come straight at him- and continued the race from 17th… only to spin again half a lap later! This put the current points leader at the back of the pack… On the 5th lap, Hamilton overtook Kovalainen in an almost perfect manoeuvre and went into the lead. Felipe Massa and Mark Webber spent the rest of their respective races steadily making up the positions they lost in between spinning some more… Massa racking up 5 spins! Heiki Kovalainen did a little pirouette on lap 10 and lost his second place to Raikkonen, and half a lap later Adrian Sutil lost his rear end under braking and aquaplaned frighteningly close to Bourdais’ nose and went skidding across the track to put an end to his race.
Ooh, I love the thermal imaging they used on some of the pit-stop visuals! For a split second I thought my TV was broken when Kovalainen pitted. But lemme tell you, seeing exactly how hot those tyres and brakes and such are compared to how cold the body of the car is so SUPER fascinating! Sadly Hamilton pitting from the lead gave no advantage to Raikkonen who was in second as they pitted together and Hamilton came out in front of Kimi on exiting the pits. On lap 25 it REALLY started raining. This meant that cars with worn intermediate tyres started losing speed and traction as their tyres cooled and lost grip… Raikkonen was especially hard hit, and as Kovalainen was moving to overtake his countryman, Heidfeld saw a gap and pulled a Massa-like move, scything past both of them to take second and quickly opening a beautiful gap! Honestly, I don’t think either Heikki or Kimi realised Nick Heidfeld was quite that close to them! As Hamilton was moving to lap Fisichella, Fisi lost it on the next bend and went flying into the gravel, ending his own race.
On lap 30, Kimi had no choice but to pit again to get the right tyres, and this dropped him from 4th to 11th… I really felt bad for Kimi- and I was fed up for my team- I just cannot understand why they didn’t do it at his first stop, it cost him a good 40 seconds!! And its even more infuriating because Kimi was catching Hamilton at the end of the first stint when they pitted together! So at the time Kimi exited the pits after changing his tyres, Hamilton was very comfortably 23 seconds ahead of second place Heidfeld.
By about lap 34 it was pouring with rain and Nelson Piquet who was doing so well in 4th, spun gently, managed to rejoin and then spun out at Abbey. Hamilton, Kubica, Massa, Raikkonen and Webber all started having dire grip issues and spun off the track one by one- Massa scaring the crap out of a rabbit in the process- but all managing incredibly not to hit any barriers and keep their cars going, getting back onto the track. The rain stopped around lap 40, and poor Kubica went flying off into the gravel, ending the championship contender’s race, and Rosberg lost his front wing when he rear ended Piquet (I think it was Piquet). At the same time we were told that Button had stopped somewhere in the middle section- probably damaging his car when he went farming- and Glock did a roundabout, managing to keep going, only to lose it on lap 43 again, and going a lap down as a result! Hamilton did exceptionally well on the sodden track with intermediate tyres, he was very impressive even if you’re not a fan! Massa had a tremendously shitty race and spun yet again on lap 48, as did Webber… Massa spinning for the 5th time just one lap later! Then Raikkonen passed Alonso- simply beautifully- on lap 53, gotta love that, and there was a spectacular battle for 5th place between Alonso and Kovalainen- Alonso just managing to ward off Heikki under braking but Heikki taking 5th place on lap 58!
Lewis took a very well deserved win I think, considering he spun at least twice! Nick Heidfeld held onto second place, and a beaming Rubens Barrichello took the third step on the podium, even after having fuel rig hassles.
The driver championship standings now are as follows: Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen share the lead on 48 points- the first time in MANY years that this has hapened. Robert Kubica in second on 46. Nick Heidfeld has 36 points. Haiki Kovalainen has 24 points. Jarno Trulli has 20, Mark Webber has 18, Fernando Alonso (last year’s chamion, teehee) has 13 points, Rubens Barrichello has 11, Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima have 8, David Coulthard 6, Timo Glock and Sebastian Vettel are both on 5 points, Jenson Button on 3, and Sebastien Bourdais and Nelson Piquet both on 2 points. Giancarlo Fisichella, Takuma Sato, Anthony Davidson and Adrian Sutil all have no points this season yet.