Monza

After recent testing, practice seemed to show that McLaren had indeed put their troubles behind them and upped the game, to put Ferrari into 2nd place. Again it was really a race of two teams, with the rest left to sort themselves out. There are still some interesting battles going on in the midfield. One of the most intersting things to come out of practice was Raikonnen’s high speed crash, with his car suddenly braking right into the barriers and doing considerable damage. What made it interesting, was the Ferrari press office immediately getting to work to say that a wheel locked under braking over the bumps, which seemed highly unlikely with the incident looking more like some sort of failure. It was during practice that Alonso also showed his true speed, putting Hamilton firmly in the shade.

Highlights of qualifying were Coulthard in 20th place after a spin seemingly caused by a gearbox seizure. Schumacher again qualified poorly, I really will be surprised to see him keep his seat. Davidson punching well again to take 14th, and Mark Webber just missing on Q3 in 11th, I’d like to see him do better having suffered so badly in the past with poor cars. Jenson Button managed to make Q3, although only making 10th in the end, it’s still a step in the right direction. Heidfeld and Kubica were the stars, taking 4th and 6th respectively, with Raikonnen in 5th. Alonso was on top form, giving a master class with a near faultless lap, to put Hamilton in 2nd and Massa 3rd.

Come the race, the start was fantastic. Hamilton lined up at an angle ready to defend his 2nd place, as he was on the harder tyres with Massa running the softer option tyre that would give him a clear edge off the start line. Alonso was away cleanly with Hamilton trying to pull in tight behind, giving Massa just enough room, which he unfortunately used to take 2nd approaching the 1st corner. However, always determined, Hamilton came back round the outside, with Massa making contact with his wheels on the apex as they took the 2nd corner, forcing Hamilton to cut it, the stewards investigated the incident, but nothing was to come of it. Having nipped back in front it was clear that Hamilton did not have the same initial pace as Massa who was crawling all over his gearbox and pushing hard, but with some almost unfair weaving Hamilton kept at bay until his car settled and he romped off with Alonso. In the 1st chicane chaos, Coulthard clashed with Fisichella damaging his front wing, which decided to brake free taking him off the track as it damaged his steering on the 2nd lap, after he had made up a number of place. He veered off into the hoardings at 170mph, but was soon jumping out of the car and walking away, unfortunately the incident brought out the safety car.

Once released from the safety car on lap 7, Hamilton made his only bid for 1st, feinting to the inside of Alonso approaching the first chicane. By lap 10 Massa seemed to be struggling, and retired on lap 11, while the McLarens contined to run away at the front with Hamilton closing the gap to Alonso, before pitting first. Alonso came in 2 laps later, but it then became clear that Raikonnen had planned a longer run, and the safety car period had allowed him to extend this, coming in on lap 26 after leading the race. Suddenly Raikonnen looked dangerous, how far ahead would the McLarens get before their second stops? Meanwhile BMW experienced some drama in their stops as Kubica’s car suffered problems with the jacks, with the mechanics having to manhandle the front of the car to get the jack in place, this led to the loss of 5th place to Rosberg, who had spent much of the first stint battling Jenson Button.

The danger became more apparent as Alonso continued to stretch his legs, whilst Hamilton seemed to drop off, a trait that seems to be becoming more prominent with Hamilton regularly showing weaker middle stints in his races. by the time the Mclarns made their stops, Hamilton was 6 seconds off Alonso, and sure enough Raikonnen slotted into 2nd place as Hamilton emerged from the pits, gaining a huge cheer from the Italian crowd. However, with Hamilton now on the softer compound tyres, he later admitted he knew he didn’t have long to make the best of the tyres, so made an impressive lunge down the inside of Raikonnen into the first chicane on lap 43 from some 50 metres back. Raikonnen had left just enough room, and Hamilton took it, a truly impressive piece of overtaking that surely surprised Raikonnen, both cars locked up slightly under braking, but other than that a completely clean pass, and Hamilton soon left Raikonnen behind, but could never get close to Alonso again. The three leaders seemed to settle for their places, and turn the revs down to save the engines for the next race. With 8 laps to go, a fired up Kubica passed Rosberg, to take fifth giving BMW a 4th and 5th place finish with his team mate Heidfeld. Kovalainen took 7th, and Button came home 8th, adding another point to the Honda tally which will surely help to motivate the team to keep pushing forward.

Unfortunately, there was a dark cloud over the race weekend, as the spy case continued to boil over. In the run up, it emerged that the FIA had approached the McLaren drivers, including test driver Pedro de la Rosa, for any information that they had relevant to the case. The FIA announced that it had new evidence, which some claim relates to an e-mail containing Ferrari set-up data, and has been linked to Alonso. The FIA have called an emergency meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on the 13th September in light of this new evidence. The potential sanctions being banded about, include expulsion from the 2007 championship, and indeed 2008 as well. I am growing concerned for where this will go, as it runs the risk of damaging the sport. No doubt, if McLaren are guilty, they must be punished, but excluding them may be the wrong way to go. This would no doubt lead to loss of interest from some fans, and loss of sponsors and advertising revenue, possibly losing sponsors that would then not come back. With the resurgence of interest that Hamilton has generated, what would happen when he finds himself without a team, and therefore no race seat for a year? Likewise Alonso. Of course, this is one area where it potentially becomes more interesting. If it is true that the information has come from Alonso, on the one hand you can put it down to the punitive penalty threatened by the FIA if the drivers did not comply, but you could also see it as a way for Alonso to release himself from a contract that some claim he is not happy with. It would be much easier to wriggle out of a contract that no longer allows him to race. This uncertainty about Alonso’s future also seems to be holding up driver negotiations as teams are not fully revealing their 2008 line-ups, waiting for the chance to snap up Alonso perhaps? If you really want to get carried away with conspiracy theories, how about an attempt to unsettle Hamilton, losing his race seat so that another team can try to offer him one? Ferrari and McLaren have a history of battling one another, and Ferrari have employed dirty tricks before. It was only a couple of years back that late in the championship Ferrari claimed the Michelin tyres used by other teams were illegal by being too wide, despite being fine through the rest of the season.

How much Ferrari are embroiled is uncertain, but on the Saturday evening, Italian magistrates informed McLaren that 5 senior team members were being investigated for sporting fraud and industrial espionage. This could be viewed as an attempt to unsettle the team before the race. I am now hoping that Thursday’s meeting will see the end of it all, but I can’t help feeling this may run and run, and we might not really know who has won the Driver’s and Constructor’s championships until some time after the end of the season as any proceedings come to a conclusion and any alterations to the standings are made.

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