Saturday, March 17, 2007

Kimi wins OZ GP.

Kimi Räikkönen drew first blood in the battle that got underway at Melbourne’s Albert Park, the season opener for the 2007 FIA Formula One Championship with a resounding win. Leading for most of the race, he always seemed like winning the race right from the start, which saw some drama as Alonso, who had started 2nd on the grid ,dropping down to 4th position at the first corner. Defending World Champion Fernando Alonso’s new team McLaren had a great outing with Alonso finishing on 2nd position and his rookie team mate Lewis Hamilton finishing third.
Others among the points were Hiedfeld, Fisichella, Massa, Rosberg and Ralf.
The race had a perfect setting with clear blue skies, a bone dry track and 22 drivers eagerly waiting to start off.
Kimi lead into turn one which later on during the course of the day , proved to be the only point on the track where an overtaking maneuver was possible. But Alonso lost major ground as Lewis, who stealthily took the inner line into turn 1, edging out Alonso and Kubica, then swiftly splitting the two McLarens into the straight that followed.
Lewis soon dropped a place but quickly regained his composure to snatch 3rd position back from Alonso. Kimi Räikkönen, by now was already gaining a second a lap. This surely had to mean the reason he set an ultra quick qualifying lap was his light fuel load.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who started at the back of the grid steadily was climbing up but found himself stuck behind David Coulthard, Honda’s Barichello and a very, very sluggish Jenson Button. But by lap 5 he overcame Coulthard, as Kimi set his first of many fastest laps, in the same lap.
By the 8th lap the gap between first placed Kimi Räikkönen and 3rd placed Alonso was almost 10 seconds.
Now a 2 stop strategy is considered normal in Albert Park, but was Ferrari going to spring up a surprise with a 3 stop strategy? It seemed highly improbable; Ferrari would have backed Michael to pull it off, but it just didn’t seem right here. We would have to wait and find out.
The 12th lap saw the first retirement with Christijan Albers retiring after banging his car into the barricades. The excuse: his ear plug had come off, which distracted him and he missed the braking point! Unbelievable!
The first round of pitstops were expected between the 19th to 25th laps , but Hiedfeld came in earlier in the 15th lap and came out on track in front of Red Bull’s Webber and Ralf and Trulli to claim 6th position.
Meanwhile in the middle of the pack, the train of Button, Reubens, and Massa finally saw some change with Barichello finding his way past Button at an unexpected corner.
But at the top, Alonso now looking quite settled but subdued had clawed his way past Kubica into 3rd position.
Now the 18th lap from Kimi was an absolute blinder : a text book in-lap , setting the fastest first and second sector timings , quickly in and out of the pit lane , rejoining in 4th behind the Mclarens and Kubica .So he wasn’t light on fuel after all , he was simply brilliant with the car ! Outstanding driving from the Finnish driver, but will he carry it through the race?

The Williams, Red Bulls and the Renaults had been relatively out of any action on the track but at the head for the first time in his debut race Lewis Hamilton of McLaren was leading the Australian Grand Prix.
The question now was – when will the McLarens pit?
The answer came in the 22nd & 23rd laps with Alonso and Hamilton pitting in consecutive laps, although Hamilton’s in-lap was compromised by some back marker traffic, he eventually managed to frustrate Fernando Alonso by emerging in front of him from the pit lane.
Hamilton gradually building up his lead gradually showing that even though they were team mates, the competition was fierce as ever.
By lap 28, Massa and Coulthard were the only drivers who hadn’t yet pitted.
And it seemed as if the two drivers might just pull off a one stop race.
Finally in the 29th lap, Massa pitted for what seemed an eternity, surely this was going to dent his chances of getting any championship points. But it was a one stop race for him for sure!
The 31st lap saw STR Ferrari’s Scott Speed – unimpressive throughout, retiring from the race.

The 2007 Season has brought in new rule changes – a new pit speed limit of 80 kmph down from 100 kmph and Refueling had now been disallowed during safety car periods.
And Jenson Button got an extra lesson at that with a drive thru penalty for speeding in the pit lane in the 31st lap.
By the 33rd lap Massa had crept into the top ten. The 37th lap saw some action and drama with Rosberg overtaking Ralf in stunning fashion and Kubica disappointingly retiring; he looked like a genuine contender for a podium position.
By lap 39 the second window of pit stops had come up, this round of pit stops would be rapid pit stops with only the exact amount of fuel required to finish the race going in to the car.
Heiki Kovalinen had a moment of concentration loss, spinning his Renault in the first corner of his 40th lap, with Massa gaining a place on him relegating Kovalinen to 9th place.

In the 41st lap, Kimi Räikkönen dipped below 1min 25sec barrier with yet another brilliant in-lap coming in for a super quick pit stop rejoining the race in 3rd place behind the McLarens - but they still had a pitstop each to go.
The 45th saw Alonso pitting and he came out on track ahead of Lewis Hamilton , much to everybody’s surprise. Now, had Ron Dennis asked Hamilton to pull up just enough to let Alonso come out in front? Had this been all pre planned?
It very well could have been!
Massa, by now had now come to a respectable 6th position and was only nursing his car to the finish line to get points for his team. Commendable indeed, having started from the absolute back of the grid
With ten laps to go, Kimi was now all seemed set to win, but last minute uncertainties have always been Kimi’s specialty and he was surely driving this car to its limit with almost 15 seconds between him and Alonso.
During the 50th lap, old war horse Coulthard, trying an over optimistic overtaking maneuver on Wurz, launched himself over the Williams car, resulting in both their retirements.
Heiki Kovalinen, meanwhile seemed completely at sea with yet another spin, thankfully, this time, it didn’t cost him a place. Massa by now kept chopping away at the gap between him and Fisichella and with five laps to go the scarlet car of Massa was all over Fisico’s rear view mirrors,
This is what F1 racing was all about: nail biting, nerve wracking finishes.
The battle brought back glimpses of the epic battle Imola had seen between Schumi and Alonso.
But at the head of the pack, Kimi looked absolutely cool, all set to win the first race of the season. All his critics who questioned his professionalism or rather the lack of it surely were silenced now.
First race for Ferrari - very quick, very clinical, very Kimi indeed!
Alonso, very unlike him seemed as though he had held himself back but did a good job of finishing in second place.
Lewis – what an impressive debut it had been for him! A dream race: finishing with a podium position on his debut race. The last time we saw that was back in Monza last year with Kubica doing the same for BMW Sauber.
Hiedfeld, Fisichella, Massa, Rosberg and Ralf were the others amongst the points.
The podiums saw a new combination of Jean Todt and Kimi Räikkönen which all Ferrari aficionados surely will hope to see more often now.
The competitiveness established, fierceness undeterred, spirit renewed, the F1 season ahead seems to be a lip smacking proposition. The ‘circus’ now travels to exotic Sepang in Malaysia, early April which promises to be an equally engaging cliffhanger. Cheers till then.
© 2007.No part of this article may be reproduced or quoted without the expressed permission of Akshay Gopinathan Nair .

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