Kubica excels, but where is Kimi?

Well thank goodness for that — the second good race in a row. Just what the doctor ordered to let us forget about all the politics going on in F1 at the moment. So where to start?

First of all, hats off to Lewis Hamilton who drove a great race despite banging into the barrier early on in the race. I was a bit worried about McLaren’s prospects following qualifying. Ferrari are usually poor at Monaco and the fact that they had a 1-2 in qualifying (seemingly with reasonable fuel loads as well) spelled potential bad news for McLaren. So far most of the tracks can be reasonably considered ‘Ferrari tracks’. But if McLaren can’t win at Monaco, it will be difficult for them to win anywhere.

But while qualifying was bad, the race turned out to be fine. Despite Hamilton’s bang, he otherwise drove a pretty flawless race to take the chequered flag. Hamilton has described it as the best win of his career, and it’s hard to argue with that.

But he was helped out by some good luck. He was lucky that his bash on the barrier didn’t cause any long-term damage to his car. And after the race there was the revelation that he had developed a slow puncture on his slow-down lap. Had the race gone full distance (instead of hitting the 2 hour limit), it might have been a very different story.

Hamilton was also helped out by Ferrari’s lacklustre race. Felipe Massa was surprisingly solid early on. He dislikes the Monaco circuit and he is known to be poor in the wet. But somehow Felipe Massa has just started to make it all click, and he has been performing superbly well after his embarrassing first two races of the year.

At the start of the race he built up a pretty dominant lead representing an astonishing two seconds per lap! But eventually the conditions got the better of him. An off at Ste Devote meant he had to pass the lead on to Kubica. A late change to dry tyres put an end to his race. Not Ferrari’s finest strategic moments.

Ferrari also made a major error by not having Kimi Räikkönen’s tyres on in time before the start. Immediately the Finn had a drive-through penalty. His start was also incredibly poor, as though he wasn’t paying attention to the lights. He gifted Hamilton second place before even reaching the first corner.

During the race Kimi had a big off at Ste Devote, damaging his front wing in the process. He was also completely off the pace for the duration of the race, and never looked in contention for the win. The final nail in the coffin came after the safety car period where he failed to account for his cold brakes towards the Nouvelle chicane (the fastest part of the circuit), lost control and ploughed into the back of poor Adrian Sutil.

Is this really the 2007 World Champion? Räikkönen has been distinctly patchy all season. It really makes you wonder. Since winning the Championship has he lost motivation? He has been known to have off weekends before, but they are now coming at a rather alarming frequency. I think if he had been driving like this while he was at McLaren, he would never have got a drive at Ferrari. No wonder the red team has supposedly signed up Fernando Alonso for 2010.

As for the victim of Kimi Räikkönen’s poor form, Adrian Sutil, you have to feel sorry for him. I’m not the greatest fan of Sutil. He’s never really shown before why he deserves the hype that some people give him. But his Monaco GP was a stormer, and he was running on 4th on merit, in between the two Ferraris. No wonder he was in floods of tears after Räikkönen drove up his backside.

However, had that not happened the story could well be different. After the race it transpired that he overtook three drivers under yellow flags. In the event he was warned as to his future conduct, but had he finished the race he could well have been penalised.

I also thought it was a bit much for Mike Gascoyne to complain to the stewards about Räikkönen. He said:

as I said if that had been someone at the back, a young guy doing it, they would get a penalty. But it doesn’t seem to happen the other way around.

Of course, a lot of people were saying the same thing about Fisichella’s tangle with Nakajima in Turkey. Had it been Nakajima flying over the top of Fisichella, I am sure the Japanese driver would have faced a ban. Ho hum.

In Monaco, Fisichella himself was celebrating his 200th race. But apart from that he had little to celebrate. He was thoroughly outclassed by his team mate and ended up having to retire in the pits.

Heikki Kovalainen’s run of bad luck continued. A stall on the grid at the start of the formation lap meant he had to start from the pitlane. He spent the entire race in the midfield, but I suppose he should be given credit for managing to finish 8th after gaining two positions right at the end due to Räikkönen’s tangle with Sutil.

Apart from Sutil, one other driver stood out as flawless — Robert Kubica. At one point, after Massa’s off, Kubica looked quite good for the win. It was not to be though as Hamilton ultimately had the pace to outclass him. But this is yet more evidence of Kubica’s talent behind the wheel. Not many drivers can say they didn’t make a mistake yesterday, but Kubica is one of them.

Nick Heidfeld must be wondering just what has hit him. Quick Nick does not look so quick any more compared with his team mate. Sure, he wasn’t helped by a hit from Alonso. But the German was off the pace all weekend, and it’s continuing a disappointing season. Kubica, meanwhile, appears to be ultra-committed with his seemingly extreme diet. I hope soon he is in a car good enough to win a race, because he certainly deserves it now.

Sebastian Vettel had a storming drive. At first it was not looking so great. They were all at sea during practice, unable to make head nor tail of their new car. And because of that new car he started 19th on the grid thanks to a gearbox penalty. But all this did not deter him as he moved up to eventually finish 5th. Great result for the Toro Rosso team.

Mark Webber had a fantastic race. He excels at Monaco but has not always had the luck. But this marks his fifth consecutive points finish — a personal best for Webber. After a career tainted by bad luck, his patience is finally paying off and he sits pretty in 7th in the Championship.

The team mates of those two Red Bull drivers both had to retire within seconds of each other on the same spot of the track. Seemingly a river had formed at Massenet, Coulthard lost control and hit the barriers. Yet another poor showing from David Coulthard, whose appearance should actually be applauded following his scary accident in qualifying which he described as the hardest hit he’s had in his entire career.

Toro Rosso driver Sébastien Bourdais followed Coulthard into the barrier after hitting the same river. We are now waiting for Bourdais to show what he is made of. I don’t follow American motor racing too closely, but I thought they had a few street circuits over there, so I was hoping that Bourdais would be able to show what he’s made of at Monaco. It wasn’t to be. After a strong showing in Australia, he has done little to impress since.

Fernando Alonso was another victim of that river at Massenet. He got away just like Hamilton did though and recovered following a tyre change. He was looking good for a period and made a stunning move on Mark Webber at Mirabeau. Unfortunately Alonso must have become too confident after that because a few laps later he tried to pass Heidfeld at Lowes in a move that was never really on the cards. That only had one conclusion: crunch. Alonso never recovered from that.

At least Alonso doesn’t have the heat on him like his team mate Nelsinho “Junior” Piquet Jnr. Clearly the team have lost confidence in him because they would not let him change to dry tyres until they saw what Alonso could do on dries. But the time they let him come in, his extreme wets were well past their sell-by date and he had a swarm of cars all over the back of him and beginning to get past. However, Piquet didn’t help his case by binning it almost as soon as he got onto dry tyres. More ammunition for his critics.

Another rookie who disappointed was Timo Glock. He had no fewer than three spins during the race and I have to say that it increasingly looks like he is not F1 material. Trulli wasn’t much better, it has to be said, with an anonymous race at a circuit he’s supposed to be good at.

Barrichello finally broke his duck. A points position has been beckoning for a while, and he has finally got it. Button should have done more. He excels in the wet, but was unable to show it in Monaco this year. An early tap with Nick Heidfeld basically put paid to his chances.

Kazuki Nakajima provided yet more evidence that he is not just another crash-happy kamikaze pilot from Japan. Monaco will have provided ample opportunity for him to stuff it in the barriers or something, but he had a solid, if fairly anonymous, drive to 7th. Meanwhile, his much-hyped team mate, Nico Rosberg, was not so impressive. He looked set to score some points until getting it all wrong through the Swimming Pool. A big crash resulted.

All-in-all, a great race at Monaco with plenty of talking points. What a relief — the Monaco GP is often a boring procession, but the wet-dry nature of the race ensured much mayhem.

Next up is Canada which is often a good race. The track suits the McLaren and Hamilton won there last year, so they will be hoping to capitalise on their Championship lead. It’s a surprise that Hamilton leads the Championship. Thanks to the patchy form of both Massa and Räikkönen, Hamilton might be able to grab an authoritative lead. Don’t underestimate Robert Kubica as well, who remains just six points away from the head of the table.

3 comments

  1. I have to give drive of the day to Kubica.
    He didn’t put a foot wrong and was amazing to watch as he danced around the track.

    I definately expect him to be a Championship contender sooner rather than later.

  2. We think that Ferrari are really, really missing the tactical brain of Ross Brawn. Can you imagine mistakes like the tyre one happening under his tenure?

    While Kimi’s a superb driver he has nothing like the experience with the Ferrari car that Schumacher had and perhaps these two things mean that, whereas once the red team was strategically impregnable, this is simply no longer the case.

    Also Raikkonen does seem to inexplicably “phone it in” sometimes when things aren’t going his way. He’s been good enough that he could get away with these occasional lapses – until Massa’s renaissance started to make his off-days appear rather more expensive.

    We’ve just taken a look at the odds being offered by various bookies on the drivers’ and constructors’ championships as this can be a very accurate predictor. Despite Monaco, despite Hamilton being slated to do well in Canada, Raikkonen and Ferrari are still the favourites to win by a very solid margin. You might find this interesting reading – it’s here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/6p54ks

    Thanks for an interesting post.