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Did Kimi deserve the title?

2007 has been a strange old season. Amazingly it isn’t over yet what with the impending court case over fuel legality that could see the BMW and Williams cars tossed out of the Brazilian GP and Lewis promoted to fourth, which would see him mug the crown from Raikkonen. For political reasons that is an unlikely outcome. To have one title decided in court is unfortunate, to have two decided in such a manner is downright careless — the FIA will ensure it doesn’t happen.

F1 fans are an emotive bunch and opinion is split sharply among partisan lines: in the red corner are the folks who believe that anyone but McLaren deserves to be champion because (a) McLaren blatantly stole Ferrari’s secrets, (b) Lewis is an arrogant prima dona who should be taken down a peg or two, and (c) Ron Dennis is the bad guy and deserves to live out his remaining days somewhere between hell and pergutory; over in the silver corner are those who feel that Lewis and McLaren have been monumentally screwed over by an overzealous FIA and a tempestous Fernando Alonso.

So who is right?

The bald facts suggest that Kimi is a worthy champion. Winning the driver’s crown is about seeing the chequered flag first and Kimi stood atop the podium six times, twice more than both Lewis and Fernando. Were it not for the gremlins that afflicted his Ferrari in the mid-season then Raikkonen would have taken the title at a canter.

However, that’s not to take anything away from Hamilton, who arguably had an even better season and with a dash more luck would have walked away champion. It could easily have been Hamilton who won six races rather than Raikkonen. A different tyre strategy or dry weather my have resulted in victory. And at Interlagos Hamilton out-qualified everyone bar Massa despite hauling several laps more fuel around the track. Add in Hamilton’s rookie status, which meant he saw many circuits for the first time, and that he was paired with the double World Champion his achievements are even more impressive. Although Hamilton wobbled midway through the season, particularly at Monza and Spa, the way he outpaced Alonso over the last three Grand Prix suggest that he has more raw pace than the Spaniard.

Also we should put Alonso’s achievements in the correct context. To score the same number of points as his team mate and one behind the eventual winner is a monumental feat given the friction between him and his team over the year. Say what you like about McLaren’s equality policy it sure made for exciting racing.

There is little doubt that the top three are the greatest drivers of their era who in 2007 were all at the top of their games. Had Alonso and Raikonnen been team mates then it is likely that Hamilton would have sauntered off with the title. Were if Hamilton and Raikonnen in the same car then Alonso would have won.

What about the allegations of cheating? Does that mean the McLaren drivers should have been kicked out of the championship? The FIA need to show consistency and didn’t. If McLaren were guilty then they shouldn’t be allowed to compete in either the constructors or drivers championship. The facts are murky and obscured by the allegations that the infomation flow wasn’t one way. Why would it be? Nigel Stepney is on record as saying that Ferrari actively canvassed and recieved technical information about McLaren’s set-up. Also there was no evidence that McClaren used any of the information they got from Ferrari to advance their car. On the otherhand there was a smoking gun sticking out of Alonso’s pocket! No-one will ever agree on whether the punishment fitted the crime but what we can aquiesce on is that it dragged F1 through the mud and that is something that all involved with the sport should be ashamed of.

Baring a surprise ruling on the fuel irregularities the history books will conclude that the Flying Finn deservedly won the title on the basis of his six wins. Let’s not forget the desperate position Kimi was in in Fuji where at one point 20 cars separated him from championship leader, Lewis Hamilton. By fighting back to third he was able to keep the gap to 17 points with two races remaining. They say that it is in the face of adversity that true champions are made, so on that basis Kimi is rightfully king.

November 10, 2007 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

Will McLaren be docked points in 2008?

Not content with slapping McLaren with a £50m fine and docking all their constructor points, Max Mosely has announced that independent experts would vet every inch of the 2008 car to ensure it isn’t covered with Ferrari technology. Fair enough, McLaren’s fingerprints are all over Maranello but how in the world will anyone be able to police this?

Mosely gives us a clue:

“The difficulty we have is that you’re not going to find on the McLaren a part that was designed by Ferrari. Instead, what you may find are ideas. But at this level of technology and at this level of motorsport, if the idea is given to the chief designer, he will make a component utilising that idea, which bears no relation at all to the component perhaps being used by the other car. So we will be looking for the ideas. Finding something will not be easy. On the other hand, there are sources we are going to deploy who will give us as good a chance as it’s possible to have to find it. The investigation will be thorough, it will use outside experts and we will do everything we possibly can to make sure that either of the McLarens has no element of Ferrari intellectual property in it. If it does, we will then have to consider taking some sort of action.”

That’s right, these so-called experts will look for “ideas” that McLaren may have stolen from the Ferrari.

You can just picture it. A sweaty, old, graying mechanic trying to work out whether the McLaren barge boards have been ripped from Ferrari. “Jeez, the dimensions are similar, and you know what … it’s sort of painted the same colour, so snap.”And before you know it McLaren has been docked 50 constructor points.

The spying saga ripped through the heart of the 2007 F1 season. The last thing the sport needs is to be dragged through the mud by yet another controversy. We shouldn’t forget that the FIA does have an obligation to racing fans (and Ferrari) to ensure that teams are competing on a level playing field and it should have a thorough look at McLaren’s 2008 car. However, to punish a team on “ideas” is, quite frankly, laughable as demonstrating proof is nigh on impossible and many F1 teams engage in CIA-style skulduggery to try to snatch “ideas” from other teams.

For the good of all the FIA must tread very carefully over the next six months.

November 1, 2007 at 11:11 am Leave a comment

Is Hamilton a flash in the pan?

Max Mosely seems to think so. This is what he said in an interview with BBC’s Hardtalk programme:

“He’s got a lot of interest worldwide because he’s come manifestly not from a rich background. There is always somebody new. If it wasn’t him it would be either [Nico] Rosberg or [Robert] Kubica or one of the other new stars, a Sebastian Vettel, would suddenly be the big one. So I think there is a tendency to exaggerate the importance of Lewis Hamilton.”

Many in the media are quick to draw the analogy between Lewis Hamilton and Tiger Woods. Both are black (to a degree), exceptionally gifted and at a tender age had the opportunity to redefine their sport. Woods sprung onto the scene 11 years ago and came as advertised, single-handedly catapulting golf to prominence among the media. Won’t Lewis do the same for the aristocratic world of F1?

The difference between F1 and other sports is that Lewis can’t just rely on his natural talent as winning requires both man and machine. If McLaren produce a duff car for the next few years (and the £50m fine could see to that) then Lewis could rapidly fade from the spotlight as quickly as Jenson Button did.

Despite that I think Mosely is wrong. Hamilton is an enormously talented driver — possibly more gifted than Michael Schumacher — and even in a sub-par car is capable of racing miracles. Don’t forget that Hamilton in his maiden season clocked 109 points and should have (and still could) snare the World Championship. Would Kubica, Vettel or Rosberg have done that? No. Okay, so Hamilton had a helping hand from the uber-competitive McLaren, but to comprehensively outrace the double World Champion for half a season on unknown tracks is an incredible achievement.

Lewis Hamilton has the ability to transform F1. He is young, good looking, from a normal background, and more importantly black. That will chime with many in the less developed world, which is where F1’s focus will be for the next decade. The media and marketing men play a dominant role in developing superstars today. Unless Hamilton is exposed as an alcohol fueled, drug ravaged, sexual deviant then expect his to transcend his sport for the next 10 years.

November 1, 2007 at 5:14 am Leave a comment


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