Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ferrari Finish One-Two At Barcelona



Can Anyone Stop Them ?



Who among the also-rans can rise up to challenge the mighty Ferrari team ? Apparently, the answer right now is none of them. Not McLaren. Not BMW. Not Renault. What we have right now, is simply a one-horse race.

The mighty Ferrari team simply subjugated all challengers today at the Circuit de Cataluyna prancing to their second straight 1-2 finish of the season. 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Raikkonen led the way riding along at an easy pace with 2007 Spanish Grand Prix winner Felipe Massa in tow. It was another awesome display of how good the Maranello based team is, and a disheartening suggestion that there is only one ‘big’ team right now… and that team is Ferrari. Maybe it’s time to send some more technical documents to McLaren ?

Kimi Raikkonen scored his second win of the 2008 season, and his 17th career F1 victory. In doing so, he became the eighth straight Spanish Grand Prix Pole sitter to follow-up with a win. The Finn also extended his points lead to a dominant nine points over McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, with BMW’s Robert Kubica one point arears of the Briton.

“It was a good day, and everything went well,“ Raikkonen said of his perfect day. “For sure we could have gone a bit faster, but there was no need. If you look at last year, our car should be quite strong heading to Turkey”

The message is clear to the rest of the field… not only must you up your game, but when you do we can go even faster.

Brazilian Felipe Massa has completely turned his season around after retiring twice in the first two races, he now has a second-place finish to go with his Bahrain triumph and rests in a comfortable fourth in the Formula One driver’s points standings heading into the Turkish Grand Prix which he has won the last two seasons.

“Qualifying was very important for this race,” said Massa. “I started third and I did a very, very, very good start which got us past Fernando. During the second stint I built the gap (over Lewis). After testing, the car looks more in the right direction now.”

Indeed.

Lewis Hamilton finished third in his silver arrow. The youngster got by the faster BMW of Robert Kubica during the launch off the Barcelona starting grid, and made it stick heading into Turn One.

“Robert is probably one of the hardest to overtake, and it was a good start for us,” said the second-year driver. “It’s amazing how close all the cars and teams are so close,” echoing Massa’s comments. “I had to try to keep up with Massa, and kept pushing and pushing right to the last lap. And I kept looking in the mirrors, and Kubica always seemed to be there in the same spot.”

And quite frankly, the only reason the beemers are in Lewis’ mirror is because the team have yet to sort out their launches from the starting grid. Though one could say today’s start looked a bit better, the BMW boys still pulled away slower than the top teams around them. Kubica was on equal fuel, in a better car, and had a better qualifying position, but he just couldn’t keep the McLaren behind.

If BMW are going to challenge the front-runners, the must resolve this issue.

“We had a very good pace during today’s race,” said Kubica. “Unfortunately I lost a position at the start. Anyway at the end our gap to the leader was only five seconds. If someone had told me that yesterday I would not have believed it.”

The scare of the race came on the Lap 22 when McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen crashed heavily at Turn Nine. Both the safety car, and the medical car were deployed to the scene of the accident with TV coverage carefully kept away from the site. Though the second-year driver was removed and placed on a stretcher, he was later flown to a local hospital. McLaren Boss Martin Whitmarsh reported that Kovalainen was OK, but had suffered a concussion, so it needed to be checked out. The Finn is expected to race in two weeks at Turkey.

For hometown hero, and front-row man Fernando Alonso a DNF was a sad way to end the day. The two-time F1 World Champion started the race in good shape and raced very competitively at the front easily keeping Hamilton’s McLaren behind him during the opening laps. It looked as though Alonso was on course for a strong points finish, but trouble struck at half-distance with an engine problem forcing the Spaniard into retirement.

"This weekend has been both sweet and sour,” said Alonso. “The car was very competitive and we were up there with the Ferraris and the BMWs, which is a good first step. I think now we should hopefully start enjoying races again and racing closer to the front. Although I am disappointed not to finish, it was a nice surprise to see that we are more competitive than we thought we would be."

And definitely more competitive than anyone thought the team would be!

In the end, it was a strong weekend for Formula One. Although the winner was predictably a Ferrari, and they didn’t have any real fight, three teams in the field can threaten to keep this championship close. Heading into the Turkish Grand Prix, we can’t see anything except another Ferrari one-two…

But then again… maybe it will rain… maybe the Renault will get even better… maybe the BMWs will get their launches figured out… and maybe McLaren will stop their slide downward.

Maybe.

By: Mike Sulka

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