Analysis: Hamilton’s win was Schumacher-esque not Senna-esque

Monaco Lews CelebratingIt was perhaps inevitable that Lewis Hamilton’s sensational victory in Monaco last week would evoke comparisons between him and the late great Ayrton Senna. Indeed, only twenty-four hours before the race Hamilton was explaining to reporters how he wanted to emulate his childhood hero’s success at the Principality.

But was his charge through the rain-soaked chaos on Sunday really as Senna-esque as the press made it out to be?

We now know just how lucky Lewis Hamilton was to have escaped the clutches of Monaco’s causality list. The McLaren driver was nursing a punctured right rear tyre on the slow-down lap. Had the race ran to its scheduled 78 laps rather than the time-constrained 76 – and by implication, had Coulthard and Rosberg elected not to throw their cars into the Monte Carlo armco – than Hamilton could well have come a cropper.

Then there was the brush with the barrier in the opening laps which caused his first puncture. Hamilton was fortunate on several counts: it didn’t rip the wheel to pieces; it happened at the end of the lap; the unscheduled pit-stop enabled McLaren to fuel his car to the brim; and the colossal spread between the front-runners and the rest of the pack dropped him only as far back as fifth.

Come the time of the safety-car a few laps later, Hamilton was right back in the hunt and sitting pretty on a brimful of petrol which would see him beautifully through to the pit-stop window for dry tyres.

Lucky? In a word yes. That is not to say that the drive was neither impressive, nor worthy of association with the legendary Senna, but rather to account for its impressiveness in a different way.

In Formula One, and indeed sport in general, there is a certain truth in the saying that you have to make your own luck. You don’t just benefit from chance, you then have to capitalise on it. A lucky net-cord is only as good as the following point, for it almost certain that the guy on the other side will enjoy a similar strike of fortune later in the match.

And that is what is truly remarkable about Hamilton’s Monaco triumph; the way he was completely and totally unfazed by the incident (how many times have we seen Massa succumb in times of similar hardship?) and the way he seized upon and squeezed every ounce of good-fortune out of the events that were unwillingly bestowed on him.

He knew he would struggle on a fuel-laden car so he pushed, and kept on pushing, for all he was worth – he wanted the win and nothing else would do. Anyone fortunate enough to have the live timing screen in front of them would have seen it light up like a Christmas tree as Hamilton set purple sector after purple sector in a bid to build up enough of a cushion to leap-frog Felipe Massa and Robert Kubica. He turned things around in spectacular fashion and set some mind-blowingly quick laps in the process.

In short, and god forbid that a Brit should be making such a comparison, it was classic Schumacher.

Some say he was lucky, others say he made his own luck. Either way, the German was brilliant at turning moments of misfortune to his advantage. To the point of extreme, his title-deciding clashes with Hill in 1994, Villeneuve in 1997 and then his infamous Monaco parking incident all share a similar cause; in the heat of the moment, Schumacher was calmly, rationally, and deviously thinking, ‘what can I do to turn this to my favour?’.

Schumacher made things happen, even when they shouldn’t. It is a quality that Hamilton has in abundance. Take his magnificent drive in Turkey, or some of his sensational start line manoeuvres. The youngster has given a whole new meaning to the sporting equivalent of carpe-diem .

And those blistering laps before his final pit-stop in Monaco? Pure Schumacher-style ‘stint-lapping’; he was given a target, he knew what he needed, and he delivered in awe-inspiring fashion.

That is why his charge to the steps of the Royal Palace in Monte Carlo was truly great.

Lewis: I’m even stronger

Monaco Lewis HamiltonAs if the maturity and level-headedness Lewis Hamilton demonstrated on the way to his maiden victory in Formula One wasn’t enough, one year on and the British star insists he has grown even stronger.

The Formula One entourage heads across the Atlantic for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal next week, a trip which carries special significance for Hamilton who returns to the home of his first career victory, what he describes as one the biggest accomplishments of his life.

In an incident-packed race that saw no fewer than four safety cars, the McLaren ace kept his head while all around him others were losing theirs – most notably then team-mate Fernando Alonso whose forays off the track at Turn 1 were as frequent as the appearance of the safety car itself – to seal a dominant pole-to-flag win.

Fresh from an impressive victory last week in a similarly chaotic Monaco Grand Prix, his first win at the Principality and his sixth career triumph, Hamilton makes the pilgrimage to the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve this year with the firm belief that he is even more at one with his car and team.

“Last year in Canada was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life,” reminisces the 23-year-old, “to take my maiden pole and victory in Formula 1 was incredible, even more so as it was with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.”

“Since then I think I’ve matured a lot, I think I have grown stronger as a driver and have become closer to the team.”

The win in Montreal was made even sweeter for Hamilton and McLaren given that rivals Ferrari were widely expected to revel in the low-downforce arena.

The Scuderia , who had just been trounced, as they were this year, by the silver cars at Monaco, were expecting the F2007, with its then comparatively longer wheel-base, to be much better suited to the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve. But the Italian outfit eventually disappointed in the race, Kimi Raikkonen getting involved in a tangle on the opening lap and Felipe Massa famously running the red light during the safety-car induced pit-lane closure.

This year, Ferrari showed themselves to be much closer to McLaren in Monaco, the Scarlet cars locking out the front row, albeit eventually succumbing to the weather, an infringement on the starting grid, and Hamilton’s sensational drive.

Regardless of what Ferrari throw at him, Hamilton remains confident that he can again challenge for victory at the temporary street circuit and thereby consolidate his championship lead.

“It would be great to go back there and do the same, and that is what we are working hard to achieve,” he says. We have good momentum right now and we are pushing to keep that going and to keep developing.”

“The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of my favourite tracks and following my debut win there last year it is a very special place for me. It would be great to go back there and do the same, and that is what we are working hard to achieve.”

The Briton currently has a three point lead over Kimi Raikkonen who threw the championship wide open when he ran into the back of Adrian Sutil in Monaco, ruining both his own race, as well as the German’s.

Heidfeld seeks Montreal redress

Monaco Heidfeld 2Nick Heidfeld his hoping that the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve, home to his stunning second place last year, will once again be kind to him as he seeks to rejuvenate his 2008 season after a difficult few races.

The BMW Sauber driver has been out-qualified by his on-song team-mate Robert Kubica on all six occasions this year and has only once out-raced the Pole on Sunday. Chief amongst the causes behind his recent dip in form is a problem with his tyres, particularly in low temperatures where the German has struggled to bring them up to speed for the single lap.

In the season’s latest foray at Monte Carlo last week the German struggled to even make it into the third qualifying knock-out session while an over-ambitious overtaking manoeuvre by Fernando Alonso ruined the 31-year-old’s chances in the race.

As the F1 entourage heads across the Atlantic for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, Heidfeld is hoping to put in a similar performance to that of last year, where he trailed Lewis Hamilton home to second place after keeping out of trouble in the incident-packed race, as well as doggedly fending off a rattled Fernando Alonso.

“Last year’s Canadian Grand Prix was a very special race for me,” reflected the BMW ace.

“We put in a very strong showing in 2007. I came third in qualifying and finished second in the race on my own merit. Initially that result was obviously overshadowed by Robert’s accident. Only when we knew he was okay were we able to celebrate.”

“Of course I’m very much hoping I’ll do well in qualifying this time. I’m working with the engineers to get the tyres back fast enough into the temperature zone where they really build up grip.”

Heidfeld’s impressive second place went someway to redressing Robert Kubica’s horrific 200mph shunt at the temporary street circuit, but all-in-all it was a very emotional weekend for BMW Sauber.

BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen is hoping to build on the success that the team showed in Monaco; Robert Kubica’s sterling charge to second place contributing to the Hinwil based outfit’s impressive collection of silverware this season.

“We have very specific memories of the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix,” said the German. “Robert survived a horrific accident virtually without any injuries, while Nick finished second to give our team the best result up to that point. It was the most emotional weekend.”

“Canada is an important market for the BMW Group. Without the US Grand Prix, there’s unfortunately no North American double header this year. In Montreal we hope to build on our positive performance in Monaco.”

Renault: Nelson needs to do a ‘Heikki’

Turkey Piquet Nelson Piquet needs to believe in himself if he is to turn his so far disappointing season around, that’s the wisdom offered by Renault’s Pat Symonds who witnessed Heikki Kovalainen rejuvenate his career with Renault this time last year.

Piquet is a man under fire at the moment. The Brazilian has struggled to get to grips with his Renault R28 this year and has yet to put a point to his name. A string of lowly qualifying performances allied with several unforced errors on race-day have kick started rumours that Renault are seeking a replacement. At Monaco last week Piquet was visibly distraught after losing control of his Renault at St. Devote in the damp – his fourth no-show of the season.

Super Aguri refugees Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato have already been linked to the Brazilian’s seat, though the rumours are believed to be unfounded. Renault team boss Flavio Briatore meanwhile has reportedly given his driver a three race deadline in which to up his game, while Fernando Alonso will relinquish testing duties next month in Barcelona to give Piquet more mileage in the car.

Renault’s director of engineering Pat Symonds has insisted that Piquet is just suffering from a lack of confidence and that it will only take one decent result to turn his fortunes around.

The experienced 55-year-old points to Heikki Kovalainen’s impressive charge to fourth place in last year’s Canadian Grand Prix as a case in point. The Finn scythed his way through the chaos despite writing off his Renault in qualifying and starting from the back of the grid.

“It has been difficult for him (Piquet) but he has put in some good races,” acknowledged the Englishman on Renault’s official team podcast.

“This time last year a lot of people were thinking Heikki was entering his last few races, and Canada was just an incredible weekend for him because on Saturday could things really have got any worse?”

“He had two major accidents in qualifying and it’s still a miracle to me that we got the car out again in qualifying to get anywhere. Fabulous race on Sunday and he never looked back.”

“I’ve said it so often before – with a driver or sportsman it’s about self esteem and about believing in yourself. All Nelson needs to do is turn that corner and believe in himself and it will happen again.”

Renault Team Boss Flavio Briatore has likewise moved to defend his driver despite the rumours that he has imposed a three-race deadline on Piquet to improve.

“Nelsinho definitely has talent,” the Italian is quoted as saying this week by sportnet , after Piquet’s disappointing showing at Monaco last week.

“He is a part of the team and we need him. I have no doubts about that.”

Whitmarsh: Heikki’s first win – when not if

Spain HeikkiIt is only a matter of time before Heikki Kovalainen climbs onto the top step of the podium, according to McLaren chief Martin Whitmarsh.

The unlucky Finn has suffered a catalogue of mechanical problems and incidents in the last few races and has failed to score points befitting of the blistering pace he has demonstrated behind the wheel of his MP4-23.

In Monaco last week the McLaren driver watched his team-mate romp to victory while a gear selection problem dashed his own chances of before the race had even begun. After the race McLaren engineers were reportedly as gutted with Kovalainen’s start line woes as they were elated with Lewis Hamilton’s career first at the Principality.

To make matters worse, the 26-year-old arrived at the Principality already with a significant points deficit to the championship leaders, his high speed shunt in Barcelona and a collision with Kimi Raikkonen in Turkey effectively writing off his races.

McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh has been quick to praise Kovalainen for the way he has battled against the grain and overcome the race-ruining problems, two of which – a broken wheel rim in Spain and a software glitch in Monaco – were caused by deficiencies in his McLaren.

“Heikki of course has performed quite brilliantly in his first six races with the team and therefore has to come out of it with some disappointment,” affirmed the Englishman.

“Whilst there is underlying satisfaction with his personal performance, Heikki has suffered some misfortune, which has taken from him the opportunity to win his first Grand Prix.”

The McLaren chief added that Kovalainen is destined for success in Formula One and that it would only be a matter of time before he claims his maiden victory.

“He is an extremely positive guy who realises that he has a great career ahead of him and there is no doubt that he is going to enjoy many Grand Prix victories during the course of his career.”

The F1 circus heads across the Atlantic this week for the seventh round in the Formula One World Championship in Montreal. The track marks a significant turning point in Kovalainen’s career.

It was there last year that the Finn rejuvenated his career with an impressive charge through the chaos to fourth place, despite writing off his Renault in both practice and qualifying and starting from plum last.

Kovalainen is determined to put in a similar performance this year and achieve a decent result for his new team.

“I am going to Montreal to get a good result with the team,” asserted the former Renault driver.

“The last few races have been pretty difficult for one reason or another, but all the time we know the car is quick and now I am hoping to be able to demonstrate that.”

Q and A: Robert Kubica

BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica reflects on how he escaped his horrendous 200mph accident in Montreal a year ago.

You were one of the few drivers able to finish the Monaco Grand Prix without making any mistakes. Does this give you special satisfaction?

Not really. Okay, it was a difficult race, especially as there was a lot of water on the track, much more than we were expecting. The conditions were changing constantly, and this was also the case with regard to what tyres were best, therefore all the time we were having to adapt very quickly. I made some small mistakes two or three times I thought I would end up in the barriers – but eventually I was able to control the car. It was, in fact, a very difficult race and I m happy I adopted the right approach by being consistent and keeping up a good speed. With regard to the strategy, it was also a challenge, and I think we had a strong race. The outcome was I scored an important podium for the team and myself.

In a week Formula One returns to Canada where last year you escaped a horrendous accident. How do you cope with memories of the accident?

I don t have to cope with anything. We go to Canada which is one of my favourite tracks. Of course everybody knows what happened in 2007, but I don t have to cope because it s already a year ago, and since then I have been driving a Formula One car without thinking about it. In Formula One and motorsport the risks are high, but I don t have any negative feelings about Canada. I am just going there as I go to any other race with the goal to score as many points as possible.

Did the accident change anything in your life?

No.

What role does the mental part play in Formula One? Are you doing any special training?

I think your mental state is important in every sport, but in Formula One it is particularly important. Just look at the last race. Even in dry conditions, Monaco is very demanding mentally, but this time it was even more difficult. We had to maintain concentration for two hours while driving between the barriers at the limit in ever changing conditions. Monaco is one of the easiest races with regard to physical preparation, but the hardest in regards to concentration. I don t do any mental training, but I m trying to improve myself all the time, and I think that my mental level is good. The best preparation for me was all those races against good drivers when I was younger. I think we are all our own best mental trainers, and this is just by analysing and understanding our personal mistakes and approach.

You have had a fantastic season so far – why were you able to improve so much compared to last year?

There were many factors which influenced my results in 2007. I don t think I have improved so much as a driver. But there are several outside factors that have improved a lot and these are both around and inside the car. All these factors have made my life easier with regard to setting up the car as I want it and having a better feeling for the car. The results this year show just how much I was struggling last year, and I think I was struggling much more than anyone outside realised. There are so many small factors that can influence your performance in Formula One. Last year was extremely disappointing for me, but I have learned from this, and I m happy I have been able to improve the performance so much.

Do you consider yourself a championship contender this year?

I don t think so, but of course anything can happen in Formula One. In the last two or three races especially we were not as competitive as we were at the beginning of the season, when we were in between the Ferraris and the McLarens. Recently, it has been more difficult for us to be up there. I expect Kimi Räikkönen, Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton to fight for the championship, but if I see an opportunity, of course, I shall do my best. My approach is the same for all the races: I try to get the maximum out of the car and score the most points possible.

Montreal is a so-called “medium downforce” track. Do you think it should suit the BMW Sauber F1.08?

Montreal is track which is completely different to Monaco, apart from the fact that it s a kind of street circuit where the grip level is improving massively from one session to the next. But the downforce level is much lower. We really have to see what it is like. We ran a relatively low downforce level in Turkey, where we were not so fast, but the team has developed a special medium downforce aero package for Montreal, which I hope will work and put us in a strong position.

What do you do in your spare time?

I m preparing for the next test or race. I work on my physical fitness, having done this particularly before the start of the season. But of course I also like to relax after a race to get the energy back before the next one. In addition, I like to play Poker, go Bowling or just do normal things like other people do.

Source: BMW

Kimi’s retirement the latest on the rumour-mill

Kimi Raikkonen could be soon to retire, that’s the latest rumour doing the rounds.

Following speculation that Fernando Alonso had inked a deal with Ferrari for 2010, it is claimed by German Newspapers Rheinischen Post and TZ that current Maranello driver Kimi Raikkonen will not renew his contract beyond next year.

Rheinischen Post claims that Raikkonen told friends at a recent party that he does not intend to spend much longer as an F1 driver.

“Kimi loves the driving and hates everything else about Formula One,” one of Raikkonen’s apparent friend is quoted as telling TZ.

“The public appearances, the life under the spotlight, he doesn’t have the desire anymore,” the unnamed friend reportedly added.

Ecclestone calls on Mosley to step down

Bernie Ecclestone has called on Max Mosley to step down as FIA president ahead of next week’s vote of confidence.

Formula One’s commercial rights holder believes it is in Mosley’s best interests not to risk the humilation of losing the crunch vote.

“Since the story broke I have been under enormous pressure from the people who invest in Formula 1, sponsors and manufacturers, over this issue,” Ecclestone told the Daily Telegraph. “They point out that as a chief executive or chief operating officer of a major company they would have gone either immediately, or within 24 hours, in the same circumstances. They cannot understand why Max has not done the same.

“Max is a strong man. Once he makes a decision he sticks to it. He feels that there is still important work to do at the FIA. But in my view there is a way to accomplish this and retire at the end of the year at the FIA general assembly in November. I would be happy to sit at his side to help him to achieve that. He should stand down out of responsibility for the institution he represents, including F1. Everyone who I speak to in a position of authority across F1 rings me to say he should leave. It is regretful that he has not made that decision.”

“The big problem is that he can no longer represent the FIA worldwide because of these incidents. The general feeling is that people would no longer be comfortable speaking to him in the same way. I have spoken to Max about this and advised him to stand down in November and not to go to the vote next Tuesday.”

Rosberg fine after Monaco crash

Nico Rosberg at the 2008 Monaco GPNico Rosberg has confirmed that after he is fine after his big accident at the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend.

Rosberg, who lives in the Principality, had precautionary checks at hospital after his crash in the Swimming Pool complex.

In a column on the team website he wrote, “First of all, let me say that I m fine! My crash at the Swimming Pool chicane on lap 60 of the Monaco Grand Prix was a big one, but there s no damage not to me, anyway. After consulting the doctors on site I decided, as precaution, to go to the Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco. All the routine checks in the hospital showed that everything was perfectly fine, so I was released to go home rather quickly. After a couple days rest, I am currently preparing and training as normal for the Canadian Grand Prix.”

Rosberg then explains how the crash happened. “The cause of the accident was straightforward,” he continued. “I was pushing really hard on dry tyres and coming into the swimming pool corner after Tabac when the rear of the car flicked out suddenly on entry, most probably on a patch of water under braking. After that I was a passenger and hit the barrier on the right before being thrown across the track into the barrier on the left.

“What made the shunt so disappointing was the fact that the FW30 had been really competitive during practice and qualifying. I was second fastest during Thursday s second practice session and managed to carry that pace into qualifying. I was second quickest in Q2, just 0.1s slower than Felipe Massa s fastest time, and I was equally pleased with my lap in Q3 given my heavy fuel load to qualify sixth.”

Ferrari: Alonso rumour is nonsense

Ferrari have refuted a rumour that Fernando Alonso may join the team in 2010. During the Monaco Grand Prix race weekend, a rumour surfaced that Alonso had signed a preliminary agreement to join the scarlet-clad team in 2010.

With Raikkonen s contract expiring at the end of 2009 and Massa s contract expiring at the end of 2010, many were speculating on which Ferrari driver the Spaniard would place. Some have said they would like to see a Raikkonen Alonso pairing, although Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo ruled this option out last month.

However, a Ferrari spokesperson has spoken to German magazine Auto Motor und Sport and denied that any agreement between the team and Alonso has been made, describing the rumour as “absolute nonsense.”