As the title race steps up another gear ahead of the crucial second half of the season, kicking off with the German Grand Prix next week, the front-runners are under no allusions that that the 2008 driver and constructor championships are there for the losing as much as the winning.
All the talk from McLaren and Ferrari at the moment is about clamping down on mistakes and being operationally flawless in the remaining nine races.
Ferrari’s strategic errors in the wet at Monaco and Silverstone, allied with McLaren’s disastrous French and Canadian pursuits, have resulted in a thrilling three-way tie for the championship between Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa.
With no one driver having a clear advantage and little to choose between in the way of performance from the top two teams, staying out of trouble and bringing home the points will be the top priority.
“The pressure will be on,” McLaren Racing’s Managing Director Jonathan Neale told Forumula1.com. “I think that with the championship now tied between four ways between the drivers, concentration will now move to making a rock-solid second half.”
“The drivers are all well and capable of winning a world championship and I think the cars are pretty close in terms of their relative performance, but what will now differentiate the second half of the season I think is the ability of the teams not to leak points away by making operational or strategic mistakes.”
“Formula One is not fault tolerant and this particular championship will be fought long and deep into the season between BMW, Ferrari and Mercedes, and if you flinch you lose.”
Felipe Massa is being touted as the man to have done just that at Silverstone after spinning no fewer than five times and finishing the race plum last.
The Brazilian responded this week by lapping quickest on the third and final day of testing at Hockenheim, but with rumours that Santander are looking to switch their backing to Ferrari in 2009 – possibly taking Fernando Alonso with them – Massa’s future is by no means secure.
“I don’t care what other people say, to be honest,” he told reporters at Hockenheim, shrugging off the criticism.
“I know what I have to do, I’ve won many races this year, and so I don’t really care for that. For sure the first spin was a mistake, definitely, but then every time I was on the track we had the wrong tyres for the conditions.”
“So I cannot say it was just coming from myself; it was coming from our strategy too. We made so many mistakes anyway at Silverstone – we know that, and we are working in every area to not repeat them. It’s part of the game. We’re not the only team that has made mistakes this year. It’s part of the game, and we need to concentrate on the next race.”
“The championship is open, we are still in front in the constructors’ championship, and so it’s nothing to worry about at the moment.”
Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was by far the biggest loser at Silverstone however after the team elected not to change his intermediate tyres despite the onslaught of further rain.
“We could have won this race with Kimi but we made a key mistake at the first pitstop, choosing to stay on the same set of tyres,” explained Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali.
“With hindsight it’s easy to say we should have changed tyres, but Formula One is not an exact science – sometimes strategic choices pay off and sometimes they don’t. All the same, we have to admit that, this weekend, we did not operate to
our usual standard.
“We made mistakes at every level and even our performance did not match our expectations and now we have to work out why, but calmly without panicking.”