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British Grand Prix analysis - what if? 11 Jul 2005

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, 9 July 2005 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, 10 July 2005 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari F2005.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, 10 July 2005 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota makes an appearance on the Toyota stand.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, 10 July 2005 Jenson Button (GBR) BAR Honda 007 waves to the crowd.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, 10 July 2005

What if Kimi Raikkonen had started from the front row of the grid on Sunday? The Finn is adamant that “the result would have been different,” and who is to say that it would not have been. If he had made a good start, he would have been able to run with McLaren team mate Juan Pablo Montoya and title rival Fernando Alonso, and he would not have been held up for the first 24 laps by Michael Schumacher. If he hadn’t won, he’d probably have been second.

Ifs and buts don’t count in racing, but it’s the trend here that is important. If he’d had two McLarens to deal with all the way, Alonso would certainly have had an even tougher time. And therein lies McLaren’s best hope for the world title this year. To deny Alonso points, they must have their drivers finishing first and second. Especially at Hockenheim, Mercedes’ home ground, in two weeks’ time.

Look at the fastest laps at Silverstone, and Renault might have cause to worry. Raikkonen lapped in 1m 20.502s on the very last lap; earlier, on lap 41, Montoya had recorded 1m 20.700s. Giancarlo Fisichella, on the other hand, managed 1m 21.159s, and Alonso 1m 21.228s. Interestingly, Michael Schumacher was next up on 1m 21.675s ahead of brother Ralf on 1m 21.960s. Jenson Button was the last man under 1m 22s, with 1m 21.993s.

Traffic, however, was a serious factor, and without Jarno Trulli inadvertently blocking him (Alonso said there were no blue flags as he came up to lap the Italian) the Spaniard might well have won.

The one thing that is clear is that McLaren and Renault are currently the class of the field.

Ferrari, after making progress in North America, appear to have peaked again, and though Schumacher was fast at times he wasn’t fast often enough or long enough to do better than his sixth place finish. Rubens Barrichello tried a three-stop strategy instead of the two-stops preferred by everyone else, but it was no quicker and he was just under two seconds adrift of Michael by the end. Interestingly, the Brazilian’s fastest lap was 1m 22.302s even though he was running lighter much of the time. That can be explained by similar brake problems to those that arose in Magny-Cours.

As Ferrari’s sporting director Jean Todt admitted, the final result was a reasonably accurate reflection of the current pecking order.

BAR had high hopes at Silverstone, but Jenson Button was a relatively early stopper (lap 20) which put his front-row position into perspective. The Englishman suggested that the team have gone as far as they can with the car in its current state, and fifth place, though worth four more points, was definitely a disappointment when they had aspired to a podium. Team mate Takuma Sato lapped in 1m 22.551s as he attempted to recover from the disastrous start to his race. He admitted that he hit the wrong button as he was going through his start procedure, which cut his engine, necessitating his 007 being wheeled to the pits after the race had started, and brought out the safety car for the first two laps.

Toyota were actually running their engines for a third race - Indianapolis, Magny-Cours and Silverstone. Why? Because, as an insider put it, “We don’t have any problems in that respect. The engine is perfect!”

Not so the car, at least at Silverstone, where both TF105s were very poor in the first stint before ‘coming on’ as the race developed. Ralf Schumacher’s sixth fastest lap was testament to the speed, but it wasn’t there long enough as the German took eighth place ahead of team mate Trulli. The Japanese squad did, however, keep up their record of scoring points.

Not so Sauber, though Felipe Massa found his C24 so good that he was convinced he’d have been in the top eight had he not started so far back. He lost ground at the start when the anti-stall proved problematic, made it up before the safety car came out, but then got mired in traffic and could only climb to 10th by the finish. While Massa was delighted with his car’s consistency on a clear road, team mate Jacques Villeneuve did not like his car’s handling with its new aerodynamic configuration (introduced on Saturday) and delayed himself by running over his lead refueller while trying to leave his first pity stop prematurely.

For Williams this British Grand Prix was bitterly disappointing as Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld struggled throughout with inconsistent balance, while at Jordan Narain Karthikeyan was angered that his electrical problem that made him the sole retirement proved to be a bit of finger trouble. Team mate Tiago Monteiro, however, was able to push hard all the way through to the finish. Both Minardi drivers had reliable runs, but inevitably they lost a great deal of time simply going off line to avoid holding up faster cars as they were lapped.

Interestingly, both McLaren and Renault have struggled at times to field two reliable cars, but the former must keep doing so if they are to get Raikkonen into a position to challenge Alonso. In the constructors’ stakes, however, they pulled back three on Renault as they eased away again from Ferrari, the respective scores reading Renault 102 points, McLaren 87, Ferrari 74.