The 2007 Season Review - Part Two 29 Oct 2007
As the world championship headed to Europe for round four, nothing separated the top two teams in terms of performance. Better consistency from McLaren ensured they were five points ahead of Ferrari in the constructors championship, but the Italian team were poised to bounce back at any time.
BMW Sauber had made a nest for themselves in third place, while Renault knew already that a third successive championship wasnt on the cards. Of the two Japanese manufacturers, Toyota held the advantage with their TF107. Not only that, their engine partnership with Williams was already bearing fruit. Honda, on the other hand, were having a horrid time with their uncompetitive RA107.
The month break between the Bahrain and Spanish Grands Prix gave the teams lots of time to develop their cars. Heres what happened next.
May: At the Circuit de Catalunya, Felipe Massa continues where he left off in Bahrain. He dominates the Spanish Grand Prix from pole position, coming home ahead of Lewis Hamilton and hometown hero Fernando Alonso. Kimi Raikkonen retires with an electrical problem.
A BMW Sauber (Robert Kubica) finishes fourth for the fourth successive race, while David Coulthard puts in an exemplary performance to finish fifth for Red Bull, despite losing third gear in the closing stages. There are also celebrations at Super Aguri, who score their first ever world championship point when Takuma Sato beats the Renault of Giancarlo Fisichella to finish eighth.
At Monaco, Ferrari struggle. Whereas the long wheelbase of their F2007 helped them stretch their legs at the aero-sensitive Circuit de Catalunya, it seems more of a hindrance through the narrow streets of the Principality. Massa finishes third and Raikkonen, after a qualifying shunt, suffers the ignominy of being lapped by the McLaren pair.
Hamilton finishes second to Alonso, but when McLaren boss Ron Dennis lets slip that his drivers were instructed to hold station during the final laps, all hell breaks loose in the British press. Robbed! scream the English tabloid newspapers.
He would never have passed me, says an unimpressed Alonso. After all, this is Monaco were talking about.
Fisichella, meanwhile, puts in a solid performance. He comes home in fourth place, giving Renault their best result of the year so far.
June: Lewis Hamilton not only breaks his duck, he does the double. The McLaren star wins both the Canadian and United States Grands Prix and returns to Europe with a 10-point lead at the top of the drivers championship. Amazingly, he is 26 points ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who fails to finish on the podium in either race.
The main talking point of Montreal, however, is the miraculous escape of Robert Kubica, who hits a concrete wall head-on at 143mph. He escapes with nothing more serious than concussion and a sprained ankle.
Not many years ago, says Bernie Ecclestone, that accident would have been fatal.
Only last winter the FIA introduced three new safety developments, all of which had a bearing on the severity - or lack of - of Kubicas injuries. The frontal impact test was increased from 14 to 15 metres per second, a six-millimetre coat of Zylon was added to prevent the chassis split lines from breaking, and the wheel tethers strength was increased to 6kj.
In what is the most eventful race of the year so far, there are plenty of other talking points. Massa is excluded after 51 laps for passing through a red light at the exit of the pitlane, Williams Alex Wurz scores his first podium for 10 years and Takuma Sato does more giant-killing for Super Aguri. He overtakes Alonso in the dying moments of the race to claim sixth place and the Spaniard immediately airs his frustrations to the Spanish press.
Ive never felt totally comfortable in a British team, with a British team mate, he says. We know the support is going to him, but I am calm.
The top two teams dominate at Indianapolis a week later. A McLaren one-two is followed by a Ferrari three-four. Heikki Kovalainen is fifth for Renault, while Sebastian Vettel subs for Kubica at BMW Sauber and finishes eighth. At 19 years and 11 months, Vettel is the youngest driver in Formula One history to score a world championship point.