The 2007 Season Review - Part Three 31 Oct 2007
Of Kimi Raikkonens six victories this season, his domination of July's French Grand Prix was one of the most crucial.
Until that point, Raikkonens championship challenge in the Ferrari had been less than convincing as he'd struggled to master Bridgestone's 2007-spec tyres. Suddenly, though, he got on a roll. Here's how the mid-season unfolded...
July: For the first time since Barcelona, four races earlier, the Formula One circus arrives at a track that favours Ferrari. Magny-Cours fast sweeps play into the hands of the F2007s peerless aerodynamics and the Scuderia take their first one-two of the season, Raikkonen leading home team mate Felipe Massa.
In his least competitive showing of the year so far, Hamilton comes third for McLaren, while BMW Saubers Robert Kubica finishes a creditable fourth in his first race since his horrific crash in Montreal.
There are smiles down at Honda too, where Jenson Button finishes eighth to score the teams first point of the season. Jenson just gets better and better with every year, says team boss Nick Fry.
Following such a dominant display at Magny-Cours, Ferrari are confident of another competitive showing around the fast sweeps of Silverstone a week later. They are not disappointed: Raikkonen is dominant, winning the British Grand Prix from pole position.
The top eight positions at Silverstone are filled by the top four teams: Ferrari, McLaren, BMW Sauber and Renault. Alonso is second and Hamilton third, much to the delight of the British crowd and footballer David Beckham, who watches the race from the Honda motorhome with wife Victoria.
Next it's to the Nurburgring for Formula One racing's only Grand Prix of the year on German soil. Its a weekend for Hamilton to forget. He crashes heavily during qualifying, spins into the gravel at Turn One at the start of the race and finishes ninth. Its the first time this year that he's failed to finish on the podium.
The dry-wet-dry-wet race is led initially by Spyker's Markus Winkelhock, who is the only driver on the grid to start on wet tyres. Then Fernando Alonso surges to the fore and overtakes Massa for the lead with four laps to go. Red Bulls Mark Webber is the final podium finisher after he successfully fends off a late-race challenge from Williams driver Alex Wurz.
As soon as the chequered flag drops on the European Grand Prix, the Formula One world turns its attention to Paris, where an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) is scheduled for July 26. They are investigating claims by Ferrari that McLarens design chief Mike Coughlan has been in unauthorised possession of a 780-page dossier containing the design secrets of its F2007 since March.
After a day of cross-examinations and deliberations, the WMSC concludes that Coughlan has indeed been in possession of the dossier - allegedly given to him by disgruntled Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney - but much to the disappointment of Ferrari, McLaren escape punishment. The conclusion is that Coughlan acted alone and no technical advantage was gained by McLaren.
August: The Ferrari-McLaren spy scandal saga continues
Following a pit-lane kafuffle between Hamilton and Alonso during qualifying at the Hungaroring, the Spaniards anger is such that he purportedly threatens to publicise some emails that - he says - would incriminate McLaren further.
On-track, Hamilton returns to his winning ways in Hungary, fending off a late-race challenge from Raikkonen. Nick Heidfeld is third for BMW Sauber, Alonso is fourth, Kubica is fifth and Ralf Schumacher puts in his most impressive drive of the year to come home sixth for Toyota.
Less impressive is the pace of the Hondas. The RA107 struggles for grip around the Hungaroring and is the slowest car on the track. Bar none.
During the three-week summer break that follows the Hungarian race, rumours abound that an email exchange between Alonso and McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa could prove that McLaren had derived a technical advantage from Ferrari's technical dossier. As a result, a second extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council is called on 13 September to investigate further.
The next race, in Turkey, sees a return to a Ferrari-style track. The fast sweeps of Istanbul Park suit the F2007 and Massa scores his second successive win at the circuit, coming home ahead of Raikkonen and Alonso. Hamilton suffers a tyre delamination and comes in fifth after making an extra pit stop.
As the championship heads into its final five races, the top four drivers are separated by just 16 points. It's too close to call.
Part Four coming soon.