Race analysis - McLaren flying high 28 May 2007
Ferrari left hoping heavy Monaco loss was a one-off
With an 18 point haul following a crushing 1-2, and Ferrari only taking home seven points, it was small wonder that McLaren left Monte Carlo with their tail up. The silver arrows had been expected to go well round the Principality, but few had expected the rout that Ferrari encountered.
Winner Fernando Alonso was so excited about his MP4-22 that he said the thing he enjoyed even more than winning Monaco for the second consecutive time was driving every one of the 78 laps. You dont often hear somebody say that these days.
McLarens score as they head for the North American leg of the championship is 76 points, while Ferrari are 20 behind. Its hardly a disaster, but in what promises to be a very tough fight the Scuderia needs to turn the tide soon.
Such was McLarens supremacy that Ferrari even tried a little ruse with the Bridgestone tyres. They came in soft and super-soft this weekend, and there were concerns over the durability of the latter. In desperation, Ferrari sent Felipe Massa out on super-softs for his second and third stints, and though the tyres stood up, the Brazilian noted little difference in performance.
As for Kimi Raikkonen, who blew his race chances by crunching a steering arm in qualifying, he made a demon start from 16th to 12th and then got trapped in the midfield traffic until his heavy fuel load finally lifted him into the last points-scoring position. About the best thing you could say about Ferraris weekend - judged, that is, by their own elevated standards - is that at least the cars were reliable.
Any other team bar McLaren would have been very pleased with the final podium slot. As it was, Renault were very happy with fourth for Giancarlo Fisichella. After his strong qualifying performance (due to a light fuel load), he was able to run a good two-stop strategy using the soft tyres for the first two stints, and was never seriously challenged for his position. Team mate Heikki Kovalainen, however, had a torrid time, trapped behind David Coulthards Red Bull until he was able to get the jump on the Scot during their sole pit stops.
Renault are convinced that their upturn will carry over into Canada and Indianapolis as they appear to understand the Bridgestone tyres more, so BMW Sauber are keeping a wary eye on them as the closest challenger thus far to their third place overall. So far Dr Theissens team havent really put a foot wrong, and fifth and sixth places for Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld earned the team another crucial seven points.
Poor Nico Rosberg seemed set for a strong race in the Williams and was alongside Fisichella at the start until he had to back out of it, whereupon Heidfeld went round the outside of him to grab fifth place. Thereafter the younger German was trapped behind the fuel-heavy BMW and could never achieve the speed he needed to make his two-stop strategy work. Team-mate Alex Wurz was likewise stuck behind Kubica early on, but his single-stop strategy worked out for the team and he was able to come through for seventh place and another two valuable points which help to keep Williams ahead of some much better funded opponents.
With a little better fortune Toro Rosso might have scored their first points of 2007. Getting Tonio Liuzzi out a little sooner in qualifying might have helped him into the top 10, and who knows what could have happened then? As it was the Italian was savaged from behind in the first corner by Red Bull teamster David Coulthard and crashed a lap later at Massenet, but team mate Scott Speed did a fine job in a single-stop deal to finish ninth, fervently but vainly hoping for a retirement ahead of his STR02.
At times the race appeared to hold promise for Honda, with Rubens Barrichello running seventh for a long time ahead of Mark Webber and Kubica but losing ground with his single stop; Button stopped twice, but was never sufficiently far enough ahead to resist a decline when he refuelled.
Red Bull and Toyota both met with disappointment. Webbers transmission failed after fewer than 20 laps, when points were a definite possibility, and Coulthard never got free of midfield traffic in a dice with Kovalainen that went the Finns way after their sole pit stops. Subsequently the Scots car also ground to a halt, possibly with transmission trouble, in the slowing down lap.
Trulli and Schumacher took 15th and 16th places in their Toyota TF107s, and that counted as a massive disappointment to a team that had come to the Principality with high hopes of scoring further points.
After their qualifying snafu, Super Aguri saw Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson finish virtually nose-to-tail despite the former stopping twice, the latter (supposedly) only once. Davidson survived a collision with Kovalainen in the first corner, but his strategy later went awry when he got a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags waved as Massa came upon him.
Neither Spyker was running at the finish. Adrian Sutil banged his into the wall at Massenet after 53 laps, and Christijan Albers broke a driveshaft after 70. Both gave Ralf Schumacher a hard time in the course of the early going.
With all the pre-race testing done for the Canadian and US rounds, the teams are ready for the North American sojourn. McLaren are very content, Ferrari are a little bemused by remain confident that Monaco was an aberration, and BMW Sauber are keeping their eye on Renault.