British race analysis - Ferrari resurgence gathers pace 09 Jul 2007
For a long time it seemed that McLaren might yet snatch victory from under Ferraris nose at Silverstone. The main threat, however, didn't come from McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who led the first 15 laps, for Kimi Raikkonen was right with him in the F2007, but from Fernando Alonso. Having watched Hamilton stop on Lap 16 and Raikkonen on Lap 18, Alonso kept going to 20 before making a quick pit call. McLaren changed his strategy and gave him a short second stint.
While both the Spaniard and Hamilton had started on the harder Bridgestone tyre, worried that the softer medium might not withstand a higher fuel load, Raikkonen was quite happy with mediums from the start, as was Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa. The Brazilian had to start from the pit lane when a stalled engine caused the first start to be aborted, but after Hamilton had set the initial pace, until his tyres began to lose their edge, the two Ferrari drivers were quite happy on their mediums and set about dominating the times.
McLaren's plan was for Alonso to sprint away and open a lead over Raikkonen of eight to 10 seconds before he stopped again on Lap 37, but it never worked out that way because of a combination of traffic and the superiority of the Ferrari, which with a comparable fuel load was probably up to half a second a lap quicker than the McLaren. When Raikkonen ran six more laps than Alonso in his second stint, it was all over bar the champagne spraying.
So Ferrari got the win, and fifth place courtesy of Massa to go with it. Hamilton himself was the first to admit that without Massa's problem at the start, his own record run of nine consecutive podium finishes would have been over. The Englishman also admitted that he made a mistake setting up his car's rear end, taking a different route to Alonso and regretting it.
Thus both Ferrari and McLaren clinched 14 points from their trip to Silverstone. The scores are now 128 to McLaren and 103 to Ferrari. As damage limitation went, the silver arrows didnt do a bad job, but despite improvements for Silverstone they still need to do more prior to the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring on July 22.
Yet again BMW Sauber were best of the rest, with Robert Kubica a good fourth, fending off Massa all the way to the flag, and Nick Heidfeld sixth after fighting up from ninth on the grid. No problems there, just another healthy slug of eight points to bring their total to 56.
Seventh and eighth places brought Renault three much-needed extra points, but not much else. Heikki Kovalainen said his afternoon was a race of two halves. He jumped Toyotas Ralf Schumacher at the start to run fifth, but then the performance of the harder rear tyre began to go away and he started a gradual decline. It was seemed to be a similar problem to Hamilton's, especially as the R27 later came alive on the softer Bridgestone compound. Paradoxically, Giancarlo Fisichella found his car good in his first two stints on the hard tyre, and much worse on the soft for the third. With inconsistent grip, he was overtaken by his team mate on Lap 42.
Ninth place went to Honda's Rubens Barrichello after a hard, single-stop fight in a car that was lacking in performance. He said he had one of his best Silverstone races, and considering that he won here in 2003 that spoke volumes. Team mate Jenson Button fought hard too, having David Coulthards Red Bull all over the back of his RA107 in the closing stages as he battled oversteer and understeer. He admitted that while Barrichello got the best out of his car, he did not.
Coulthard was Red Bulls sole survivor, fighting too much oversteer. Team mate Mark Webber lasted only eight laps before he suffered a hydraulic differential failure. Scott Speed was into a good run for Toro Rosso until a clumsy passing move by Alex Wurz sent the American off with a broken left-front suspension. Wurz was able to continue in his Williams, chasing team mate Nico Rosberg home in 12th. Rosberg drove an aggressive race, which at one stage led to him sliding on to the grass trying it on with Coulthard, and later made amends with a nice move round the outside of Toyotas Jarno Trulli. Wurz said that running a heavy fuel load on the softer tyre cost him traction, but that his FW29 wasnt bad once the fuel load had lightened and he went on to the harder tyre.
Meanwhile, Vitantonio Liuzzi in the second Toro Rosso was struggling with a drinks bottle pipe that had been trapped between his lower back and his seat when he was strapped in, and things became increasingly uncomfortable. In the end gearbox failure put him out of his misery after 53 laps.
Takuma Satos switch to the Super Aguri T-car (and ensuing pit-lane start) did not bode well for him and he struggled with understeer for much of his race, eventually finishing in 14th place ahead of Christijan Albers in the surviving Spyker. Sato's team mate Anthony Davidson enjoyed another good scrap with Button until his car felt like it was touching the ground at times. A lengthy pit stop ensued, but ultimately failed to cure the problem so the Briton's SA07 was withdrawn.
Neither Toyota finished. Schumacher eventually stopped after 22 laps with a wheel fixation problem, while Trulli got as far as Lap 43 before quitting in the pits with handling issues. Adrian Sutils first British Grand Prix saw him run ahead of Albers, until his Spykers engine failed on the run down to Stowe on Lap 17.
Overall, the race seemed to confirm that the tide has turned again in Ferraris favour, and if they are to maintain their championship lead McLaren must respond fast.