Britain flashback 2007 - Raikkonen's renaissance continues 04 Jul 2008
No sooner had Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen breathed a sigh of relief following his victory in France last year, than he was already in transit to his next challenge - the British Grand Prix. Raikkonen was still 22 points adrift of championship leader, Lewis Hamilton, and knew he would have to win the race if he was to keep the British upstart and fellow title-hunters, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, in his sights.
Luckily for Raikkonen and team mate Massa, Ferrari's pace at the preceding Silverstone test seemed insurmountable. Nevertheless, Hamilton and fellow McLaren driver Alonso were both hoping the MP4-23 had enough in reserve to challenge the F2008.
But if a four-way title battle wasn't exciting enough, the foursome also arrived in the UK amid growing rumblings of a story that would go on to dominate the 2007 season. Ferrari confirmed plans for legal action against engineer Nigel Stepney concerning the alleged theft of technical information from the team, and McLaren were denying their connection to the case.
On the track it was local hero Hamilton who took the weekend's first honours after topping the timesheets during Friday morning's opening practice. But with Raikkonen (the only driver to dip under the 1m 20s mark) and Massa bringing their Ferraris home first and second during the afternoon session, the Italian team appeared ominously strong. Toyota and Williams also looked to be enjoying conditions at Silverstone, with the former's Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli third and fifth in the afternoon session, and the latter's Nico Rosberg and Alex Wurz seventh and eighth.
David Coulthard was cheered by Red Bull renewing his contract for 2008, although fellow Briton Jenson Button had to sit out of practice in the Honda after aggravating a back strain injury sustained at the US event. With the day's track action complete, the focus shifted once again to the burgeoning 'Spygate' saga, with Honda confirming that both Stepney and McLarens chief designer Mike Coughlan had approached the team for jobs.
Ferrari remained the team to beat on Saturday morning with Raikkonen edging out Alonso for the fastest time in final practice. Massa and Hamilton weren't far adrift in third and fourth respectively, while Rosberg's fifth, Schumacher's sixth and Vitantonio Liuzzi's seventh for Toro Rosso were the standout performances further down the order.
Everything was set for an epic tussle for pole. Raikkonen was favourite, but it was Hamilton who stole P1 from the Finn at the very last minute in front of an adoring home crowd. Raikkonen had to settle for second, ahead of Alonso in third and Massa fourth. Behind them, BMW Sauber were back in their usual position after appearing to struggle earlier in the weekend, with Robert Kubica fifth and Heidfeld ninth. Schumacher and the Renaults of Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella split the BMW pairing. And with at least the top four all in genuine contention for victory, the stage was set for one of the most exciting British Grands Prix of recent times.
On Sunday the title challengers didn't disappoint. McLaren looked the stronger at the start with both Hamilton and Alonso leading for spells, but with Raikkonen running longer than both in his second stint, it was the Finn who eventually took a dominant victory, heading Alonso home by 2.4 seconds. It didnt all go Ferrari's way, however, as Massa was forced to start from the pit lane after stalling on the grid - he ultimately came home fifth.
Hamilton, meanwhile, struggled for pace for much of the afternoon and the great British hope took the flag almost 40 seconds down on the two frontrunners. Although visibly disappointed on the podium, his third place meant he was able to retain his lead in the drivers championship, albeit by a reduced margin - Hamilton 70, Alonso 58, Raikkonen 52, Massa 51.
Kubica was another driver to leave Silverstone with a spring in his step after scoring his second consecutive fourth place. Sixth-placed team mate Heidfeld was equally content, as were Kovalainen and Fisichella, who took the final points for Renault. And although Rosberg lost a lot of time during his first stop, consigning him to a disappointing 12th, Williams form continued to show promise.
The 'most disappointed team of the day' award went to Toyota, however. After showing encouraging pace in qualifying, the Japanese squad left Silverstone pointless. A wheel fixation problem forced Schumacher to retire early, while Trulli was brought in 20 laps later with another technical problem on his TF108.