Monday, October 20, 2008

The Typical Guy's 2008 Chinese GP Review...

Lewis Hamilton, only one word can describe his run in yesterday's Chinese Grand Prix: Perfect. After all, the man achieved a perfect triple as he not only nailed the pole position and finished the race in first place, he also set the fastest lap in the entire race. And with the way he made a mess of his chances in the first corner of the Japanese Grand Prix, this time around, he didn't put a wrong foot down.

Hamilton got off cleanly at the start of the race and took the first corner unchallenged, with the Ferrari's of Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa quickly slotting in behind him. But that's not to say there weren't any first corner shenanigans happening as Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais collided going into the corner, sending both cars spinning off the tarmace. A simple race incident , really, but not to Trulli who was quick to blame Bourdais, since the incident caused Trulli to pit in for a new nosecone, only to retire a lap later since his damaged sidepod affected the car's aerodynamics. But the way I see it, Trulli really didn't leave Bourdais enough room going into the corner, so with nowhere to go, a collision between them was likely to happen.

As for Hamilton, he quickly hammered out a series of fastest laps - something he hasn't particularly been good at since, prior to this race, he only set the fastest lap in two other GP races - as he built a gap from the Flying Finn who, surprisingly, was able to get on the pace early on in the race after so many previous races where he only found his pace at the latter part of a grand prix. Massa, meanwhile, was stuck behind Räikkönen and seemed as if he couldn't get past him. He could've been running on a heavy fuel load but that was quickly dispelled as he, together with
Renault's Fernando Alonso dove into the pit lane at Lap 14, with Hamilton and Räikkönen following a lap later, leaving Hamilton's team mate, Heikki Kovalainen to take the lead momentarily.

And of course, when it was Heikki's turn to slide into the pit, it was situation normal once more as Hamilton again took the lead at Lap 19 with Räikkönen following close behind almost all the way 'til the end of the race. Massa, though at third place, was over 15 seconds behind his championship rival so it was not surprising then that with just six more laps to go in the 56-lap race, Räikkönen backed off from chasing Hamilton, thus allowing Massa to take second place with Räikkönen at third. Can someone say 'team orders at work'? At least this time around, it wasn't so blatantly obvious compared to those Ferrari did before during Jean Todt's time as team principal.

Still, as spectacular a drive McLaren and Hamilton had, Massa is still within striking distance to win the drivers' championship title for himself as the final race of the season goes to Brazil, Massa's home race. What McLaren has to remember is that not too long ago, Hamilton lost last year's championship due to a faulty gearbox, not to mention that Heikki's past two races have been spoiled by something in his car not working right, so fate can still play its games against McLaren. However, the pressure is on Massa because what he needs to do is to finish in either first or second place to win the championship. Hamilton, meanwhile, has the luxury to finish at fifth or better to win his first world title but if he only finishes at sixth, with both drivers tied for points, Massa will have one more race win than Hamilton, giving Massa the championship in his home race. A true fairy tale ending, there.

And should Massa finish second, Hamilton needs to come home in seventh place to take the title as then he'll have one point more than Massa. But if he finishes eighth and ties with Massa for points, the Ferrari driver could win the championship by virtue of more second place finishes.

But, if Massa can only manage third place, it doesn't matter then on what position Hamilton will finish as the title will unquestionably be his.

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