Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ferrari dedicate win to whistle-blower

Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo dedicated his team's Belgian Grand Prix win to the photocopy shop worker who sparked the spy saga.

The furore that led to McLaren being fined £50million and stripped of all their Constructors' points for this year was instigated by a tip-off to Ferrari. A 780-page technical dossier belonging to the Italian team was taken to the shop by Trudy Coughlan, wife of suspended McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, to be formatted onto computer disk. With suspicions aroused, the worker contacted the Maranello team, and from that moment a scandal that has overshadowed Formula One was born.

Montezemolo, thrilled by Kimi Raikkonen's triumph, said: "It's a perfect victory, for which I want to thank Raikkonen, (Felipe) Massa, (team boss Jean) Todt and all these guys. "I want to dedicate it to our fans who believe in the fairness of the sport and to this English gentleman, who in the month of June, wanted to inform us that someone linked to an opponent team entered into his shop and asked him to copy dozens of pages containing technical information about our car.

"Without him it would never have been possible to shine the light onto one of the worst pages in the history of motorsport."

Raikkonen: We are still in the hunt

Kimi Raikkonen's splendid victory at Spa has put him back into the title race, and the Finn reckons he can trump Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. With just three Grand Prix to go, the Ferrari driver is now 13 points adrift of Championship leader Hamilton, and he is optimistic that he has a chance.

"We haven't given up and are still in the hunt," said the Finn following the Belgian Grand Prix. "We reduced the gap again. We lost a bit in the last race but anything can happen. There are still three races to go, everyone is so close and we will fight hard and sometimes things can go wrong for all of us. "We will keep pushing and see what happens. If we do it will be amazing but we will keep pushing and we don't give up."

He continued: "We knew that we were going to be much stronger here than in Monza. We know the reasons why we cannot challenge them in circuits like Monza, Monaco and Montreal. "We are trying to fix the problems for next year and then we can be pretty strong. Here is more to do with aero and our car is stronger in those areas." The F1 circus now relocates to Asia for the title run with the next stop being Fuji, Japan in a fortnight. Raikkonen is not sure of what to expect at the track, but hinted that a strong performance in qualifying would be vital.

"I don't even know how the circuit looks so it's difficult to say," he said. "What I heard is it might be not the best place for us but wee will see. The last three races can be either way, it will be close. In qualifying we have a hard time against McLaren and in the race we can be stronger. "We need to improve in qualifying and we can always be quicker in the race. We keep working and try to improve."

Belgian GP: Kimi Strolls To Easy Win

Kimi Raikkonen kept his title hopes alive with victory at the Belgian GP, spearheading Ferrari's second one-two in the last three races. Pending an unlikely appeal by McLaren after the team were stripped of all Constructors' points in Thursday's World Motor Sport Council hearing, Ferrari have clinched the Constructors' Championship. Raikkonen's 13th win of his career and fourth this season for the Maranello marque means he now trails leader Lewis Hamilton by 13 points, with runner-up Felipe Massa 20 points adrift. Hamilton could only manage fourth place as he and third-placed McLaren rival Fernando Alonso were easily beaten by the Ferraris. Nick Heidfeld finished in 5th place with Nico Rosberg 6th, Mark Webber 7th and the one-stopping Heiki Kovalainen in 8th.

Race Report: For once the threat of a mid-race rain shower was not a likelihood at Spa as the cars toured round in bright sunshine on the parade lap, with an ambient temperature of 21C and the track at 33C. As the red lights went out Raikkonen and Massa starting from P1 and P2 led easily down the short sprint to La Source hairpin. Behind them, the McLarens followed two abreast with Alonso taking the inside line and Hamilton seeking a way round the outside. However as they came round the turn, Alonso allowed his car to sweep out abnormally wide, right to the edge of the race track. It was exactly the move that Felipe Massa had put on Alonso at the Spanish GP and for which Alonso was still smarting at the European GP when he reminded Felipe Massa in no uncertain terms. Thankfully, a watchful Hamilton saw it coming.

The difference netween the Spanish GP and the Belgium GP was that Hamilton had tarmac run-off outside him and he was able to take to that as the two cars duelled dangerously down the hill towards Eau Rouge. Hamilton lost so little speed from his off-track excursion that the onboard camera showed no sign of Alonso's McLaren as they ran down to the 5g compression corner. Neither looked like they wanted to give way, though, and Alonso had the line for the corner. Hamilton was able to drop back behind his team-mate and still keep his momentum up the hill without a challenge from Nico Rosberg starting from P5. It was a breathtaking moment but they both survived. Further back Nick Heidfeld had a poor start running very wide at La Source, allowing Kovalainen and Webber through. The only casualty on the opening lap was Giancarlo Fisichella who after an engine change started his race from the pitlane. Fisi went off track trying too hard on the opening lap and broke his suspension.

The race order as they came over the line on Lap 1 was: Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso, Hamilton, Rosberg, Kovalainen, Webber, Heidfeld, Ralf Schumacher, Coulthard, Trulli and Button in P.12. Kovalainen was fuelled heavy for one pit-stop and on Lap 3 Webber managed to overtake him on the outside going into Les Combes with a clinical passing move. On Lap 4 Heidfeld managed to get past the Finn and undo some of the self-inflicted damage of the opening lap.
At the front of the race Kimi Raikkonen was stretching his lead from Massa with a succession of Fastest Laps.
Lap 5: Raikkonen 1:48.515
Lap 6: Raikkonen 1:48.500.

The lapping of the front runners was falling into a pattern that would last the rest of the race. Raikkonen was faster than Massa - both the Ferraris were quicker than the two McLarens. Hamilton had the slight edge in Sectors 1 and 3, while Alonso had a clear advantage in Sector 2, at times he would pick up 0.5 or 0.6 seconds a lap through Sector 2. What Hamilton gained in two sectors wasn't as much as he lost in the long middle sector and Alonso edged out the gap. Further back down the field a great start by Adrian Sutil in the revamped Spyker had got him ahead of Jenson Button's Honda and on Lap 7 he was in twelfth place battling it out with David Coulthard for P11.

By Lap 11 Raikkonen led by 4.3 seconds, with Massa a symmeytrical 4.3 seconds ahead of Alonso who had 2.6 seconds on Hamilton - the front four in a race of their own. Though the Ferrari pitcrew had come out into their box on Lap 4 and the pitwall were engaged in a stream of communication between the telemetry crew at the back of the grid, there was little indication of problems from either of the cars' lap times.
The first round of pit-stops commenced at the end of Lap 14 with Rosberg and Webber in, followed a lap later by Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. Hamilton set a Personal Best lap time as Alonso was in the pits, but was in himself at the end of Lap 16 along with Felipe Massa.

The stops didn't reshuffle the order at all, though Nick Heidfeld stayed out till the end of Lap 18 and it enabled him to jump Nico Rosberg. Both Mclarens had taken on more fuel than the Ferraris and were now running almost a second slower than the Ferraris at times. The order at the end of Lap 21 was Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso, Hamilton, Kovalainen (not stopped), Heidfeld, Rosberg, Webber, Coulthard (not stopped) and a very frustrated Robert Kubica in P10. The Pole had got up to P9 by Lap 5, but his first pit-stop put him behind David Coulthard with more race fuel on board than the Scot and he could not find a way past. Ultimately it would cost him a points finish. When Coulthard eventually pitted on Lap 26 he was through to P8, Kovalainen having taken his one and only pit-stop on Lap 22. Kubica set off after Mark Webber's seventh place, but he was already fifteen seconds back. Coulthard would retire his Red Bull on Lap 31, hydraulics, as ever, proving to be the Red Bull's downfall.

On Lap 27 Raikkonen had a five second lead over Massa, who was almost 15 seconds ahead of Alonso. Fernando was still losing out to Hamilton in Sectors 1 and 3, but more than making up in Sector 2. Alonso was 3.6 ahead of Hamilton. The two Ferraris of Raikkonen and Massa pitted for the second time on Laps 31 and 32 without incident while Alonso came in on Lap 33. With all the front-runners opting for the soft tyres in their final stint, the early laps after the pit-stops were particularly quick. Massa set the Fastest lap on Lap 34 with a 1:48.036 and Fernando Alonso put in some impressive times on his fresh tyres. He set the fastest time of anyone in Sector 2 on his outlap and Lap 35 was his Personal Best of 1:48.419. If Hamilton was thinking of jumping him in the final pit-stops then he would have to find a lot more speed. For some reason Hamilton had been fuelled much longer than Alonso and didn't come in till the end of Lap 36. Before his stop he was positioned between the two Ferraris and had a fast-closing Felipe Massa on his tail when he finally dived into the pitlane.

The gaps on lap 38 were: Raikkonen, 3.1 seconds clear of Massa, who had 14 seconds on Alonso who had his largest gap of the race on Hamilton, 6.4 seconds. Heidfeld was 5th, Rosberg 6th, Webber 7th, Kovalainen 8th and Robert Kubica right on his tail in 9th. With his new tyres Hamilton started to reduce the gap to Alonso by large amounts now and on lap 42 Alonso was just 4.5 seconds clear of the Brit. It wasn't to last, though - pushing too hard in the middle sector Hamilton ran wide at the Pouhon corner on Lap 43 and lost three seconds thanks to a trip across the run-off tarmac. That settled the positions as they were, with Robert Kubica finding no way past Heiki Kovalainen on the final lap. Kimi Raikkonen took a dominant win for Ferrari, his third win at this drivers' circuit ahead of a fast-finishing Felipe Massa, Alonso and Hamilton.

Apart from the heart-in-the-mouth moment on the opening lap between Alonso and Hamilton it had been an uneventful race, the Ferraris proving that over longer runs they were far superior to McLaren who could almost match them in qualifying. With Massa losing a further two points to Raikkonen in the drivers' challenge, only a retirement from the Finn now will stop Felipe from playing a supporting role from now on.

01 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:20:39.066
02 F. Massa Ferrari + 4.695
03 F. Alonso McLaren + 14.343
04 L. Hamilton McLaren + 23.615
05 N. Heidfeld BMW + 51.879
06 N. Rosberg Williams + 1:16.876
07 M. Webber Red Bull + 1:20.639
08 H. Kovalainen Renault + 1:25.106
09 R. Kubica BMW + 1:25.661
10 R. Schumacher Toyota + 1:28.574
11 J. Trulli Toyota + 1:43.653
12 V. Liuzzi Scuderia Toro Rosso + 1 laps
13 R. Barrichello Honda + 1 laps
14 A. Sutil Spyker F1 + 1 laps
15 T. Sato Super Aguri + 1 laps
16 A. Davidson Super Aguri + 1 laps
17 S. Yamamoto Spyker F1 + 1 laps
Did not finish
18 J. Button Honda + 8 laps
19 A. Wurz Williams + 10 laps
20 D. Coulthard Red Bull + 15 laps
21 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso + 36 laps
22 G. Fisichella Renault + 43 laps

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Qualifying Report: An all-red front row at Spa

Saturday 15th September 2007

Ferrari locked out the front row of the grid for only the second time this season at Spa in Saturday's qualifying. Kimi Raikkonen won the closely fought battle between himself, his team-mate Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. At the end of Q3 the trio were separated by less than a tenth of a second, offering the promise of a fantastic race on Sunday afternoon. Lewis Hamilton, who is believed to be heavily fueled, qualifying fourth ahead of Robert Kubica. Kubica, however, will drop down the order as his engine was changed prior to qualifying.

01 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:45.994
02 F. Massa Ferrari 1:46.011
03 F. Alonso McLaren 1:46.091
04 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:46.406
05 R. Kubica BMW 1:47.334
06 N. Rosberg Williams 1:47.334
07 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:47.409
08 M. Webber Red Bull 1:47.524
09 J. Trulli Toyota 1:47.798
10 H. Kovalainen Renault 1:48.505
11 G. Fisichella Renault 1:46.603
12 R. Schumacher Toyota 1:46.618
13 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:46.800
14 J. Button Honda 1:46.955
15 V. Liuzzi Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:47.115
16 A. Wurz Williams 1:47.394
17 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:47.581
18 R. Barrichello Honda 1:47.954
19 T. Sato Super Aguri 1:47.980
20 A. Sutil Spyker F1 1:48.044
21 A. Davidson Super Aguri 1:48.199
22 S. Yamamoto Spyker F1 1:49.577

Prac Three: Ferrari back at the front
Saturday 15th September 2007

Having lost out to McLaren on Friday afternoon, Ferrari returned to the front of the pack in the final practice ahead of Saturday's Belgian qualifying. In chilly conditions and under overcast skies, Kimi Raikkonen was the man to beat. The Finn lapped the revised Spa-Francorchamps circuit in a time of 1:46.137, beating his team-mate Felipe Massa by a quarter of a second. Friday's fastest man, Fernando Alonso, was third quickest on Saturday morning. The McLaren driver, however, spent a good part of the session stuck in his garage while the team worked on his car.
His team-mate Lewis Hamilton was fourth quickest, finishing ahead of the Renault of Heikki Kovalainen, who was the only non-Ferrari or McLaren driver to get within a second of Raikkonen's P1 time. Jarno Trulli once again impressed for Toyota, setting the sixth best time, some 1.081s off the pace. Nico Rosberg and Nick Heidfeld completed the top eight.

However, there were problems for Heidfeld's BMW team-mate, Robert Kubica. The Polish driver failed to complete a time after his engine failed on his second lap out.
If Kubica's car does require an engine change then it will lead to a 10-place grid penalty after this afternoon's qualifying. The morning's only accident belonged to Sakon Yamamoto, who lost control of his Spyker, breaking off the front wing as he slid into the tyre barriers.

01 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:46.137 16 laps
02 F. Massa Ferrari 1:46.388 16 laps
03 F. Alonso McLaren 1:46.507 9 laps
04 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:46.782 13 laps
05 H. Kovalainen Renault 1:47.065 13 laps
06 J. Trulli Toyota 1:47.218 10 laps
07 N. Rosberg Williams 1:47.251 16 laps
08 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:47.359 15 laps
09 R. Schumacher Toyota 1:47.454 18 laps
10 M. Webber Red Bull 1:47.527 15 laps
11 G. Fisichella Renault 1:47.564 15 laps
12 J. Button Honda 1:47.767 17 laps
13 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:47.806 9 laps
14 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:47.838 19 laps
15 A. Wurz Williams 1:47.902 16 laps
16 T. Sato Super Aguri 1:48.129 16 laps
17 V. Liuzzi Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:48.163 20 laps
18 A. Sutil Spyker F1 1:48.348 18 laps
19 R. Barrichello Honda 1:48.528 16 laps
20 A. Davidson Super Aguri 1:48.955 16 laps
21 S. Yamamoto Spyker F1 1:49.179 14 laps
22 R. Kubica BMW no time 2 laps

Prac Two: McLaren duo set the pace
Friday 14th September 2007

McLaren grabbed a small victory over Ferrari on Friday at Spa, when Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton beat the Ferrari drivers on the track. Alonso set the pace in Practice Two for the Belgian Grand Prix, posting a 1:46.654 to edge out his team-mate by 0.111 seconds. The Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen were next in line, however, Massa, the better of two, was over a quarter of a second off the pace, while Raikkonen finished half a second short of Alonso's P1 time. It was a good afternoon session for the Toyotas with Jarno Trulli the only driver aside from the Ferraris to get within a second of McLarens. The Italian finished the day 0.837s off the pace while his team-mate Ralf Schumacher was behind him on the timesheets. Giancarlo Fisichella and Mark Webber completed the top eight.

However, Webber's team-mate David Coulthard suffered problems when his Red Bull broke down at the Fagnes chicane. However, theScot was able to get back on track later in the session after repairs were made. One driver, though, who took an early shower was Adrian Sutil. The Spyker driver crashed exit of the Les Combes corner, damaging his car.

01 F. Alonso McLaren 1:46.654 29 laps
02 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:46.765 29 laps
03 F. Massa Ferrari 1:46.953 27 laps
04 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:47.166 26 laps
05 J. Trulli Toyota 1:47.491 33 laps
06 R. Schumacher Toyota 1:47.946 34 laps
07 G. Fisichella Renault 1:48.086 30 laps
08 M. Webber Red Bull 1:48.271 29 laps
09 R. Kubica BMW 1:48.279 37 laps
10 H. Kovalainen Renault 1:48.567 38 laps
11 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:48.606 36 laps
12 N. Rosberg Williams 1:48.840 32 laps
13 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:48.883 17 laps
14 J. Button Honda 1:48.919 29 laps
15 R. Barrichello Honda 1:49.364 31 laps
16 A. Wurz Williams 1:49.393 28 laps
17 S. Yamamoto Spyker F1 1:49.697 32 laps
18 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:49.720 34 laps
19 T. Sato Super Aguri 1:50.168 23 laps
20 A. Sutil Spyker F1 1:50.399 24 laps
21 A. Davidson Super Aguri 1:50.542 24 laps
22 V. Liuzzi Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:50.865 9 laps

Prac One: Kimi tops the charts for Ferrari
Friday 14th September 2007

After all the goings on off the track yesterday, it was back to business at Spa on Friday where Kimi Raikkonen set the pace ahead of the McLaren drivers. The Belgian Grand Prix is making its return to the F1 calendar after being dropped last season due to poor facilities. However, after an upgrade to the facilities and the track, one of the best-loved circuits made its comeback on Friday morning.

Raikkonen was the fastest man in Practice One, clocking a 1:47.339 during his 15 laps, putting him over half a second up on McLaren rookie Lewis Hamilton. Fernando Alonso was far off his team-mate's pace, posting a 1:47.994. The BMW of Nick Heidfeld and the Williams of Nico Rosberg were once again mixing it up near the top of the field. They finished fourth and fifth fastest ahead of Robert Kubica and Alex Wurz. Jarno Trulli completed the top eight for Toyota, ahead of Heikki Kovalainen and Jenson Button. There were problems at the back of the pack for Tonio Liuzzi, Sakon Yamamoto and Felipe Massa.

While both Liuzzi and Yamamoto both managed to set times before stopping out on track, Massa went off at the Rivages corner after just two laps. The Brazilian went off the track at the exit of Les Combes, which resulted in him hitting the barriers nose-first at Rivages.

01 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:47.339 16 laps
02 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:47.881 19 laps
03 F. Alonso McLaren 1:47.994 17 laps
04 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:48.052 20 laps
05 N. Rosberg Williams 1:48.372 18 laps
06 R. Kubica BMW 1:48.605 20 laps
07 A. Wurz Williams 1:48.920 20 laps
08 J. Trulli Toyota 1:48.994 19 laps
09 H. Kovalainen Renault 1:49.138 22 laps
10 J. Button Honda 1:49.330 22 laps
11 G. Fisichella Renault 1:49.380 25 laps
12 R. Schumacher Toyota 1:49.548 21 laps
13 M. Webber Red Bull 1:49.894 23 laps
14 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:49.931 19 laps
15 R. Barrichello Honda 1:50.264 22 laps
16 S. Vettel Toro Rosso 1:50.482 27 laps
17 T. Sato Super Aguri 1:50.640 16 laps
18 A. Davidson Super Aguri 1:50.648 20 laps
19 A. Sutil Spyker F1 1:50.768 22 laps
20 V. Liuzzi Toro Rosso 1:51.628 12 laps
21 S. Yamamoto Spyker F1 1:52.379 21 laps
22 F. Massa Ferrari no time 2 laps

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A lap of Spa with Hamilton

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton describes a lap of Spa-Francorchamps, home to the Belgian Grand Prix..

"You start out at the pit straight which leads down into the hairpin at Turn One. This is a nice, tight corner, a bit like in Bahrain, but it is quite easy to crash here at the start of the race because it's a low grip corner and you just have to make sure that you steer clear of everyone and hope no one rams you from behind!

"Then you carry the speed down the hill as you go flat through Eau Rouge. That is the most exciting corner ever, because if you can imagine the feeling going over a small bridge in a road car where your insides just become weightless, well that is how that corner feels. This is followed by the long straight up into Turn Five which is very good for overtaking.

"Actually Turns Five and Six going into Turn Seven are a nice couple of corners; they are quite tight and again there is low grip so its just about carrying in the speed.

"Turn Eight is an extremely long downhill corner, where you are sort of clipping the two apex's. It is fairly straightforward but because as it goes downhill it is off camber and you have to be careful not to run too much speed because otherwise you'll slide off. Pouhon, Turn 10, is another exciting part of the circuit.

"As you come into there it is hard to see how much exit you have and how much road is left. This makes it difficult to judge the speed to carry through there, I would say that we would be doing 290, 280 km/h through there, and also there is a lot of G Force.

"If you run too wide and clip the kerb then you'll have to lift, otherwise you'll be off, which makes it quite tricky, On the other hand if you can get it right and stay on the power and carry the speed all the way through the exit of the corner you can gain loads of time and it sets you up for the next corner.

"Moving through Turns 14 onto Turn 15, it is important to get the exit of Turn 14 right as Turn 15 is flat and you need to carry the speed from this corner all the way down the straight. This straight may look easy but it is not. It is very bumpy and the car is bottoming out.

"Turn 17 is quite tight; it is pretty cool corner as you just have to try and be as smooth as possible. It's very important to keep the car straight for braking for Turn 18 and getting the car into the apex, this is the worst part of the track for low grip.

"The surface here is new so it will get better as the weekend progresses and more rubber is laid down. It is a fairly straightforward part of the track though and you just need to make sure that you get a nice exit from Turn 19 and right down to the pit straight."

2007 Belgium Grand Prix - Spa-Francorchamps, September 16

Aside from being the home to one of the greatest circuits on the Formula One calendar, Spa is recognised throughout the world for its water. The Romans were the first people to discover its natural springs deep in the Ardennes countryside, and people still visit the town today in search of hydrotherapy. The biggest industry in the town is the famous bottled water company, Spa.

The mention of water is never far from people’s lips at the circuit, which is eight kilometres from the town. One of the most fearsome corners on the lap is Pouhon, which translates into English as ‘water well’ and the Ardennes has a micro-climate all of its own, hence rain tyres are never far from the cars.

The bright lights of Liege and Brussels are a 40-minute and two-hour drive respectively, so there is something for everyone at the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Belgian GP timetable

The Belgian GP marks the 14th round of the 2007 season. Check out the full schedule for the race weekend.

All times are local (Belgium is GMT+2)

Thursday 13 September
15h00: FIA press conference

Friday 14 September
10h00 - 11h30: First free practice
14h00 - 15h30: Second free practice
16h00: FIA press conference

Saturday 15 September
11h00 - 12h00: Third free practice
14h00 - 15h00: Qualifying
15h00: FIA post qualifying press conference

Sunday 16 September
14h00 - 16h00: Belgian GP
16h00: FIA post race press conference

Belgian GP Info
No of Laps: 44
Race Distance: 308.176 km
Lap Record: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) 1:45.108

Todt: Ferrari can bounce back at Spa

Jean Todt is confident Ferrari will be able to fight McLaren in at least three of the season's remaining four grands prix.

Ferrari suffered a huge blow to their title chances at Monza on Sunday, where McLaren duo Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton comfortable outpaced Ferrari to claim the 1-2 at the Scuderia's home race.

The Italian team now trails McLaren by 23 points in the Constructors' Championship, while Ferrari's best-placed driver, Kimi Raikkonen, is 18 points behind Hamilton in the Drivers' standings.

The Scuderia, though, aren't giving up on winning the titles as team boss Todt believes they can win at least three of the final four races.

"We have not been competitive this year on circuits where we need a lot of mechanical grip, and where there is a lot of importance on the kerbs," he told Autosport.

"The worst circuits for us this year have been Monte Carlo, Canada, Budapest in qualifying, and Monza.

"There is a question mark about Fuji because we have not been there, but we feel that otherwise Spa, Shanghai and Brazil, there is no evidence that we could not be competitive."

Todt also made it clear that even though Raikkonen is five points ahead of his team-mate Felipe Massa in the standings, both drivers are still free to race each other.

"At the moment, they will race," the Frenchman said when asked if Massa would now have to support Raikkonen's title bid.

Italian GP: Alonso closes in on Hamilton

Fernando Alonso has moved ever closer to McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the top of the Drivers' Championship with a pole-to-flag victory in the Italian GP.

With Hamilton securing second place courtesy of a mighty overtaking move on Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren's 1-2 was the perfect riposte to the political moves against the team this week.

Raikkonen finished third with the BMW pair of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica finishing in fourth and fifth places.

With Felipe Massa an early casualty due to an unspecified problem at the rear of his Ferrari, the team comprehensively failed to deliver the 1-2 that Ferrari president had asked them to deliver in the last six races.

Grand Prix Report: The ambient temperature was at 28C and the track at 30C as the drivers drove at full-speed to form up on the Monza grid. In previous GPs, teams have saved fuel by crawling very slowly to their starting positions, but now, mid-season, the rules have been changed to compel drivers to use all the revs. This has been done in the interests of safety to prevent accidents between cars of widely varying speeds on the track.

Monza has one of the longest drags to the first corner and as the cars concertina into the braking zone one errant braking manoeuvre can have severe consequences. Starting from fifth on the grid Kimi Raikkonen showed he was keen to get past P4 Nick Heidfeld by opting for the softer tyres.

As the red lights went out Fernando Alonso was quickly away, but Lewis Hamilton, starting from the dirty side of the grid, moved left to block Felipe Massa, leaving just a car's width of tarmac between himself and the outside of the track. It was enough for Massa to squeeze effortlessly though and he was up into an easy P2 even before the end of the pitlane.

Behind him, Kimi Raikkonen, starting from a good metre and a half outside his starting box, was able to get the jump on Heidfeld and even looked to be threatening Hamilton's third place down the outside.

Coming into the braking zone of Turn 1, Hamilton's extraordinary deftness on the brakes completely caught out Felipe Massa. Massa looked to follow the line of Fernando Alonso through the corner when suddenly he had a silver McLaren Mercedes braking extremely late on his outside and which was now in front of him.

Such was Hamilton's edge that he was able to turn in in front of Massa whose front tyre speared into the back tyre of the McLaren pushing him over the kerbs.

The monitor immediately announced that Car 2 was under investigation for cutting the chicane, though TV replays clearly showed Hamilton was steering to take it properly but had been pushed across it by Massa's misjudgement. Curiously, despite a lot of other cars cutting the first and second chicane in the race, there were no further announcements of stewards' investigations of chicane incidents.

Massa wasn't finished with Hamilton yet, though, and harried him all the way round to the second chicane, the Curva della Roggia and on to the first Lesmo, which presented a lessening threat with each turn. Hamilton made his car very wide and Massa couldn't find a way through.

As the cars crossed the line at the end of the opening lap the order was: Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Kubica, Kovalainen, Rosberg, Button, Webber, Barrichello and Alex Wurz in 12th place.

David Coulthard, starting from P20 after gearbox problems in his Red Bull on Saturday, made up a lot of places on the opening lap, but at the start of Lap 2 he lost his front wing through the Curva Grande and his car hurtled towards the barrier at speed.

This necessitated the deployment of the Safety Car so that the barrier could be repaired and the car removed. It was perfect for Kimi Raikkonen, who had been fuelled heavier than two McLarens and could now complete the race with one pit-stop, the optimum strategy.

However as the race re-started on Lap 6, the home team favourites were about to suffer a hammer blow. Third place Felipe Massa suddenly headed down the pitlane on Lap 9 and was refuelled and sent on his way in last place, clearly an unscheduled stop. He lapped off the pace and then returned to the pits on lap 11 complaining that "something wasn't right at the rear of the car." He drove straight into the garage and retirement.

Ferrari had given the cause of Kimi Raikkonen's Saturday practice accident as driver error, but with Massa's obvious mechanical glitch, and the fact that far less competent F1 and GP2 drivers don't go off where Raikkonen did, it seems to indicate that both Kimi and Felipe had failures on their cars.

At the front Alonso and Hamilton began to edge out a gap, swapping Fastest Laps between them until Alonso had lowered it to 1:22.871 on Lap 15. On Lap 17, the gap between the two Mclaren drivers was still just 1.1 seconds with Raikkonen 10.1 seconds in arrears.

Hamilton pitted at the end of Lap 18 and Alonso at the end of Lap 20 but maintained their positions. On Lap 21, Nico Rosberg finally got the better of Jenson Button after the Williams and Honda drivers had engaged in a titanic struggle in the first stint. Rosberg got alongside Button going through the first chicane and the pair ran side by side into the second with Rosberg finally coming out in front before the first Lesmo.

Robert Kubica's afternoon looked to be falling apart when his car came off the front jack during his Lap 23 pit-stop and the mechanics couldn't get the wheels on.

To the collective joy of the tifosi Kimi Raikkonen had contined in the lead until he pitted on Lap 25. With eleven seconds of fuel going into the car it was clear that he was going to run until the finish. The big question now was could the McLarens build a big enough lead before they both had to stop again?

On Lap 26 Alonso had a 15.2 second lead over Raikkonen and 2.3 over Hamilton. The pace of the McLarens made it look as though they would just about do it.

Lap 27:
Alonso 1:23.762
Hamilton 1:23.663
Raikkonen 1:24.849

Lap 28:
Alonso 1:23.435
Hamilton 1:23.620
Raikkonen 1:24.670

The positions on Lap 29 were: Alonso (stopped), Hamilton (stopped), Raikkonen (stopped), Heidfeld (stopped), Rosberg, Button, Webber, Barrichello, Trulli, Kovalainen (stopped), Kubica (stopped).

The McLaren gap to Raikkonen was growing by big chunks each lap, but towards the end of the second stint they hit traffic which Kimi wouldn't reach before they pitted. Hamilton had a gap of 24.8 seconds to Raikkonen before he came in for the second time on Lap 40. Though he was stopped for just six seconds, it was too long.

As the silver car emerged at the end of the pitlane, Raikkonen was already through to Turn 1 to roars of approval from the tifosi. He would not get the drop on Alonso, but he had successfully put himself in second place, and with overtaking notoriously hard at Monza he could well strike a blow for Ferrari.

Hamilton had other ideas though. Now on the supersoft tyres Lewis set about whittling the gap to 50 metres by the end of Lap 42. He seemed too far back to overtake but all of a sudden, steaming into the braking zone of Turn 1, he launched his McLaren up the inside of Raikkonen.

It was a move combining immense bravery and impeccable judgement, because he only just got his car stopped in time and turned in with a go-kart slide under locked brakes. Raikkonen had spotted the danger too late and as he moved instinctively to cover the inside line found Hamilton's car already there and the Finn also had to lock his brakes to get through the turn. Certainly one of the overtaking moves of the season, and given the circumstances and where it was, probably of the year.

Alonso came in for his pit-stop and resumed in the lead. By now the gap to Hamilton was too much for the Brit to close up and Raikkonen let his engine revs drop as he protected both his engine and his painful neck which had not recovered from the knock on Saturday.

On Lap 45 the order was Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Rosberg, Kubica, Kovalainen, Button, Webber and Barrichello.

Robert Kubica, out of position since his pit-stop delay, had managed to overhaul Kovalainen and eased his way past Rosberg on Lap 48 to take P5. From there it was a cruise to the line for all concerned. The Italian TV director choosing to stay with Raikkonen's onboard camera for a few laps while he was lapping two seconds off the pace and slower than the Super Aguris.

It had been a great race for Fernando Alonso who had looked the class of the field all weekend. Lewis Hamilton, despite his successes in Canada and the USA, didn't look so at ease in the latest low-downforce set-up, but still performed impressively to keep Massa at bay and overhaul Raikkonen. But it was Raikkonen who had surprised everybody by running the McLarens so close in a race where he was severely hamstrung by an injury not of his own making and deserves the most plaudits for his drive.

The BMWs picked up their regular 4th and 5th places, Rosberg emphasised his class by taking 6th, Kovalainen kept Renault in their well-established position behind the top three teams, while Jenson Button showed Honda that there is light at the end of the tunnel. But not the wind tunnel.


Race Result
01 F. Alonso McLaren 1:18:37.806
02 L. Hamilton McLaren + 6.062
03 K. Räikkönen Ferrari + 27.325
04 N. Heidfeld BMW + 56.562
05 R. Kubica BMW + 1:00.558
06 N. Rosberg Williams + 1:05.810
07 H. Kovalainen Renault + 1:06.751
08 J. Button Honda + 1:12.168
09 M. Webber Red Bull + 1:15.879
10 R. Barrichello Honda + 1:16.958
11 J. Trulli Toyota + 1:17.736
12 G. Fisichella Renault + 1 laps
13 A. Wurz Williams + 1 laps
14 A. Davidson Super Aguri + 1 laps
15 R. Schumacher Toyota + 1 laps
16 T. Sato Super Aguri + 1 laps
17 V. Liuzzi Scuderia Toro Rosso + 1 laps
18 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso + 1 laps
19 A. Sutil Spyker F1 + 1 laps
20 S. Yamamoto Spyker F1 + 1 laps
Did not finish
21 F. Massa Ferrari + 43 laps
22 D. Coulthard Red Bull + 52 laps

Monza qualifying Report: Alonso breaks tifosi hearts

Fernando Alonso dominated Saturday's qualifying to grab a comfortable pole position for tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix.

Leading the way in the final qualifying segment, the McLaren driver actually backed off during his final flying lap after his team-mate Lewis Hamilton failed to beat the 1:21.997 Alonso had set on his previous flyer.

The McLaren rookie finished 0.037s adrift of his team-mate, however, the deficit could have been more as Alonso was even faster on in the first sector of the lap he aborted.

Felipe Massa saved face for Ferrari, claiming third place on the grid. The Brazilian, though, faces a tough task tomorrow to win the race as he was half a second off the pace of the McLarens. Nick Heidfeld finished fourth for BMW with Kimi Raikkonen fifth and Robert Kubica sixth.

Qualifying Report: Bright autumnal sunshine shone down on Monza as the drivers tried to concentrate on the real first job of the weekend - qualifying - as opposed to filling out forms and sending their e.mail inboxes to Max Mosley and the FIA.

The ambient temperature was at 27C with the track at 32C as Sebastien Vettel took his Toro Rosso to the first provisional pole of 1:24.186. With a new B-spec car having now passed the crash test the Spyker team were hoping to get close to the Toro Rossos, but it wasn't to be. Sakon Yamomoto spun his car under braking for Turn 1 and immediately knocked off the front wing, but neither Spyker was about to dislodge a Toro Ross.

Kimi Raikkonen, having escaped mercifully unscathed (both driver and engine) from a high-speed shunt in morning practice, was out early in Ferrari chassis No.262 to make sure all the bits had been put back in the right place. He needn't have worried. The Ferrari crossed the line in 1:22.673 to take P1.

Lewis Hamilton wrenched this off him for McLaren using a set of hard tyres, but it was World Champion Fernando Alonso who looked in the best form having been fastest in morning practice by four tenths. He duly took P1 with a 1:21.718.

Going into the final three minutes the danger positions were:
16. Button

Very little separated the bottom 12 positions as the drivers took to the track for their second runs.

Yamamoto was again held up (as he had been in Hungary) by what looked like a Renault and gestured out of the cockpit several times for the benefit of his onboard camera. Expect to see a grid deduction for somebody if the race stewards were watching. F1 fans are looking for consistency in their decisions and this was a flagrant example of a driver not being informed who was behind.

Jenson Button looked to be clear of trouble when he jumped to P12 (Rubens Barrichello was already in a dizzying position in the Top 10) . David Coulthard wouldn't set a final hot lap because his car jammed between gears going into Turn 1, spinning the Red Bull around to the amusement of the tifosi in the grandstands.

Liuzzi improved to 17th position which wasn't good enough, while Ralf Schumacher also jumped to 17th in his Toyota and that again wasn't good enough. However Ant Davidson pulled off another brilliant lap similar to his Turkish heroics when he leapt to P14.

So out went:
17. Sato
18. Schumacher
20. Coulthard

It was a good result for Sebastien Vettel, outcompeting his Italian team-mate at a track he knows supremely well. It was another poor result for Ralf Schumacher and though Jarno Trulli only qualified in 15th place in Q1, he would go on to pick up pace in Q2 to make the result look more disastrous for Ralf.

Qualifying 2

The drivers were quite casual about coming out for the second qualifying session and there were twelve minutes left on the clock before Jarno Trulli emerged from the pitlane to set the first provisional pole at 1:23.381.

Ferrari, perhaps realising that they were never going to be battling for out-and-out pole today decided to run their drivers much earlier in the session. As Felipe Massa lined up to start his hot lap the provisional pole time began to tumble. Mark Webber, Rubens Barrichello and Heiki Kovalainen all held it briefly before Massa set the benchmark at 1:21.943.

Lewis Hamilton in his first (and only) run for McLaren took it down to 1:21.746, however it was the consistently superior Fernando Alonso who showed what might happen in Q3 when he lowered the P1 time to 1:23.356.

McLaren, Ferrari and BMW all looked safe with one run, but the rest would have to battle it out again.

Going into the final set of hot laps the positions were:
8. Kovalainen
12. Button

Rubens Barrichello couldn't improve from his P9 and with the track quickening with the extra rubber laid down he immediately looked under threat - especially when Jarno Trulli stuck his Toyota up into P8.

Anthony Davidson performed more heroics to take a temporary P11 for Super Aguri and this was immediately taken off him by Alex Wurz - neither good enough. Kovalainen snatched P9, sending Barrichello down to a very wobbly P10, which then became P11 when Mark Webber's Red Bull slotted into P10.

But would the Aussie keep his Q3 slot with Fisichella still to complete his final flying lap? No, but it was Jenson Button flashing up to P8 on the grid that did it. Fisichella had nowhere to go when Rubens Barrichello went off into the gravel and he had to avoid the Honda as it rejoined the track after the second Lesmo turn.

Though Fisichella maintained it was the difference between qualifying for Q3, he'd only managed 13th fastest time so far and has been slower than Kovalainen in qualifying recently, so he was probably denied P11, but no more. So out went:
11. Webber
12. Barrichello
13. Wurz
14. Davidson
15. Fisichella
16. Vettel

Fisichella was the big loser of the session with Button a rare visitor to Q3 and Trulli a staggering number of positions in front of his team-mate now.

Qualifying 3

The battle for the end of the pitlane was won by Lewis Hamilton ahead of his friend Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen. Fernando Alonso was nowhere to be seen and tagged onto the rest of the drivers when the light at the end of the pitlane turned green.

The fuel-burning process played out and then it was time for the show to begin with 7.45 left on the stopwatch.

Though Hamilton had been ahead of Massa on the circuit, it was Felipe who left the pitlane first for his hot lap followed by Lewis and then Kimi and Fernando Alonso last of the top four runners. Massa moved the provisional pole time down to 1:22.817 then Hamilton lowered it to 1:22.360. Raikkonen's 1:23.183 was only good enough for P3 and seemed to indicate that he was on a longer fuel load than his team-mate.

When Alonso reset pole time at 1:21.997 - almost four tenths faster than Hamilton - it looked like he was on a different strategy to his team-mate, too. Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica were a few tenths back from Raikkonen, but he looked to be the only driver vulnerable to the BMWs' pace.

The gaps between the first four drivers all looked unbridge-able, Alonso was too fast for Hamilton, Hamilton was too fast for Massa and Massa looked too fast for Raikkonen.

Into the second round of pole attempts and it was anti-climax all the way. Massa couldn't beat Hamilton's time, Raikkonen couldn't beat Massa's time, Hamilton couldn't beat Alonso's time, and though Alonso was on course to smash his own time, once Lewis was across the line and still in P2 the Spaniard was able to get his foot off the gas and save fuel.

It was left to Nick Heidfeld's BMW to spoil the party and the front row symmetry by grabbing P4 in the dying seconds, demoting Kim Raikkonen to P5.

Though the McLaren pair were considerably quicker than their Ferrari rivals (begging the question: why didn't they put more fuel in?) there is a logic in running lighter than necessary. The McLarens have a clear advantage over the rest of the field providing they can stay out in front. In the last few races they haven't been particularly quick off the grid compared to Ferrari and BMW, and it's a very long run down to the frantic Turn 1 traffic jam. There is no better place to lose your no claims bonus than on the first lap of the Italian GP.

By running lighter McLaren can ensure their speed advantage and with P1 and P2 secured they can burn off into the distance. If they can do this, and Heidfeld can keep ahead of Raikkonen, then the battles will be Alonso vs Hamilton and Heidfeld vs Raikkonen. None of the top six has ever won at Monza, so tomorrow is going to be a new experience for someone. But because Monza is such a strategy battle, half of it has already been decided by what's in the fuel tanks of the first four cars.


01 F. Alonso McLaren 1:21.997
02 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:22.034
03 F. Massa Ferrari 1:22.549
04 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:23.174
05 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:23.183
06 R. Kubica BMW 1:23.446
07 H. Kovalainen Renault 1:24.102
08 N. Rosberg Williams 1:24.382
09 J. Trulli Toyota 1:24.555
10 J. Button Honda 1:25.165
11 M. Webber Red Bull 1:23.166
12 R. Barrichello Honda 1:23.176
13 A. Wurz Williams 1:23.209
14 A. Davidson Super Aguri 1:23.274
15 G. Fisichella Renault 1:23.325
16 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:23.351
17 T. Sato Super Aguri 1:23.749
18 R. Schumacher Toyota 1:23.787
19 V. Liuzzi Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:23.886
20 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:24.019
21 A. Sutil Spyker F1 1:24.699
22 S. Yamamoto Spyker F1 1:25.084