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San Marino Thoughts

San Marino Thoughts

Now everybody has had a chance to think about the San Marino Grand Prix, and as news from the drivers and teams is filtering through, here is a round up of the key events from the Imola circuit.

Firstly, that decision to bring Alonso in early. Pat Symonds claims that the decision was justified because Fernando was only carrying one more lap of fuel than Schumacher and thus wouldn’t have been able to overhaul the deficit. It has to be asked how Renault knew when Michael was actually going to stop (as the timings were inconclusive), and why the team didn’t realise that Ferrari would have reacted to the stop immediately to ensure Schumacher the best possible chance of retaining the lead (by minimising Alonso’s clear laps)?

Despite fuel loads and tyre degredation, I believe Renault should have waited until the last possible moment to pit Fernando. But I do agree with Symonds when he says, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And in this case, nothing lost.”

Secondly, that Honda pit stop. Everybody makes mistakes, and occasionally it is a big one. Hopefully it will never happen again, and I have to admire Jenson Button’s calmness over the situation. So many other drivers would have publicly ripped the team to shreads, but Jenson pretty much said what I said: “So it’s disappointing, but I know that the way Alistair [the lollipop man] works he’ll never do that again – he’ll work his hardest to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Jenson has apparently given a motivational speech to his team this morning, which shows the Brits dedication. Honda is a team that I feel Jenson wants to win with, and despite all the shenanigans of past years, I feel Button has finally realised that instead of moving around teams looking for the best (and eternally chasing the dream), he should stay at one that has potential and work at it.

Yuji Ide could be signing-on after the European Grand Prix in a fortnight. Team Manager Daniele Audetto has admitted that Ide’s position is “under threat”, and the team are looking at alternative drivers. Audetto has said that whilst Ide hasn’t been given much of a chance to test, his performance will be judged at the “not-so-difficult” Nurburgring circuit.

I don’t like questioning a drivers ability, and I can imagine that Ide’s task is a mountainous one at minimum. But in the first four races he has been comprehensively beated by his team mate (a certain Takuma Sato), and has caused some concern among the other drivers. I remember when the FIA made a big hoo-hah over Raikkonen’s super license way back when. It was suggested that the young driver didn’t have the experience to race in F1, and only just managed to get the license needed to race in time for the first Grand Prix of the season. Naturally, all the question marks soon disappeared when Kimi’s maturity and race craft became apparent. However, Yuji’s race craft hasn’t shone through yet, and whilst some people say that a lack of circuit knowledge is to blame, one has to look at other rookie drivers and make the comparison. Drivers like Scott Speed (who isn’t lightening quick, but not under constant fire), Nico Rosberg (who is currently setting the world on fire), and Vitantonio Liuzzi (who didn’t drive all the tracks last year, but is doing okay). I haven’t heard one complain about lack of circuit knowledge yet (although I could be wrong), and all appear to have got to grips with their new surroundings. Sorry, but that excuse doesn’t work with me!

And finally, the Schumacher win. Not exactly 100% deserved, as his Ferrari was massively under-performing in the middle stint of the race. But a win none-the-less, and nobody can take that away from him. Schumacher drove well, and his run before the first stop was good. Michael showed us some defensive driving towards the end of the second stint, although Alonso was struggling to even get close to the Ferrari because of the dirty-air. And then he managed to hold it altogether to cross the line first. I’m sure Ferrari are jubilant over their first win since last year, but they will have to work very hard if they are to win more. Renault will not give up trying, and after seeing Fernando race, there is no way his motivation is lacking this year (because of his impending switch to McLaren next year). McLaren will improve, and Kimi is going to be pushing for wins soon. It isn’t going to be easy for Ferrari to beat the two top teams, but I’m sure they will give it their all. I think knowing what the future is regarding their number one driver will help, and will ease any tension within the team. I’m sure Michael will also want to announce soon what he plans to do, and this will be a sigh of relief (either way) for the Scuderia. I say either way because knowing is always better than not knowing. And if Schumacher decides to hang up his helmet, the team will be motivated to give him a good send off.

Although I now think that Schumacher will want to make his win tally cross the 100 mark…

What are your thoughts on the race? Was Renault right to pull Alonso in early? How should Button motivate his team to perform? Should Button have to make speeches to get better performances? Will Schumacher continue to race, or will he say “enough is enough” and retire? Have your say…

Oliver White

6 comments

  • Well Speed, Liuzzi and Rosberg all have experience of Bahrain and Imola from GP2 / F3000, which Ide doesn’t. Mind you, that still doesn’t excuse Ide’s performances at Melbourne and Sepang. There’s not much that can excuse Ide, really…

  • Renault didn’t “know” when MSC would stop, but they were able to make a good guess. I’m sure they had better timings than the TV.

    And I’m sure they knew Michael would stop on the next lap after Alonso, but that’s still better thanending up with the two stopping on the same lap. Alonso couldn’t have gotten past if they did.

    Also remember it’s not necessarily quicker to stay out longer this year (unlike last year), new tires overcome some of the disadvantage of higher fuel. And the B/stones are particularly fast on their first lap.

  • It really doesn’t matter about Alonso, does it? They were second, they tried it and they ended up staying second. It only reduces his lead by two points and I don’t think he’s all that bothered. It probably gave the engineer bods some more data to think about as well, so they can make better decisions in the future.

    I always get annoyed watching Button give interviews, because he always seems to be “It was okay but it could be better,” and I worry that Honda are always going to be in that position. Good but not quite good enough.

    The problem with Ide (or idiot as he is known in my house) is that you never really know how long to give someone before you judge them as being useless. How many races should it take them to settle in? And if they give him the benefit of the doubt and leave him in the seat for one race too many – when something bad happens – it’s going to be their fault, not his.

    And I’m not even allowed to talk about Schumacher because if you mention his name in my house, people start talking about jumping out of windows and stuff. Let’s hope Renault and McLaren can keep up the competition.

  • DoctorVee: Yes, they do have some experience of some tracks, but Sepang is quite a complex circuit and Rosberg had a fantastic grand prix there until it went bang. You’re right though, there isn’t much that can excuse Ide. Despite concerns surrounding lack of testing and as Don points out, using Frentzen’s seat (which surely has to against some rule somewhere?), the general feeling is that he isn’t cutting the mustard.

    Don: Some fair points that are well made, particularly about the Bridgestones being better on the first laps. I still think that having weighed up all the options, pitting after Shumacher would have given Alonso the best chance, but then I wasn’t on the pit wall and it is easy to make judgments without knowing all the facts.

    Chris: Good question! How long should you give a driver? Well, Barrichello is taking his time settling in at Honda. Although in fairness he isn’t causing many issues to other drivers and is proven to be a winner.

    Do you think Jenson should take the Eddie Irvine approach to team talks? They usually went something like, “It was f****** crap. I cannot believe they tried to send me out with only 3 new tyres. Utter bull****!” Maybe that will get the Honda boys and girls going?

  • I wouldn’t say Sachumacher’s driving was defensive, perhaps more focused than normally. In my opinion it looked pretty much like he was taking 100% advantage of the track, following a type of ultimate positioning through the corners and the straights, and Imola sort of being the type of track it is, not inviting for passes, the result was given after the pit-stops.

    Scumacher’s style when driving defensively is pretty close to his aggressive style, which may appear rather erratic to some, whacking the kerbs quite violently and appearing to be “all over the place”.

    At imola that wasn’t the case it was more as if he was driving on a rail.

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