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Spain 2008: Kimi Extends While McLaren & BMW Falter

Spain 2008: Kimi Extends While McLaren & BMW Falter

It was a glorious day for Ferrari as Kimi Raikkonen led a one-two on the final lap of the Spanish Grand Prix, but rivals McLaren and BMW had a poor end to their weekend, McLaren only collecting six points and BMW five. Fernando Alonso eventually retired, his Renault engine letting go at the most inopportune moment. The Circuit de Catalunya also saw a fair few other retirements as well, with only thirteen cars managing to get tot he finish line on lap 66. The most noted of retirements being Heikki Kovalainen, who hit the tyre barrier at T8 at around 140mph. Thankfully, the Finn appears to be fine, just a little concussed and sore.

The Start

The start saw a text book get-away from the Scuderia drivers, Lewis Hamilton also doing well and Alonso leaving the line cleanly. Initially it looked as though everyone made it around T1 unscathed but it didn’t take long for the Safety Car to see some action, as Adrian Sutil touched the back of David Coulthard and suffered damage at the front of his Force India. This caused a knock-on effect as everybody behind tried to avoid the ensuing incident, but there was nowhere for Sebastian Vettel to go and the inevitable contact resulted in each Germans retirement.

After the race resumed everybody settled into a consistent pace and nobody really pulled away from anybody else. The unfortunate effect of high levels of downforce combined with a circuit that doesn’t encourage overtaking means little can be done about the car in front.

Heikki’s Accident

The second safety car period came on lap 22 has Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren was buried deep in the tyre barrier. From the replays, it showed the front-left tyre deflate quickly, causing the Finn to spear off the track at T8 and impact the wall at around 140mph. The Finn wasn’t immediately shown to be moving and the McLaren looked to be very deeply penetrated in the tyres. Marshals immediately scrambled over the car to assess Heikki’s condition and the Medical Car was deployed, following the Safety Car around to the scene of the incident. Heikki was stretchered away a few minutes later, giving the crowds the thumbs-up as he was wheeled into the ambulance. According to doctors at the medical centre, Kovalainen was stable and talking, but concussed. It has been reported that he has no broken bones at this moment.

The cause of the accident has still not been verified, but McLaren have suggested a stone got in between the tyre and wheel rim, causing the rubber to let go. As the incident didn’t appear to be any kind of catastrophic failure of any one part due to design, Lewis Hamilton was able to continue.

The safety car was on track for a while, enabling the marshals and doctors plenty of time to assist Heikki at the side of the track, and for his battered McLaren to be lifted away from causing further danger to the remaining drivers.

Renault

Renault endured a tough weekend, despite showing improved form on Friday and during Saturday’s qualifying session. Laps six and eight were all about Nelson Piquet Jr, the rookie driver having a couple of detours around parts of the circuit not designed for fast driving. The first incident saw Piquet run wide apparently all of his own doing. Two laps later he made a late move on David Coulthard, who didn’t appear to be expecting it and turned in on the Brazilian. Nelson’s Renault was left stranded on the inside of the corner, his race effectively over.

And poor Fernando Alonso, who was running a decent race considering he was the first to pit, ended up pulling his R28 over to the side of the track at about mid-distance, the Spaniard having lost drive due to an apparent engine failure. All in all, what was looking to be a promising weekend for the squad turned out to be one of achievement in the long term, but a disaster on the day.

BMW

BMW similarly have endured a poor showing in Spain, Robert Kubica being the only saving grace with his five points collected for fourth place. Nick Heidfeld, who didn’t qualify particularly well, suffered the pitlane lottery during the second safety car period. The German driver was forced to pit for fuel and thus was handed a drive-thru penalty, which he took on lap 33. Heidfeld eventually finished in ninth, just outside the points.

McLaren

Aside from Heikki’s accident, McLaren did well to collect six points for Hamilton’s podium. There were times during the race where Lewis appeared to be on strong form, keeping up with the Ferrari’s and refusing to let them run away with the race. However, the Briton was unable to do much about passing and quietly crossed the line to earn himself and the team a few points.

Honda

Honda collected their first points of the year as Jenson Button brought his RA108 home in sixth. Rubens Barrichello suffered another poor race though as the Brazilian driver damaged his front wing during his second stop and eventually retired on lap 36. The three points earned by Button puts the Honda squad just ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso in the overall standings.

The Final Point

Towards the end of the race the hottest battle appeared to be between the pundits who were trying to guess which car would eventually finish in eighth, thus collecting one championship point. For a short while Takuma Sato looked good for it, and had it happened it would have been a monumental achievement for the small team considering what they have been through in the past fortnight. However, it wasn’t to be this time, and Sato finished the race in thirteenth and last place.

After Sato was ruled out, all eyes were on Giancarlo Fisichella, who looked reasonably strong to collect a point for the improving Force India team. Unfortunately, as the chequered flag fell the Italian could only get into tenth place.

Toyota & Williams

In the end, it was Jarno Trulli who picked up the final point, the Toyota driver finishing just behind the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima. The Japanese driver earned his second set of world championship points this year in Spain, and made up for the retirement of Nico Rosberg, the German driver pulling off the track with suspected engine failure.

Red Bull

Red Bull Racing managed to get both cars to the finish line, but a string of incidents meant David Coulthard could only add a twelfth place to his record book. Mark Webber, on the other hand, kept his head down and drove well to collect four points from fifth place. The Australian has now doubled his total points haul up to before this race and sits ahead of similarly powered Alonso in the title tables.

Sum Up

All in all, the Spanish Grand Prix has been another let down in terms of excitement. There were a few great scraps down the field, the thought of either a Super Aguri or Force India pickling up points was enticing. However, because of the nature of the track and the cars, we saw very little overtaking; it wasn’t a classic race. However, it was for Raikkonen who goes away with an extended lead in the drivers title. Lewis Hamilton is clinging on to second but has only a one-point margin to Robert Kubica in third. Ferrari take the lead of the constructors title, thanks to the Italian team earning 18 points to BMW’s 5. McLaren are in third, just one point behind the Hinwil-based team.

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Oliver White

10 comments

  • Thank you very much Shaun. You know, the race reports are the hardest things for me to do. I tend to start writing in the final stint of the races, so half of it is in the present tense (“Piquet runs wide and is off the track”) and half in the past tense (“And then Piquet had a coming together with Coulthard, resulting in the retirement of the Brazilian driver”). So I have to diligently go through and rewrite large chunks of it. And then double check things for accuracy, remember incidents etc…

    …I find them very hard to write, so hearing views such as yours are encouraging. Thanks.

  • Ollie — nice write-up.

    I’m not sure I agree with your headline assessment that BMW and McLaren faltered. I know the saftey car was partly responsible for the bunching but the McLaren and BMW were with a couple of tenths of Raikkonen (who was clearly faster) and level with Massa.

    I suspect on the prime tyres, Hamilton may have been quicker than both Ferraris. To say he started fifth I think Hamilton will have been delighted with third. The performance gap between the cars was nowhere near what many pundits thought.

  • It was surprising actually, that Lewis was able to keep the Ferraris in sight. Many had the red cars down as running off into the distance. Perhaps they weren’t showing their full pace because they didn’t need to, but it is encouraging for a good title. The Ferrari’s won today, but hopefully my prophecy will turn out accurate.

    Perhaps “faulter” is the wrong word, but I couldn’t think of a way of summing up “being unfairly demoted due to some stupid rule and having to recover from a relatively poor qualifying position” into one or two words! 😉

    Typo in title amended. Permalink remains for archive and RSS feed reasons. Oops.

  • I think the difference between Hamilton and the Ferraris is that he was going flat out towards the end, yet both Massa and Kimi kept some performance in reserve – can’t say that for sure, but it’s the impression I got, certainly for Kimi at least.

    Heidfeld was supremely disappointing all weekend, but the SC certainly didn’t help his race. BMW will be disappointed to have relinquished the lead to Ferrari, but especially so given just how big a lead the Italians have opened up in just this one race.

  • Agree with you Craig the Ferrari had the race under control.

    Lewis did a fantastic start indeed and I am very pleased with the pace he was showing, not that far from the Ferraris.

    A pity this safety car that ruined Nick’s race as he lost a good 30 secs and had to stop a 3rd time for fuel. this costs him may be 5th place and 6th for sure.

    But the good news is that Heikki is not injured and will probably be back for next race. Racing is still dangerous we should not forget that, even if nothing really bad happened recently.

    Finally Alonso was not that light (3 laps less than Massa, 4 to Raikkonen) and didn’t planned 3 stops as he took 88l (31 laps) when he pitted. Very promissing for the end of the championship. The breakdown of his engine, the crash of Heukki and the penalty for Nick opened the way for others that might have not scored any point under more normal circumstances… And Toro Rosso was very very unlucky with its two drivers !

  • Indeed, when will Vettel finish a race? The kid has talent but but it just isn’t happening this year. Maybe when STR introduce the new motor, but it seems to be more to do with being in the wrong place at the wrong time at the moment (and silly rookie errors.).

  • nobody has mentioned just how disappointing Piquet Jnr was – 2 mistakes in as many laps and not performing anywhere near as well as his team mate

    If Renault really has improved the car as we think, and if Piquet keeps making errors, I wouldn’t be suprised if we see him moved to one of the lesser teams and a more experienced driver placed in the second Renault

  • Piquet Jr has definitely disappointed me so far this year. For sure the team have had difficulties with the car, but the even for a rookie, Nelson isn’t keyed in yet to the R28. I’m willing to give him a season-long shot before judging, but boy he certainly needs to wise up quick if he is to cement his future in the sport.

  • Vettel seems to be going for Andrea de Cesaris’ record (he went through an entire season getting nothing but DNFs). It’s not going to do his career prospects much good. Piquet Jr. is over-driving, as is Sutil…

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