The 2007 season is not even 5 races old and the F1 paddock is back at doing what it does best i.e. SPECULATING.
If they are to be believed the British rookie sensation Lewis Hamilton is already being linked with a shock switch to Ferrari, replacing Kimi Raikkonen. Its also being suggested that his route to Ferrari is already being ‘lawyered‘. Hamilton has a long term long term contract with McLaren, which reportedly extends till 2011.
Hamilton has even been mentioned as the instigator of the FIA investigation into McLaren Team Order Row, charges of which they were cleared off, after suggesting to reporters last Sunday that he had been ordered to finish second to Fernando Alonso because he is ‘the number two driver‘ at McLaren. Its also being claimed that Hamilton was unashamedly ‘angry’ in Monaco when it became clear that he was being asked to sacrifice his lead of the drivers’ championship and settle for second
Hamilton’s annual salary could potentially rise from about $500,000 in 2007 to up to $40m ‘or more’ with Ferrari.
Team McLaren Mercedes have been cleared of their Team Order Row. McLaren were under scrutiny from the FIA for allegedly issuing team orders that prevented Lewis Hamilton from challenging Fernando Alonso for the race lead, so that McLaren have a sure shot chance of a 1-2 finish, charges of which they have been cleared fair and square.
Following are the excerpts from the official FIA statement, which clear the air around the controversy.
A two-stop strategy is the optimum at Monaco unless the safety car is deployed, in which case one-stop can sometimes be better and the safety car has been deployed during four of the past five Monaco Grands Prix, but was not deployed this year.
It is clear from FIA measurements taken after qualifying that McLaren fuelled Hamilton for five more laps than Alonso. This allowed Hamilton the option of a one-stop strategy should the safety car have come out during his first stint.
With no safety car during Alonso’s first stint, there was a small but finite risk that it would come out during the five laps before Hamilton had to refuel. This would have put him behind the field and at a significant disadvantage to any car on a full (as opposed to optional) one-stop strategy. The latter cars would be expected to refuel around lap 40 – ie after the safety car had pitted if it came out during Hamilton’s extra laps.
For similar reasons Hamilton was called in early for his second pit stop, thus assuring his second place, with or without a safety car.
Had the car in front of Hamilton not been his team-mate, McLaren might (probably would) have decided to risk the safety car and let Hamilton run for as long as his fuel load allowed in the hope that he would come out of the pits in the lead after one of his pit stops. There is, however, no obligation on them to take this risk in order to overtake their own car. Indeed it would be foolish to do so.
It is standard procedure for a team to tell its drivers to slow down when they have a substantial lead. This is in order to minimise the risk of technical or other problems. It is also standard practice and entirely reasonable to ask the drivers not to put each other at risk.
McLaren were able to pursue an optimum team strategy because they had a substantial advantage over all other cars. They did nothing which could be described as interfering with the race result.
The point to point explanation of McLaren strategy, leaves no doubt in my mind that had the safety car been deployed, Hamilton who would have been in a position to make the most of it. Plus the strategy in accordance with McLaren pace at Monaco was an almost foolproof one for a 1-2 finish, sans any technical or driver error.
So, I must say, it was perfect a race weekend with a perfect strategy for Team McLaren that ended the way it was supposed to, along with all the free controversy and publicity.
The one reason I liked McLaren, has also been lost now. McLaren were the only team that had refrained from any sort of team orders and let free racing between their drivers, and that was seen at its peak with the rookie Lewis Hamilton leading the world championship over the reigning world champion Fernando Alonso. But that’s all gone down the drain after what happened on Sunday’s race in Monaco, plus team orders were banned after the infamous incident where Rubens Barrichello let Michael Schumacher pass on the last turn of the ultimate lap at Austrian Grand Prix in 2002.
McLaren boss Ron Dennis admitted the unusual strategic requirements at Monaco meant the team had to more or less decide in advance which driver would win, and Alonso and Hamilton were told to hold station in the latter stages of the Grand Prix.
The FIA have initiated an enquiry, but have refrained from stating what the likely punishment might be in case of McLaren being found guilty.
Its pretty clear that they are favouring Alonso, over Hamilton, who could be one the biggest F1 stars ever, from the following quotes.
But Dennis admitted he “virtually had to decide in advance” which one of the drivers would win in Monaco.
Hamilton said: “It is something I have to live with. I’ve number two on my car and I am the number two driver.”
Well, I would like McLaren to be docked of their 18 Constructor’s Points, and the drivers be spared the points axe. But if the points axe were to fall on the drivers then it should only be on Alonso, because he was the main beneficiary who robber Lewis of his maiden victory. As it is I don’t like Alonso and Team McLaren just gave me another one to not like him
To end this post, it was Lewis Hamilton who I thought might just make me shift camps from Ferrari to which I have stayed with for almost 10 years now, but that’s not going to happen. And now this year I will be cheering for Lewis Hamilton to win the World Championship but also cursing Fernando Alonso to bite the dust. And along with Alonso’s defeat I would like McLaren to lose the constructors trophy with Ferrari walking away with the Constructors Cup.
I went to see the race with a feeling that the winner of this race was going to take the championship this year, and came back home with a feeling that the seasons too close to call at this given moment. I was actually not expecting Alonso to win, and somehow I don’t ever want that guy to win, maybe for the fact that he defeated both Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher . I wanted Filipe Massa or Lewis Hamilton to win but damn Alonso beat them, with a real good drive.
Apart from the stunning drives of Alonso and Hamilton, I must say Kimi drove really well with his One pit stop strategy, after his incident in yesterdays qualifying, but as luck would have it he Nick Heidfeld had to slot in between Jenson Button and Kimi after his pitstop, compromising his race. As for the other guy who I feel missed out was Nico Rosberg. Just don’t know why Williams is having such a streak of bad luck. Last year and again this year something has to go wrong for them, with this race having Nico to bear extra vibrations from the rear after his pitstop. The only thing going good for Williams is that they are outpacing Toyota’s their engine suppliers in almost every race and are also ahead of them in the Constructors title.
Well, to sum it up, this Monaco GP was relatively incident free, with no crashes, and only 4 retirements. And as far as the title race is concerned, I feel McLaren will be the team that takes both the Drivers and Constructors title, but I have a feeling it will be Lewis Hamilton who takes the Drivers crown upstaging his Championship winner team-mate Alonso. I also feel a similar situation will exist at Ferrari with Filipe Massa becoming the number one driver by out-running Kimi Raikkonen comprehensively.