Italian Grand Prix and Comparisons - 17/09/08

The Italian Grand Prix provided a good opportunity to run some comparisons and highlight the differences in form between various teams and their drivers. One glaring comparison comes in the form of Toro Rosso scoring their first pole position and grand prix victory courtesy of the magnificent man of the moment, Sebastian Vettel. Of the Red Bull teams, few would have expected the smaller of the two to be the first to achieve those kind of heights. It makes you wonder how much Christian Horner and company regret their efforts in shifting the customer Ferrari engines to Toro Rosso in favour of the customer Renault engines. The differing fortunes of the two Toro Rosso drivers was discussed in detail last week, however you can’t help but notice that the significant divide in luck and results between Vettel and S├ębastien Bourdais widened as Bourdais’s fourth spot on the grid tragically morphed into last.

Staying with Red Bull, this year it seems that Mark Webber is more consistently outperforming his retirement-bound teammate David Coulthard. His qualifying prowess was never in doubt, but it has also been Webber scoring the lion's share of points for Red Bull. Out of 26 points in total, 20 of them have been scored by Webber. However, the only podium for Red Bull Racing this year has been scored by David Coulthard in his solitary points-scoring performance in Canada.

Red Bull's situation mirrors that of the factory Renault F1 team where lead driver Fernando Alonso continues to regularly score significant points for the team and qualify well, but struggling Nelsinho Piquet has given the team their one and only podium of 2008. The real Alonso has now shown up and finished fourth at three of the last four races whereas Piquet has scored only three times all year, also sporting 7 retirements in 2008. It must be growing harder and harder for Flavio Briatore to justify Piquet's position in the team for 2009.

At this point in 2007, there was much less to choose from between the two McLaren and Ferrari drivers, but this year the relative performance of the drivers in each team has made the prioritisation of a championship contender much easier for 2008. At Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen has time and again demonstrated his excellent race pace, but his failure to deliver in qualifying has compromised many a race this year. A total of only 6 podium finishes out of 14 and effectively three key retirements have made this a relatively underachieving year for Raikkonen. He will no doubt have to play second fiddle to the much-improved Felipe Massa, who already has a season and career best 5 victories to his name. We can call it 5 victories seeing as how the fortuitous Belgian GP victory makes up for the cruel way in which the Hungarian GP slipped away from him.

Over at McLaren, the Italian GP once again highlighted the different type of season that one team's drivers can have. You would have thought that Heikki Kovalianen finishing second would be more pleased with his result than Lewis Hamilton finishing 7th. However, would anyone have expected Vettel to win the Italian GP quite as unchallenged had Hamilton been the one starting alongside him on the front row? Hamilton's relief at the result comes from minimising the damage his starting position of fifteenth did to his title hopes, with Massa gaining only one point more than Hamilton on Sunday. Despite McLaren’s infamous equality policy, you feel that Kovalainen will have to back up Hamilton’s title bid from here on in, if he wasn’t already.

1 comment:

AERO_HDT said...

I think that the current situation with STR and RBR is coming to a head and you're spot on with your assertion that Christian Horner must be questioning the wisdom of using customer Renault engines for the larger of the two teams. Mark Webber, ever the man of wrong-choices is lamenting that team decision also as it's obvious that the Ferrari-engined Toro cars are outperforming the Red Bull cars.

I would dearly like to see Mark Webber either with a Ferrari-engined Red Bull car or to see him in a works Renault team, unlikely as that may be...