Japanese Grand Prix 2008 - 27/10/08

Seeing the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji in the dry, you almost felt that it was the first running of the new layout after 2007's washout offering. The format of the outcome followed a number of recently-emerging but almost established 2008 trends, such as questionable penalty decisions, surprise winners and common losers.

Lewis Hamilton received a penalty for an over-zealous attempt at the first corner that looked to have effectively scuppered the first half of the race for Felipe Massa and fellow front-row starter Kimi Raikkonen. The resulting heavy braking significantly flat-spotted his tyres to the point of needing to pit at the end of the first lap anyway. Felipe Massa then received a similar penalty halfway down the same lap for turning Hamilton around at the chicane after being passed. Massa had to take to the grass and kerbing for his attempted re-passing of Hamilton, the rest is history (with a dose of mystery). Thus, the title contenders were relegated to the tail-end of the field. With all of this going on, Robert Kubica assumed the lead with a chasing Fernando Alonso sizeing up another classic kill.

Since Hamilton had to pit for tyres straight away, two consecutive pit sojourns dropped him clean out of contention for points. Damage from the collision with Massa didn't help matters. Massa still had a shout of gaining some points and reducing the deficit to Hamilton in the title race. While Fernando Alonso was carrying out his 2006 re-enactment at the front of the field with mesmerisingly consistent fast laps during an inspired short-fuelled second stint, Felipe Massa came across Sebastien Bourdais exiting the pitlane. Bourdais, with nowhere else to go, slowed and took as much of the kerbing on the inside of turn 1 as possible. Massa proceeded to drive into him and spin, resulting in a 25-second penalty for Bourdais after the race. This meant that Massa's eventual 8th place and solitary point gain on Hamilton became 7th place and 2 points gained.

All were at a loss to explain the penalty handed out to Bourdais in arguably his best lights-to-flag performance of the season. In normal circumstances, a team like Toro Rosso would have appealed such an obviously ridiculous penalty in order to regain the valuable points and end-of-season prize money. Why was there no appeal? Well, just remind yourself of who supplies Toro Rosso with their performance-enhancing engines...

And so it was that Fernando Alonso, against a season's worth of odds, won back to back races in Singapore and Japan. With the title protagonists dropping the ball on such a regular basis, these performances have elevated Alonso back into the limelight for all the right reasons that brought him to our welcoming attention originally. Cue notable F1 journalists engaging emergency backtracking gears.

Going back to McLaren and Hamilton, Mercedes big cheese Norbert Haug was asked how he felt about the reduced points deficit with 2 races remaining. Haug's response typified the almost perverse optimism and forced positivity F1 people adopt in interviews these days. He said that the average points per race situation had improved from 7 points over 3 races (2.33), to 5 points over 2 races (2.50). Credit to the man, pulling that one out must have taken some doing.

1 comment:

AERO_HDT said...

I've always found Hamilton to be extremely aggressive at the start of many races, typifying the sort of starts that we once saw from Michael Schumacher. Yet with Lewis, there tends to be an air of desperation with his starts, a devil-may-care attitude that puts his title aspirations at unnecessary risk. Last year at Spa he showed the same disregard against his own teammate. And again here at Fuji, only against his contending rival.

Having said that though, titles are won by the measure of one's determination and Lewis clearly has a hunger burning in his eyes that puts the rest of the field in his shadow. I only hope that he does not earn the same sort of win-at-all-costs mentality that Michael Schumacher was tarnished with...