Classic F1 Races – 2007 Chinese Grand Prix

(Above Image) A disheartened Lewis Hamilton climbs out of his McLaren-Mercedes, knowing he has lost a golden opportunity to win his first Formula One championship.

The full race can be viewed via Dailymotion here (ITV coverage)

The 2007 Formula One Season was one jam packed with drama and controversy, remembered mostly for two things; the inter team at McLaren between defending champion Fernando Alonso and rookie Lewis Hamilton, and the espionage scandal involving McLaren and Ferrari.

Hamilton headed into the penaltimute round at the Shanghai International Circuit with a eight point lead, knowing that a podium finish ahead of his teammate would make him Formula One’s first rookie champion. In a dry qualifying session, Hamilton took pole position, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkonen, with Felipe Massa (Ferrari) in third. Alonso could only manage fourth and accused his team of changing the tyre pressures in favour of his teammate. 

Leeis Hamilton’s pole position lap at the Shangahi International Circuit.

Image Source: 2007 Formula One Official Season Review

At the start of the race, the track surface was wet as a result of Typhoon Krosa which had hit the east coast of China, forcing the drivers to use intermediate tyres. Hamilton got a good start, with Alonso initally overtaking Massa around the outside of turn 1 for third, before conceding the position later on the same lap. Behind them, Ralf Schumacher, who started sixth for Toyota, spun on the exit of turn 1 and dropped to the back of the field.

The starting grid for the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix.

Image Source: 2007 Formula One Official Season Review

In the early stages, Hamilton was consistently faster than second placed Räikkönen, increasing his lead by more than half a second each lap. As the track began to dry, some drivers struggled to find grip, including Heikki Kovalainen in the Renault, who complains about understeer in the corners. On lap 15, Hamilton makes his first pit stop as light rain returned. Despite his intermediates beginning slightly worn, McLaren opt to not change the tyres and instead only fill up the car with fuel, rejoining in fourth ahead of David Coulthard (Red Bull-Renault). 

Most teams decided not to change tyres in their first pit stop in anticipation of the unpredictable weather conditions. This strategy made it difficult for some drivers to keep their cars on the island, this being exemplified by Adrain Sutil spining his Spyker-Ferrari on lap 18.

Felipe Massa makes his first pit stop of the day.

Image Source: ITV Sport

Räikkönen stayed out four laps longer than Hamilton and closed the gap before pitting on lap 19 but rejoined behind. However, at the beginning of the second stint, the Finn was faster, his outlap being two seconds quicker than that of the championship leader. The track conditions continue to worsen for the cars intermediate tyres, Schumacher collides into Tonio Luizzi’s Toro Rosso-Ferrari at turn 4 and spins off. 

Meanwhile, Alexander Wurz puts on soft tyres and subsequently sets the fastest lap of the race on lap 23 with a 1:42.154. As a result, a number of the midfield cars, including Robert Kubica (BMW-Sauber) and Rubens Barrichello (Honda), gamble on dry tyres. 

Alexander Wurz (Williams-Toyota) took advantage of the changeable conditions to set the fastest lap of the race during its midpoint.

Image Source: ITV Sport

On lap 25, Alonso overtakes Massa at turn 14, who then pits for dry tyres as Ferrari try and work out which tyre is most suitable for the track. In contrast, Hamilton is struggling to maintain control of his car as his rear tyres are worn to the canvas. On lap 28, he goes wide at turn 9 and gives the lead to Räikkönen as light rain hits the track. In the space of three laps, Alonso gains more than 10 seconds on Hamilton, causing the Briton to put on lap 30. 

Lewis Hamilton’s beached McLaren-Mercedes in the gravel trap.

Image Source: 2007 Formula One Official Season Review

However, his car understeers in the gravel pit preceeding he pit lane entry as a consequence of carrying too much speed into the corner on his worn intermediates. Unable to drive off or recieved a push start from the marshalls, Hamilton was forced to climb out of his car and retire, as Räikkönen drove past to pit for soft tyres as the rain disappeared once again. Alonso also pitted, putting on the harder compound tyres. 

In a mid race interview with ITV’s Louise Goodman, Hamilton stated: “The tyres were finished, these sort of things happen,” before adding “I’m sorry for the team, but I can still do it.” Kubica saw his earlier gamble begin to pay dividends as his took the lead of the race, albeit needing to make another pit stop. His luck would quicker evapourate, as his car slowed to a halt and retired on lap 33 with a hydralics issue.

Kimi Räikkönen celebrates a hard fought victory for Ferrari to order give the Finn a chance of winning the drivers’ title in Brazil.

Image Source: 2007 Formula One Official Season Review

The second half of the race was more straight forward as the track stayed dry. Kimi Räikkönen won the Chinese Grand Prix, finishing 9.806 ahead of Fernando Alonso in second, and in doing so put himself back in the title race. Ferrari teammate Massa finished third, setting the fastest lap of 1:37.454 on the final lap. 

Speaking in the press conference, Räikkönen talked about the challenges of the race: “He (Alonso) was pushing hard, he was catching me at first when I had some problems with the front tyres, but once they start working I could keep the gap and then I knew that we should be fine.”

Sebastian Vettel, who was heavily crticised for crashing into Mark Webber’s Red Bull behind the safety car in the previous round in Japan, drove his Toro Rosso-Ferrari to a superb fourth after a perfectly timed pit stop for dry tyres. Jenson Button secured a rare points finish for Honda in fifth, with Luizzi sixth in the second Toro Rosso-Ferrari in sixth; the team’s best finish to date. Nick Heidfeld finished seventh for BMW-Sauber whilst Coulthard held off a late charge from Kovalainen to take the last point in eighth place. 

The drivers’ standings before the season finale in Brazil.

Image Source: ITV Sport

Trivia

  • Kimi Räikkönen’s race win was the 200th for Ferrari in Formula One.
  • This race marked the last time a tobacco sponsor explictly shown on a F1 car. 
    Advertisements

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s