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Reflections on the Italian Grand Prix

In classic FIA style, the officials have managed to ruin what could have been a great race by allowing a patently absurd ruling by the Monza stewards to stand. In doing so, they guaranteed that Michael Schumacher’s retirement announcement would be overshadowed by revived suspicions of the governing body’s leaning towards Ferrari. On Sunday we watched a truly great driver fight back from an unfairly-imposed penalty to occupy a podium position, only to suffer the cruel chance of an engine failure.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

Would the Renault engine have blown if Alonso had not been forced to stretch it to the limit in his recovery from tenth to third? We can never know and so Schumacher’s win will be sullied forever with the possibility that it was engineered by Massa’s unfounded accusation of blocking in qualifying and the stewards’ unbelievable decision to uphold Ferrari’s protest against Alonso.

So Michael leaves F1 in the same way he lived in it: with controversy and doubt hanging over his obvious driving skills and achievements. He should be regretting that his team did not tell Massa to quit whining and get on with it, rather as Jean Todt has now suggested Renault do. But I doubt that Michael understands how his willingness to use anything at all to win sours our appreciation of his talents.

As expected, Renault lodged a protest after the race. The interesting thing is that they questioned the legality of the Bridgestone tires, not Ferrari’s wheel inserts. Presumably, they are saving the matter of inserts for a race where the stewards might not be so biased towards Ferrari.

And Kimi goes to the red team next year. Presuming that the Italian cars remain as competitive as they have been for the past few years, that should be an unstoppable combination. Unless Renault, McLaren, BMW Sauber, Honda or Toyota know different, of course. It’s a hard game to predict with certainty.

In fact, 2007 is shaping up to be a year of battle royals. The old faithfuls will be trying as hard as ever but the new teams, especially BMW Sauber, are beginning to look very threatening. And, without different tire manufacturers to muddy the waters with their own competition, the fight could be intense and involve more than the usual two or three teams. I can dream, anyway.

Which makes it sound as though I have given up on this season already. That is not the case and I am still expecting a resurgence from Renault in the last three races to ensure that justice is served by Alonso’s second championship. His performances when fate, politics and tires intervened against him have been magnificent, demonstrating clearly his right to be champion.

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