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Lewis Hamilton blows it in China

After being cleared by a FIA inquiry in mid-week into what appeared to be dangerous driving in the Japanese Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton made a pig’s ear of the Chinese GP when only 25 laps from the World Championship title.

Later, he was man enough to admit he’d misjudged the state of his tyres when forced to retire by erratic road-holding.

The race was won by Kimi Raikkonen, with Fernando Alonso second. The result sets up a three-way fight for the championship in the final Grand Prix of the season in Brazil.

Hamilton will kick himself all the way to the bank if he loses the title now.

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Alonso Criticizes Renault?

F1 Racing live has a report that, in speaking to the Spanish press, Alonso has been less than complimentary about the Renault team.

Alonso

Alonso in the Shanghai GP

AS newspaper quoted Alonso as saying: “They wanted us to finish second and third because they do not want me to take the number one to a different team.”

He said there is ‘no doubt’ that the constructors’ championship is therefore more important to Renault in 2006, and added that only ‘some’ in blue and yellow uniforms were disappointed to lose the Chinese Grand Prix to Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher.

“Some others are happy,” Alonso continued, “because we went past Ferrari in the team battle. They are not helping me as much as they could.”

To me, this sounds like a journalist’s invention. It makes no sense, since Alonso would hardly encourage the team to help him by saying such things. The decision to change the front tires at the first pitstop was a joint decision between Alonso and the team and so he is as much to blame for the mistake as anyone. And that business about not taking the number one to another team is just laughable; Renault stand to gain just as much good publicity from a driver’s championship as the constructor’s and the matter of a mere number makes no difference to that.

Renault have known for a long time that Alonso will be going to McLaren at the end of the year – were all his wins in the first half of the season a mistake by the team? It is ridiculous to suggest that any team would sabotage their own efforts for the sake of a number (that you’d have trouble finding on the car anyway).

So I don’t believe the report. It’s just an unscrupulous journalist trying to stir up some controversy and sell a few more papers as a result. I just hope that the whole thing will annoy Alonso and Renault to the extent that they win at Suzuka by a huge margin.

And so far my prediction that Renault and Michelin would catch up with Ferrari development after the Monza race has proved correct. There was little to choose between the cars in the dry at Shanghai and in the wet the Renault was clearly superior. Although I see all the pundits running for cover in the Michael camp, I stand by my forecast of another Alonso championship this year.

And the entire Renault team will celebrate his victory with him without thought of which car will wear the number one in future.

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Thoughts on the Chinese Grand Prix

Luck is perhaps the most important ingredient to a champion’s success. It doesn’t matter how talented you are as a driver; without luck, you will never be champion. I have seen any number of drivers with everything they needed to be champion except luck – and none of them ever made it. Without luck, something will go wrong every time, you can guarantee it.

Michael

Michael Schumacher in China

Michael Schumacher is the luckiest driver the world has ever seen. If he is going to spin, you can bet it will be where there are no walls to hit. I have seen him spin in Monaco where it is said that any mistake will cost a driver the race; but he did it in the only place where you can get away with it and continue. Even the weather gods favor him, as we saw in China this weekend.

Had it decided to rain again, Michael would have been nowhere. But no, it chooses to hold off until the last few laps when it made no difference. Instead, it provides him with a dry line so that his Bridgestone tires can work. Watching Prost win race after race on his luck was bad enough; having to see fortune favor Michael every time has been unbearable.

I am not saying that the man is without talent – he has that in profusion. But other drivers pay the price when they make a mistake (as did Alonso when choosing to change the front tires on Sunday). Lady Luck forgives Michael such things and he’s been champion seven times as a result.

Continuing the theme of luck, it begins to look as if Jenson Button has better luck than Barrichello. On that last lap it looked as though Rubens would hold off Jenson to the end but then fate intervened in the shape of Sato’s Super Aguri. Who would have guessed that it would be the Briton to emerge from the confusion ahead of the rest? One can understand Heidfeld’s anger at being robbed in such a manner – in an instant his certain fourth spot turned into seventh.

The man with the worst luck at the moment seems to be Raikkonen, however. Yet another engine failure put an end to his very good chances of winning. In any of Michael’s teams, it was always the German’s teammate whose car let him down (just ask Barrichello) but Kimi seems to be getting it wrong. Someone should tell McLaren that the quick driver is supposed to have the reliable car.

In the end, what happens, happens. Michael won and we go to Suzuka with the two contenders tied on points and the constructor’s title still very much up for grabs. It all makes for tense and exciting racing – two races to go and two drivers locked in battle. The FIA must be rubbing their hands together in glee.

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Shanghai Qualifying

The qualifying sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix have confirmed what we already knew: Michelin’s wet tire has an advantage over Bridgestone’s. With the track very wet from the start and then drying slowly and in patches, the Bridgestone runners were in trouble. Of them all, only Michael Schumacher managed to squeeze into Q3.

He then put the Ferrari into sixth spot on the grid, almost a superhuman feat, given the disadvantage of the tires. Whatever we think of him as a man, there is no doubting his driving skills.

Alonso

Alonso in the wet

It was Michelin’s day, however, and they made the best of it. The Renaults were the class of the field, easily grabbing the front row, Alonso on pole. Perhaps surprisingly, the Hondas were next up with Barrichello third and Button fourth. Their times were identical but the Brazilian set his before Jenson and so goes ahead.

Then came the McLarens, sandwiching Michael. Raikkonen did very little running until Q3, perhaps confident that he could get the time when he needed it. And, although Pedro de la Rosa spun his McLaren into some elegant manouvers off-track, he will be sufficiently close to his teammate to support him in the race.

The BMW Saubers were next up, Heidfeld ahead of Kubica, and tenth spot was claimed by Robert Doornbos – an excellent effort for his first race for Red Bull.

Now thoughts turn to the race, of course, and that means the weather. The meteorologists seem a little confused and some are predicting dry conditions, others opt for rain. All we can say for sure is that, if it rains, the Renaults will win. If it turns out dry, they will still be in with a very good chance but Michael and Kimi are not likely to make it easy for them.

Highlight of qualifying? That has to be Scott Speed in his Toro Rosso – for a few minutes it looked as though he would make it into Q3. And his time in Q2 would have put him in seventh spot, had he been able to repeat it. As it is, he starts from eleventh – not a bad effort at all.

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