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Lewis Hamilton blunder costs victory in British GP

A costly mistake in the pits snatched victory from the grasp of Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

However, he took the blame for the blunder while finishing in third place after jumping the gun in the pit lane on the 16th lap.

He admitted, “I selected first gear and was ready to go. I thought I saw the lollipop move a little bit but I was maybe wrong — and I let the clutch out too early. You try to be as quick as you can when the lollipop goes up. I tried to anticipate it and messed it up. It lost me a lot of valuable time and I then just had to push, but I struggled with the balance. I need to step up my game and I intend to do so.”

The Ferrari of winner Kimi Raikkonen was just too fast for Hamilton, who was also beaten to second place by his McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton later said, “I made the wrong decision with set-up and it really caused me problems during the race. Even in qualifying I didn’t have the pace I should have had, but it was too late by then to change the car, so I’ve learned a good lesson.”

He is still 12 points ahead in the championship table with eight races to go.

Hamilton added: “We’ve come away with a ninth podium position. I’m the most consistent driver here. I think you have to be happy with that. As a team we need to push as always, but we will try to push harder. As a driver, I am still learning. I still have time to improve through experience. I’ve raced here before but I’ve struggled in terms of pace. We must make sure we get the car set-up right, make sure we keep on moving forward and ideally beat the Ferraris.”

The next race is in Germany on Sunday week.

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Imola, Hockenheim and Istanbul

With the release of the FIA’s timetable for 2007, the focus has changed to circuits. Imola and Hockenheim are missing from the schedule, as expected, but both are still hoping to stage Grands Prix one way or another.

The organizers of the San Marino GP are pinning their hopes on the completion of required renovations to the Imola track before a race date in April. The existence of a four-week gap at that point in the schedule makes this seem possible. Although it would seem to contradict the FIA’s intention to reduce each participating nation to one GP, it may be that Imola will get a reprieve until some other country (India?) is ready to host one.

Imola

Imola

Things look much bleaker for Hockenheim. In its new, truncated form, it is not the most popular of circuits and the organizers’ attempt to alternate the GP with the Nurburgring seems more optimistic now that the circuit has been omitted from the FIA schedule. Increasingly, it appears that the circuit will just be quietly forgotten in the future.

Politics appears likely to do for the Istanbul race. The Turkish selection of Northern Cyprus’ leader to hand the trophy to Felipe Massa on the podium was both a deliberate political statement and a monumental blunder. Circuits have been dropped for less.

The FIA is taking the matter seriously after protests from the governments of both Cyprus and Greece, and is investigating the matter. With their determination to remain politically neutral, the banning of the Turkish GP seems inevitable, and rightly so. F1 should never be used for the political purposes of any country.

The wonderful new circuit at Istanbul Park may be lost to F1 therefore. That will be a great shame but is more than compensated for by the return of Spa-Francorchamps, indisputably the greatest circuit on the modern calendar. And it gives additional impetus to Imola’s prospects for survival. The loss of the Turkish GP would reduce the schedule to 16 races only and there would definitely be a good reason to keep the San Marino GP in that case.

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Reflections on the German GP

From a quick glance at the results in Germany, one would have to say that yes, Bridgestone have an advantage but not a huge one. Closer inspection reveals that Michelin have big problems when the weather is hot. All their teams suffered from graining on the tires and their races suffered as a result.

The list of fastest race laps shows this quite clearly. The sole Michelin interloper in the top seven cars was Raikkonen’s McLaren and his time was set in the first stint when the car was seriously light on fuel. Otherwise, it was Bridgestone all the way. Such was the superiority of Ferrari that they could go on cruise control for the majority of the race. And Toyota and Williams also showed how much the Bridgestone tires were helping.

The real surprise was Button’s performance in the Honda, however. Honda made much better use of the Michelins than did Renault and it took the brilliance of Raikkonen to keep Jenson off the podium. On this showing, Renault have cause to be worried, especially as Michelin are unlikely to come up with any miracles until after the Turkish GP.

Jenson Button

Jenson Button in the Honda RA106

So tires are the deciding factor in F1 yet again. I, for one, will not be sorry when there is only one tire manufacturer in the sport and everyone competes on a level playing field. There is a fine balance in F1 between the importance of the driver and the car – that is why there are two championships, the driver’s and the constructor’s. Competing tire companies interfere with that balance and skew results, often unfairly.

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German GP Qualifying

The qualifying sessions are becoming more entertaining than the races, judging by the French GP and today’s session at Hockenheim. The Ferraris were quick, just as we expected, but Alonso failed to provide a serious challenge to them. That was left to Kimi Raikkonen, who threw in a very quick lap to take pole position on his first set of new tires. It mattered not that later he went farming in the McLaren when trying to better his time – he had done enough already.

Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen

The Hondas bounced back from their run of bad form, Button taking fourth spot and Barrichello sixth. And the Toyotas were disappointing, only Ralf managing to make it to Q3 and then slotting in at eighth.

It’s all a bit confusing as regards tires. If the Bridgestones had retained their advantage, we would expect the Toyotas to have done better. The Ferraris look very strong, however, and Michael must be favorite for the race in spite of Raikkonen’s amazing lap. Kimi often makes the McLaren look better than it is, so it is easy to assume that his time was the product of genius alone, something that will be almost impossible for him to maintain throughout the race distance tomorrow.

Or will it? The speed of the Hondas suggests that Michelin are at least on a par with Bridgestone in Germany. And we should not forget that the removal of the mass dampers from the Ferraris and Renaults may have adversely affected their performance, especially in Alonso’s Renault. It is hard to think of anything else that could have caused the sudden loss of form from Renault.

So maybe we are seeing the reality of life without mass dampers and the McLarens are as good as they looked today. Pedro de la Rosa finished in ninth spot, which is not a bad effort after his earlier coming together with Ralf’s Toyota.

All of which is bad news for Alonso and good for Michael Schumacher. Even if Kimi proves equal to the task of winning the GP tomorrow, Michael should finish no lower than second while Fernando will have to work hard to bag a decent number of points. The Ferrari team have said that they need help from the other teams if Michael is to catch Alonso in the championship – a McLaren resurgence would be just what they need. If Renault weren’t sweating already, they should start now!

One final word for the guy who grabbed tenth position: David Coulthard. Once again he proved that experience counts and confirms himself as the best buy outside the trio of star drivers. If he can produce such good results in a Red Bull, how would he fare in a Renault or Ferrari?

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