After the racist taunts he suffered in Barcelona 10 days ago, Lewis Hamilton returned to Spain for more testing. In Jerez he drove before a well-mannered crowd of around 1000 — and clocked the fastest time.
With rival team Ferrari absent, the McLaren driver held off test driver Pedro de la Rosa by 0.2 seconds and BMW’s Robert Kubica by half a second.
Hamilton said, “It’s great to get back out on the track in Spain. We have another two days here and there’s a lot we need to get done.”
De la Rosa commented on the Barcelona furore, “The Spanish fans are educated and peaceful people. So much has been said about this issue. The important thing for me is that at this test it can be demonstrated that all drivers are treated with respect, which has always been the case.”
After one of the most fractious seasons in 2007, let’s hope his sentiments carry forward into 2008.
Oh what a tangled web we weave …
And surely nothing is more tangled than McLaren’s relationship with Formula One authorities over the legality of … well, just about everything it seems.
Lewis Hamiltonâ€™s strong hopes of becoming F1 World Champion next season face a huge challenge even before the start the new session. The FIA, Formula Oneâ€™s governing body, has summoned the McLaren team to court on February 14, one month before the first race of the 2008 jamboree. Investigators are said to have found potentially “illegal traces of Ferrari influence” in the car that Hamilton is lined up to drive.
The Spygate saga is still with us, despite the enormous $100m fine levied against the team last season. Make no mistake, this could be fatal to McLaren and Hamilton’s chance of racing at all in 2008.
It seems that a number of forensic computer experts and lawyers have combed through McLarenâ€™s files and designs and interviewed staff. They have also put the car through a series of stringent checks in an operation unique in Formula One.
Our guess? F1 will not shoot itself in the foot by virtually eliminating its brightest star from next season. To do so would be a financial disaster for the sport. And, after all, what is sport for if not to make money for the organizers and participants?
Watch this space.
As one former champion departs McLaren under a cloud, another old champ returns.
Fernando Alonso has left McLaren after a bitter season of rivalry with Lewis Hamilton. He is thought to be heading for a one-year contract with Renault while waiting for a berth with Ferrari.
Meanwhile, veteran genius Michael Schumacher is leaving retirement to test Ferrari’s title-winning car in Barcelona next week.
Seven-times World Champion, Schumacher will concentrate on optimizing the car in the context of the banning of several “cars’ driver aids” next season.
There has been talk of a possible offer from McLaren to the old warhorse to fill the gap created by Alonso’s departure.
In what was yet another dismal race for Lewis Hamilton, the young rookie driver could only trail in 7th in the Brazil Grand Prix after a bad start and repeated gear box failures.
Kimi Raikkonen winner of the 2007 Drivers’ Championship
Given the wall of ill-fate he encountered, his heroic attempts to claw his way back up the field, once the McLaren team had fixed his gear box remotely, at least got him into the points.
Kimi Raikkonen won the race in his Ferrari and took the Drivers’ World Championship, clocking up six wins in the season to Hamilton and Alonso’s four each.
Raikkonen ended a bad-tempered season on 110 points, while Hamilton and Alonso shared second place one point adrift.
Ron Dennis will probably be grateful that a truly awful season, in which his team was fined an eye-watering $100m, can now be put to rest.
However, he did attempt to appeal against a stewards’ decision not to penalize other teams for using fuel at lower temperatures than are required by the rules.
The result stands.