So leaving behind a much talked about Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal where, let’s face it, we got our money’s worth. You know how it played out by now so I am not going into detail, instead lets set our minds forward to think about the 22ndJune 2008 where the Formula 1 season takes us to Magny-Cours in sunny France.
Built in - 1960
Laps - 70
Distance - 2741 Miles (4411 Kilometres)
Corners - 17
Lap Record – 1:15:377 (M Schumacher, Ferrari, 2004)
So this is it, its “au revoir" for Magny-Cours, the curtain is closing on what most say is a very uninspiring Grand Prix track where not much happens and the most exciting thing to take place during the full race weekend will be the fat French guy down front tripping and getting a face full of frogs legs covered in mustard (I don’t know what they eat in France?). The races tend to be very processional with not much over taking going on.
Bernie has finally lost his cool on the location, as the future of the GP here hung in the balance numerous times over recent years due to commercial negotiations. Its attendances are often very low due to lack of accommodation in the surrounding area. Even the drivers are forced to downgrade from what luxuries they are accustomed to. Force India’s Adrian Sutil prefers the tracks own hotel on site even if it’s not “particularly luxurious” in his words but it is “clean and convenient” so if it’s good enough for Adrian its good enough for me.
So will we see a French GP again? Well, Bernie Ecclestone wants to see a street circuit in the capital city, Paris, the likelihood of this happening soon isn’t looking good if its anything to do with French Prime minister Francois Fillon, while he is considering it, I think Bernie may need to slip him some Euros to tip the balance. Anyway, enough with the history lesson, down to business.
Last year saw Kimi Raikkonen take the spoils at the chequered flag and Massa wasn’t too far behind him completing what really was a Ferrari weekend. They looked fast in practice, got pole in qualifying and like I just said took the 1-2 as the weekend drew to a close. A repeat performance for Felipe and Kimi this year maybe? Well it’s all set up for them and to be honest in my opinion, yes I think a Red weekend could be on the cards for the Tifosi.
Lewis has been cruelly knocked back 10 places of his qualifying position so he will be starting 11that best as will Nico Rosberg. We have the stewards to thank for that. While I am not going into detail I will be quoted on record as saying that:
"Yes he deserved a penalty because he didn’t obey the red light at the end of the pit lane."
"No the penalty should not have been 10 places, that’s very harsh."
Case closed, I will continue, where was I?... Oh yes. The boys at Ferrari look strong right now, the car is well balanced, it’s quick and with main rival Mr Hamilton a decade of places down the grid the main contender for the top 2 spots other than the 2 Ferrari drivers will be 1 of 4 men in my opinion.
First we obviously have Robert Kubica, he drove a great race in Canada but I can’t help thinking that if the incident didn’t happen in the pit lane that the strategies of Ferrari and McLaren would prevail and help them to the top 2 places. Don’t get me wrong I am not taking anything away from Robert, I am overjoyed that he has finally got that win, we all know he deserves that much but higher powers where at play in his favour that day. Prediction – 2nd.
Second to challenge will have to be the number 23 car of Heikki Kovalainen. Yes I know his form is shocking but “something’s gotta give”... Right? See my article about Heikki’s misfortunes and it will be noted that he hasn’t had the best starts to a Formula 1 season in a seeded car but he didn’t start last year too strongly either. Neither did his fellow countryman Kimi Raikkonen and it was only really in this race that fans saw that he was going to be one of the top dogs in the 2007 season. So could Heikki finally get that MP4-23 working for him? The speed is there, is lady luck? Prediction – 4th.
Nick Heidfeld, the 31 year old German must be getting very nervous in his F1.08 right now considering team-mate Kubica is churning out some pretty impressive results. Nick just hasn’t really found his groove as yet this season but got a great result last week in Montreal completing not only the first win for BMW but the first BMW 1-2 in the teams’ 42 race history (Correct at time of going to press). I think it will give him the confidence he needs to help get a bit closer to the front runners. Prediction – 5th.
Finally I am going out on a limb here and I am going to say Fernando Alonso will be up there too somewhere. He is starting to get that R28 high up in the lap times. In qualifying people sit up and watch for Fernando now. He promised an extra 6 tenths, maybe he has found them so I will be edging an outside bet for the Spaniard to get high in the points scoring positions. Prediction – 6th.
So there you have it. How I think the race could span out at Magny-Cours with Lewis Hamilton needing either a massive first corner shunt of all title contenders. About 5 safety cars or a miracle performance and lots of overtaking which, let’s face it, he is more than capable of and he has proved that time and time again. I think its left to everyone else to scrap it out at the top of the field.
Everything is certainly to play for with the top of the drivers table looking very tight, there are no out and out leaders right now and to be honest I have scrapped my pre season predications. There are just too many factors in the equation and we are certainly in for quite possibly the best F1 season in all F1 history. Who could predict some of the events that have taken place this year already and it’s only round 8.
Prediction for qualifying is that Hamilton will go like the clappers and get that pole he needs to start in 11thposition. The McLarens are always fast and with a mad, bling wearing Brit at the wheel you watch him fly. I think Ferraris will be right behind him with Kimi just marginally ahead of team mate Massa. Kubica to follow that and 5thspot to Heikki.
Pole Position – Kimi Raikkonen (Lewis Hamilton penalty to 11th on grid)
2nd– Felipe Massa
3rd– Robert Kubica
4th– Heikki Kovalainen
5th – Fernando Alonso
The race as normal will be typical Magny-Cours with not much going on but note that Lewis Hamilton has a point to prove. He has been professional and taken his punishment but he wants to get back at his doubters and a grid finish will be what he is aiming for. Lewis this week has been quoted as saying the following:
“We know we are sort of on the back foot already but knowing the pace and the momentum we had already from the last race it just shows that anything can happen,”
“I feel quite confident that we can still win. That’s my job - I have got to have that sort of belief in myself and the team and I truly do.”
So we have seen him come back from the back of the grid like a maniac before, be prepared to see it again. We will have Heikki in a position where he has to step up to the plate and prove himself as this weekend’s number 1 McLaren driver so he will be pushing to the limits. Then of course the Ferraris, they have “lost that loving feeling” and miss the top of the podium like a long distance girlfriend. Mark my words they are the team to beat this weekend.
Race Results Predictions
1st– Kimi Raikkonen (Scuderia Ferrari)
2nd– Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber)
3rd– Felipe Massa (Scuderia Ferrari)
4th– Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren Mercedes)
5th– Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber)
I am honestly going to say I would love to see Lewis top this list come 15:00hrs GMT on Sunday 22nd June 2008 but let’s face it, it’s not likely, not all the cars in front of him will be static. So we are in for a treat. An exciting qualifying session is in store and a race with plenty to race for many drivers so set your watches. It’s going to be a good one.
Comments and your predications please F1 fans. Do you agree or disagree with me and what are your reasons? Will Lewis get any higher than 8th? Can he get that podium? Will the safety car play a part this weekend? Will Mark Webber spring another top result? Will Heikki meet lady luck and buy her a drink? Let me know.
Ben, Over and Out!
PS – I will be attending the Formula 1 testing session at Silverstone on Thursday 26thJune 2008 so I will be writing a bit of a report on the back of that prior to the pinnacle of the Formula 1 season for us Brits, The Santander British Grand Prix. This will be the first time I have even been able to afford to get to Silverstone in all the years I have followed the sport, I know it’s not for the full GP, but I am not made of money so testing will have to do for me. I am very much looking forward to it so if you are going give me a wave.