Formula 1 Latest wishes a very happy New Year to all our readers and a fine season to come.
Will it be a repeat of this year, or will rookie Lewis Hamilton take the title that looked in the bag in 2007?
Like the last season it’s likely to be unpredictable to the last. Let’s at least hope that McLaren can avoid the fines and humiliations of the past year.
While Lewis Hamilton and McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso yesterday battled for pole position for todayâ€™s Italian Grand Prix, Italian police said they had served writs on five McLaren employees, including team boss Ron Dennis.
In the real event, McLaren fended off Ferrari on the track, with Alonso taking pole ahead of Hamilton.
Off track, Ron Dennis has vowed to clear his team of any wrongdoing at a hearing of the World Motor Sports Council in Paris on Thursday. Now they may have to defend themselves in the Italian courts as well.
Formula One seems to be morphing from grand prix to grand farce.
The Canadian national newspaper, The Globe and Mail devotes five pages to wunderkind Lewis Hamilton, who has clocked five podium finishes in his first five Grand Prix. There’s no doubt who is the talking point of tomorrow’s Canadian GP.
But Hamilton has a problem. It goes back to Monaco when he seemed to be pulled back by team orders from Ron Dennis, the man who has nurtured his talent for 10 years. After the race, he spoke out perhaps more sharply than he meant to. His message? The Rubens Barrichello role is not for him. Barrichello is best remembered as Michael Schumacherâ€™s deputy dawg at Ferrari. Despite being an excellent driver, in his native Brazil he’s regarded as a figure of fun.
Hamilton is not going down that road, “I think every weekend when I am matching Fernandoâ€™s times, if not doing better, I am demonstrating that Iâ€™ve got the ability to be a champion; to deserve at least to be equal with him. Iâ€™d hate the situation Rubens was in. If that was ever the case, I would not be here much longer.”
Some commentators are now suggesting that Ferrariâ€™s weighty cheque book could tempt him to cross the pits to their camp. But this seems unlikely unless Dennis loses all sense of proportion and clamps down on his young protege, a move that would lose him a great deal of respect in his British heartland.
So how will Hamilton press his claims within the team? “Thatâ€™s a good question,” he says. “Iâ€™ve got to remember the fact that Iâ€™m privileged to be part of such a wonderful team. Iâ€™d do anything for this team. Iâ€™ve bonded with the guys so well at testing and over the years Iâ€™ve been here. I believe Iâ€™ve got a special relationship, just because theyâ€™ve seen me grow up. They want me to win just as much I want to win for them. I donâ€™t feel there is a need to get a special message across. They can see Iâ€™m doing a good job. I think when I do win theyâ€™ll be excited. Ron wants us both to win but two people canâ€™t win. Monaco was just one race when it didnâ€™t go in my favour, but in the future there will come a time when it will.”
In Friday’s practice sessions Alonso held the lead, but Hamilton pledged caution on his first attempts on this track. He’ll be faster in the race itself.
But so will the Ferrari duo on the Gilles Villeneuve circuit.
I don’t know who “Helios” is (which is the idea, I think) but he appears to be a member of the Honda team. Certainly, his article for Pitpass today is written from an insider’s viewpoint. And it makes pretty depressing reading, especially if you were hanging on to the last shreds of hope that Jenson Button might yet get the chance of a few decent results this year.
The way Helios tells it, Honda’s problems stem from a lack of leadership and too much interference from board room level. It is an all-too-familiar scenario to me, having worked for a few companies that suffered from the same disease. Racing teams need to be small, closely-knit groups of people utterly dedicated to their task and not subject to the whims and theories of people who know nothing of F1.
Saddest of all was to hear of Button’s attempts to re-inspire the team. He is trying, apparently, but his body language shows that he does not have much hope for success this year. It reminds me too painfully of Bernie Ecclestone’s assessment of Jenson last year.
Can you see Michael Schumacher in such a situation? I am no fan of Michael but I know that he would have insisted on the team being allowed to work the way he required and he would have brought about a unity of thought and ambition that would have seen them conquer their problems by now. It seems that Bernie was right and Jenson lacks the ruthlessness and singlemindedness to create an efficient winning team such as the German did at Ferrari. As does Rubens Barrichello, it seems.
Helios is in agreement with all the other Honda-watchers in citing Nick Fry as the source of their weakness. And one cannot argue with the fact that the buck stops at the desk of the team manager – he is the only one with the power to make changes in the team in the quest for greater efficiency. So far, that does not seem to be happening.
It’s a picture of a team in disarray, unable to explain the deficiencies of the car this season, embarrassed by the greater success of their tiny sister team, Super Aguri, and unhappy with the management. I have to say that, on this evidence, Button can forget any chance of winning a race this year and he will find it hard even to score points.
So much for my hopes of a championship for him this year.