Good Formula One races are a bit like busses, arenít they? You can wait ages for one only for 2 to come along at the same time. Take the last couple of Grands Prix as an example. After a string of dull races, which started to look more and more like processions, along comes two wet races, just one week apart and blow the world driverís championship wide open and bring the bookies to their knees.
Just when we saw the gap between Championship leader, Lewis Hamilton and team mate, Fernando Alonso come down to a thrilling 2 points after Spa Francochamps, the heavens opened up in Fuji and dumped a months worth of rain on the track, sending Alonso into the barriers at over 200 kph and washing away almost any hope of another world title.
But then along comes Shanghai. Lewis Hamilton, now with a comfortable 12 point lead with just two races remaining, qualifies on pole and starts leafing through real estate brochures for an apartment in Monaco to hide that hefty 30-fold increase in salary, bringing him up to the 20 million dollar club. McLaren had already called the engravers to start work on that trophy.
As the five lights go out, Lewis leads the wet race from pole and starts building a gap. A win on this track would seal the deal and officially crown the 22 yr old as the 2007 world champion, making him the first rookie in the history of F1 to win on his debut year. Well, except for the first Grand Prix in 1950, when technically, everyone was a rookie.
It all came down to pit-stop poker. Who will go out on wets, who would stick it out on dries or who would play it safe with intermediates? Hamilton opted to stay out on worn intermediates. A choice that could forever haunt him. Kimi starts to close in on the young Brit. As the Finnís Ferrari comes within striking distance, Hamilton only manages a token resistance.
The Mclaren started slowing even more, losing 5 seconds a lap, grappling for grip around the drying track with just carcasses left on its BBS rims. A second place finish would also seal the deal so long as Alonso finished behind him, which was quite obviously the way it would pan out. Then it happened. Lewis Hamiltonís first mistake of the year at the most crucial time he could have imagined. Coming in to the pit entry, the rookie of the century, and the sportís first ever black driver, who has been likened to Tiger Woods, misjudges the entry speed, touches the slippery white line and under-steers straight into the gravel. It was pure heartbreak in slow motion.
Ron Dennis, McLarenís embattled team boss, who has been like a father to Lewis Hamilton, supporting his entire career and giving him a championship winning car, starts playing Nintendo Wii with his monitors, trying push Lewisí car out virtually. It was so close, yet so far. FIA Regulations do not allow a car to be pushed down the pit lane, and the devastation in Lewisí face could almost be seen through his trademarked, yellow Arai helmet. He had just felt what it was like to sit in the gap between expectation and reality.
This brought the crowd to its feet during the F1 screening at the BMW Xpo tent in the Fort. Hamiltonís first DNF for 2007, brings the championship down to just four points from Alonso and seven to Kimi Raikkonen, making it the first 3 way battle for the driverís championship heading into a final race since Prost, Piquet and Mansell dueled it out in 1986. The Brazilian GP on October 21 is expected to be the most watched sporting event this year, topping out the Olympics and the World Cup which only happens every four years.
Sebastian Vettel, who was unfairly penalized after Fuji (only for it to be withdrawn when new evidence was presented on YouTube) made history again, bringing in his Torro Rosso home in 4th place, making it the highest finish for the team. Ever. Including the time they were still branded as Minardi and catapulted the teamís standing from 10th to 7th overall in one single race.
To think that this time last year, Bernie Ecclestone and his group of moneyed men were all nervous about the vacuum that the 7-time world champ, Michael Schumacher would leave behind after retiring last year as the most successful driver the sport has ever seen.
So they draft in this rookie, Lewis Hamilton, from the McLaren driver development program, which I believe is somewhere around area 51, and pit him up against the current back to back world champ, Fernando Alonso, and set the stage for the most thrilling championship battles weíve had in over 20 years. Throw in a Robert Ludlum-like spy scandal and late charge from Ferrariís Kimi Raikkonen, and you have all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Albeit an over scripted one.
But just when you thought it couldnít get any better, give this a little thought in the two weeks leading into Brazil.
If Massa wins his home GP for the second successive season and bags the 10 points with Kimi Raikkonen completing a Ferrari one-two, earning 8 points, this will bring the Finnís final points tally to 108. If Alonso finishes behind Heidfeld in fourth place, he will bag another five points, giving him a total of, wait for itÖ108.
Now, if Hamilton gets tangled up in a first corner incident and battles from the back through the field to take the last point on offer, he will end up withÖ you guessed it, 108 points for the season. This would mean a three way tie with Kimi being declared champion after a countback of wins.
If Alonso finishes 2nd and Hamilton 5th, then they'll be tied not just in overall points but for an incredible 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place finishes! So it will be decided by who has the most 5th place finishes, which Hamilton has by just one! Any other scenario and Hamilton wins because he currently has one more 2nd place finish. In other words, Alonso only beats Hamilton in a tie if Alonso wins. Any other tie between Alonso and Hamilton would give the WDC to Hamilton.
Iím sorry, Michael whoÖ?