Gone Away ~ The journal of Clive Allen in America

Monaco Thoughts
Apparently, some people thought the Grand Prix was boring. That may have been true had you come for the overtaking (there was none) but then we knew that about Monaco anyway. How fair is it to say that it's impossible to pass at Monaco and then complain when there isn't any? We watch because it's a magnificent Grand Prix and if, as often happens, the race turns out to be close and hard fought, that is a bonus.

The harbor at Monaco

This was not one of those, as hardly anyone ran into problems and even the pitstops failed to shake up the order, apart from allowing Kubica to get ahead of his BMW teamate, Heidfeld. But the race was as spectacular as ever, the sight of the dominant McLarens sliding impatiently through the corners alone well worth the silliness of the pre-race grid walks by TV front men. Send F1 cars barreling through the narrow streets of any city as pretty as Monaco and the sight is enough to bring us back year after year.

There were many points of interest for those in the know, as well. Fisichella's lonely but valiant drive to fourth was a welcome suggestion that Renault is returning to form, just as the Toyota team's miserable failure to impress yet again, coupled with their customer team, Williams, once again showing how it's done, must surely mean a re-think for the Japanese company.

And once again I must mention Scott Speed, his faultless drive to ninth spot demonstrating that Red Bull (even in its Italian variant) has the potential to reach the parts that other energy drinks cannot - provided you hold the can steady and don't get into arguments with the barriers or other drivers. Tenth fastest race lap was not a bad effort at all.

After the race the inevitable media frenzy exploded, with accusations of team orders at McLaren multiplying as the hacks realized that their dreams and predictions were unfulfilled, Lewis Hamilton in only second place and yet to win his first GP. Even Lewis himself seemed to be caught up in the storm, allowing some apparently disgruntled words to invade his normally cheerful public statements. Ron Dennis tried hard to point out the importance of strategy at this race but no-one was listening; if the new boy wonder had not been allowed to race his best, the accusations must flow.

I must have been watching a different race. Like most GPs at Monaco, the fight for the lead ended at the first corner, after Hamilton had tucked in behind Alonso at the start and then stayed there, aware that any move could allow others to take his slot. It looked like the perfect team maneuver, second man covering pole man's rear, riding shotgun in effect, and my estimation of Lewis went up as a result.

After that, it was all over, barring some shenanigans in the pitstops - and this is where the criticism focused, it being obvious that Alonso had the measure of the young Brit at this track. Unfair to handicap Lewis with extra fuel, went the cry, but hey, one of them had to have more than the other and it made sense to put the man in front on a lighter load. McLaren is a team, after all, and not a British hero benefit party.

Finally, there is Ferrari, inexplicably slower than the Mclarens for the first time this year. I read this statement from someone in a forum after the race, a re-run of an interview on Italian television:

Italian commentator to Giorgio Piola (another unbiased one): "Giorgio, that long wheelbase really did affect the Ferraris at Monaco, didn't it."

Piola: "Don't kid yourself. Ferrari have much more serious problems than just the wheelbase of their cars."

Immediately we suspect some defect in the cars or the team but is it possible that the man was referring to their rather more obvious problem of getting only one driver into a winning position? I think the Ferraris will be back to their highly competitive ways in Canada and all thoughts of a McLaren walkover this season will evaporate at the same time.

Did I enjoy the race? Yes, I always do; there is something about Monaco, you know...


Björn Svensson
Of Course i will follow you Clive. The rest of the pack over at F1latest can seek their readers else where. I like to have disputes with you, and t get a lecture or two. And now to the latest thing that have come across my mind. Ferrari, have you seen the pace of those cars?? It is amazing how fast a team can crumble when the star leaves. Remember anything about that team and how they struggled before Schumi got in there and straightened things up? I don't think that this is a coinsidence. It all falls down to the employees at Ferrari. They have been working at such high revs to keep up with Schumacher, so this year they are taking just a little bit more "siesta". Don't forget that italians have to sleep in the middle of the day, which happen to be the time of the day when the race takes place. And there's alot of sleep to take on, because i don't think there's been any sleeping on the job during Michaels period with the outfit. Looking forward to comment on you many times in the future. Please keep me updated on any future changes to you'r blog's.
Date Added: 29/05/2007

Gone Away
Certainly I will keep you updated, Björn - we have some great discussions and that's what it's all about really. When you consider how the winning team at Ferrari was broken up at the end of last year, the surprise has been that the new car has been so good this season. We might have expected an immediate drop in performance but it hasn't happened so far, although Raikkonen's troubles in fitting into the team show that all is not well. I think the fact that the cars weren't so good in Monaco is not really evidence of the team failing - it is such an unusual circuit that performance levels can vary quite a bit for all the teams. In Canada it is likely that we will see Ferrari return to the front, unless McLaren have improved considerably more than I suspect. But I could be wrong (it's happened before :D) - and the likelihood is that we will see a gradual decrease in the Ferrari's competitiveness as the season proceeds; internal struggles within the team are bound to have an adverse effect sooner or later.
Date Added: 29/05/2007

Rob Jones
Hey Clive! Ferrari haven't been half as affected by the personnel leaving as I expected - we're not just talking The Schu here but 8 or 9 key staff. Massa has been a surprise - he's certainly not the eternal bridesmaid that Barrichelo turned out to be. Monaco is not a harbinger of doom for Ferrari, just a hiccup. However, isn't it nice to see some real competition from more than two driver for the top spot!
Date Added: 29/05/2007

Gone Away
Absolutely, Rob, Ferrari's form so far has been surprising considering how many key team members have left or been transferred elsewhere within the FIAT empire. And I agree that Monaco is just a hiccup and no real indication of how the rest of the season will go. That is part of the interest of this season, watching the power struggle between the top teams and drivers. At the moment we have four drivers with a good chance of the championship (I haven't given up on Kimi yet) and, with a bit of luck, we could see Nick Heidfeld getting in amongst them too. If Renault and Red Bull can continue their improvement as well, there could be some terrific battles in the second half of the year!
Date Added: 30/05/2007

Rawr! I have to say I found the race mind-numbingly boring but that's just because I expected a more action packed Grand Prix. As for the accusations of team orders, seriously? Is there a team out there that doesn't use some sort of team orders. It was obvious that Mclaren were going to call Lewis off after the second round of pitstops, I mean it's Monaco! He'd have to do a banzai move into the chicane like Fisichella did a few years ago to even get close to passing Alonso. The risk was far too great for Mclaren of him taking out Alonso and gifting Massa another win. I don't understand how people can get think that Lewis was disappointed with not winning, it's like people expected him to do it automatically because he's obviously talented at Monaco. If I was Lewis (and in some ways I'm glad I'm not) I'd be over the moon. Joint leader of the championship (still), haven't been off the podiom once, best start to a F1 career ever and it's his first season. It's almost as though we're that desperate for a sporting triumph that every little possibility that goes past we find it hard to let go. Give the kid a break his main challenge will be when he finally crashes during a race.
Date Added: 30/05/2007

Gone Away
Monaco is Monaco, Pootle - without retirements, it tends to be a procession. But it's the atmosphere, the sight and sound of such enormously powerful cars threading the narrow streets at ridiculous speeds, the wonderful backdrop, that we watch Monaco for. And on that score, it always delivers. As for the Great McLaren Team Orders nonsense, it just highlights the stupidity of a rule that tries to outlaw something that has been a part of F1 since its inception. The cars are fielded by teams and they are entitled to decide which will win when the opportunity presents itself - competition is between the different teams, not between team mates. Hamilton has not put a foot wrong this season - until his ill-judged remarks after the GP. I think much of what he said was misinterpreted by the press, however, and that he was not really complaining - hence his reiteration of the fact that he is number two. He will win races this year and next year will have a shot at the championship; that should be more than enough for any rookie. Heck, Ronnie Peterson dutifully sat behind Mario Andretti for the 1978 season, on the strength of a promise that he would be allowed to go for it in 1979. And Ronnie had been in F1 for years...
Date Added: 31/05/2007

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