Friday, 15 June 2007

2007 United States Grand Prix Preview

The North American leg of the championship leaves the teams little time to regroup, with the Indianapolis race just seven days after the Canadian Grand Prix. With so many cars hitting the wall and sustaining damage in Montreal, the teams will be working flat out to get them ready to take to the track on Friday.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the most well known tracks in the world and has met with it’s fair share of incidents and controversy since it first held a Formula One race in 2000.
It has been a very happy hunting ground for Ferrari, who have won all but one race here, including the "non race" of 2005 in which all Michelin runners did not take the start. With this in mind it would be foolish to bet against another win for the Prancing Horse, which would close the gap slightly to McLaren in the constructors’ championship.
After somewhat disappointing results last time out both Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen need a good podium finish to keep them in the hunt, with them trailing championship leader Lewis Hamilton by 15 and 21 points respectively. They will however not be as dominant as the teams previous results here would suggest.
Fresh off the back of his first Formula One victory Lewis Hamilton’s confidence will be sky high and the 22-year-old rookie will have every chance of taking win number two this time out. McLaren clearly have a faster car than Ferrari and the consistently quick laps both Hamilton and team mate Fernando Alonso are capable of will make him another serious contender here.
Alonso is undoubtedly a great driver and is not fazed by bad races. However his comments in the Spanish media post Canada would indicate that he is feeling the pressure from his less experienced team mate. This coupled with his poor record at Indy, just one fifth placed finish in five years, would make a win for the Spaniard doubtful this weekend.
With Nick Heidfeld taking second place in Canada, both he and the team will be confident of another good result here. Following his horrific crash just four days ago, Robert Kubica’s participation is subject to a medical check on Thursday. If it is deemed that he is not fit to race, he will be replaced by the team’s third driver Sebastien Vettel. Given the team’s continued increase in performance, another podium is not out of the question for the German outfit although it is more likely to be the bottom step this time.
Renault continue to be the team to beat in the mid-field. Heikki Kovalainen proved that he is able to mix it with the best in Canada and will again be there or thereabouts for a points finish this time. Giancarlo Fisichella will be keen to put behind him the mistake that led to his disqualification and get back to scoring yet more points to keep him in the top eight of the drivers’ standings.
Williams made a welcome return to the podium with Alex Würz last weekend and this will give them confidence. However they will be back in the mid-field this week and fighting for the lower points places. Nico Rosberg was unlucky to get a penalty in Montreal and will be back towards the points this time out.
Red Bull are still suffering from fundamental problems with their gearbox and until they can solve these they can not be expected to be get points. It is a shame for the Austrian team, as they have clearly got a car that is capable of challenging the likes of Renault but without a reliable car they can not fully use their pace to move up the table.
Toyota’s disappointing season continued in Montreal with Ralf Schumacher struggling to the final point. However in Jarno Trulli they have the driver with the best record of the current field at Indy and he may well spring a surprise this weekend.
Super Aguri are perhaps the most improved team this season, scoring points in two of the last three races. Takuma Sato had his only Formula One podium at this track in 2004 and while it is unlikely that he will replicate this next weekend, his sixth place in Canada will give him confidence to pull off another unexpected result should the opportunity arise.
Toro Rosso will be keen to quickly put behind them their unsatisfactory performance last weekend and get both cars to the finish in a relatively respectable position.
Once again Spyker will bring up the rear of the field. They are making small inroads into those ahead but they are still too far behind to be anywhere near the mid-field battle.
Well once again I have to choose a winner. There is no doubt that Hamilton will be in the hunt once again but I have to go with Massa for the win and Räikkönen for a long awaited podium. And if previous years are anything to go by, expect plenty of incidents and plenty of discussion points come the finish.

Preview by Suzanne Harris

No comments: