Kimi - the Maverick (an unbelievable turnaround)

Life takes one full circle for Ferrari, and they win the title in pretty much the same way they lost it last year, to the hands of fortune. Kimi (Kimi – the Maverick) this time has got the driver’s title back in Ferrari’s camp.

Last season saw the retirement of God of F-1 and Ferrari, Michael Schumacher, and it seemed in the initial couple of races of 2007 season that Ferrari were left wanting for a ‘Number 1’ driver in the Team, and they were not sure if they should call their senior driver (Massa), the ‘Number 1’ or the senior driver according to experience in F-1 (Kimi), the ‘Number 1’. In fact after a couple of races Ferrari even said that they don’t have any ‘Number 1’ driver in the Team, and they’ll not be giving any driver, any orders to help or sacrifice for the other driver. (In F-1 racing it is an unofficial practice to call the winner driver the ‘Number 1’, and the other driver may informally be given orders to drop a race for partner or block some other driver to cover up their ‘Number 1’ driver.)

Same was the problem with McLaren, but their problem came after 8-10 races. On one side they had double World Champion Alonso, who was the best driver in whole of the F-1 world after Schumacher’s retirement last season, and was almost looking invincible, and on the other hand they had fresh blood in Hamilton, who was all set to create History by being the first Rookie ever to win World Championship. What started happening after first round was that the kid started converting his podium finishes to Number one finishes and was star all of a sudden, and the team also started taking care of the Rookie, as they had found a Star and were developing and nurturing him, which no ‘Number 1’ driver can take, that though I’m the ‘Number 1’, everybody is praising and supporting young Rookie (Hamilton). Slowl but steadily with advent of every single race the split was getting wider and wider, and was visible even in their racing on track, in qualifiers and shamefully even in the pits.

Anyhow, my favorite is Ferrari and why the hell should I write so much about McLaren on my Blog. So let’s start with 2006. Season that saw retirement of a real God in any Sport (not some self centered like Sachin Tendulkar).

Ferrari over last 3 years has been a very good Case-study of motivation and team work. Come season 2006 and Schumacher was coming from a very bad season (2005) according to his standards, but all the fault was not his, Ferrari had a very dismal car in 2005 and nobody on earth could have got them even what they got. 2006 was a pressure season for Schumi as the media started throwing all the trash that was due Ferrari on Schumi, and he and Ferrari had to perform this year. Ferrari again gave him a car that was not as fast as Renault or McLaren, but Schumi did well to hang on to the points (8,3,-,-), in first four races but then started gathering his act in second semi-season , i.e. after first testing, Ferrari came back strongly and gave Schumi a car that was a winner, and Schumi also like a true winner responded by a couple of wins, but then again Ferrari lost its way, as can be seen in the comparative chart between Schumi (MSC) and Alonso (ALS).

In second half of the season Ferrari hit back hard and took Alonso and Renault by storm winning 5 out of next 7 races and scoring 56 from maximum 70 possible, and tied the scores with Alonso at 116. And with only two races to go, it seemed that nobody could stop Ferrari and Schumi now from adding another on to their cap. But, odds went against and Schumacher had a minor accident in penultimate race, leaving him on 116 points and Alonso in that race scored 10 and was sitting pretty on 126. That was not all in last race too Schumi’s car kissed another car and his tire punctured, that too just at start of lap (around 20-25% mark) and he had to take that punctured tire one full lap to get into pits and was almost a lap down on all other cars (17-18 in all), but then came our Hero Schumi out of pits and drove the car as if he was a Shah Rukh Khan and that was a race where Schumacher showed why he ruled F-1 for almost a decade, from being a lap down he just thrashed every driver, and overtook everybody as if everybody else was driving a luxury car, and there was only one F-1 car on the track. The HERO could not win his last race but that day he won over a million hearts there on the track and billions around the globe. That truly was a race that I thought I would never forget. But Kimi had other ideas, this year’s final race too was a cliffhanger it broke 21 year old record, where off three drivers in last race anybody could have won the championship title.

Come 2007, and Ferrari & F1 saw a new generation taking charge of F1. F1 had Hamilton, McLaren had Alonso, Ferrari had Massa taking up the charge and then Maverick Kimi for once in his life getting a car that didn’t had reliability issues. I always personally felt that Kimi was a kind of match winner, as he only knows one thing once he is in cockpit of an F1, and that is drive out of skin, and he is one driver who is not scared to throw himself on track from one corner to other, or get off racing line to surprise you with an overtaking maneuver. And in a sense I was a bit worried and surprised, as was everybody else with Ferrari picking a driver who was as adventurous as Kimi and had a reputation of not finishing races.

But to everybody’s surprise and that too for good, Kimi matured like anything before even starting this season. He drove like a champion this season, and kicked off the season with a win and 10 points in first race itself, but then seemed a bit patchy in next 5-6 races, as compared to his counterpart in Ferrari, Massa, as Massa started winning races and soon left Kimi and everybody into believing that Ferrari had finally found a number 1 in team. But Kimi had other ideas and Maverick was not letting it go just like that, he responded to Massa’s call by scoring back to back wins, and taking him on for number 1 driver in team.

In mid season they were almost inseparable, but in second round Kimi drove like a champion, somewhat like what Schumi used to do for Ferrari and almost looked invincible and went on to score 58 points in last seven races out of maximum 70 that anybody could’ve scored as compared to 35 scored by his counterpart in Ferrari, and 41 and 39 scored by Alonso and Hamilton. A comparison of top three drivers shows that Kimi never looked in the same league of the other two but it was a miracle that he pulled out of nowhere. In spite of scoring 38 points in five races (race 11 through 15) Kimi only had 90 points, and with only two race to go forget Championship as 17 points separated Hamilton and Kimi, Number 2 also was far off (due to Alonso’s form of late). Even Gods with all the powers that they have could have imagined that Kimi had even an outside chance of getting the Title. But Maverick had other ideas, remember “Jo Jeeta wohi Sikander”, wher Aamir - spoilt brat, was down and out, all the movie, but in the end he was the one who got his father and school all the lost glory. Same was the case here.
All of the F1 world moves to penultimate race in Shanghai, all set to Crown its first ever Rookie Driver, who is looking all set to get crowned with one race to go, and starts off the weekend perfectly according to script and gets pole position, for Race-day. Come Race-day five lights illuminate and go off and Hamilton is looking good to get title here itself. Almost half the race is done and preparations have started for celebrating Crowning of first ever Rookie Driver. Just then . . . . God’s smile and bring in a tiny little miscalculation in McLaren’s planning of keeping Hamilton on wrong set of tires misinterpreting rain that started to come down. As a result Hamilton faces a tire failure and first ever retirement this whole season, leaving him with no points from race and Kimi getting the Max, with scores now getting a bit interesting. Kimi at 100, Hamilton at 107 and Alonso at 103 (with a second place in a shockingly miscalculated race by McLaren). Still with these scores everybody was putting his money on Hamilton, followed by Alonso, and maybe some risk takers were favoring Kimi.

World moves to finish some unfinished business to Interlagos. Qualifying day and everybody runs as if there’s no tomorrow, and the grid is looking just what the doctor ordered for Hamilton and Alonso. Only way Kimi can win is:

Scenario (i) He finishes Second, Hamilton doesn’t finish higher than 8th and Alonso doesn’t finish higher than 4th. Now it is easy for Kimi to finish Second but the problem is that he is third on the starting grid, with Massa taking away the Pole in his Home Grand Prix. Also, even if he finishes Second, it is not possible to stop Hamilton from finishing above 8th, or even Alonso finishing above 5th.

Scenario (ii) He finishes First, Hamilton doesn’t finish higher than 6th and Alonso doesn’t finish higher than 3rd. Again he can finish First but to Stop other two is not easy.

All said, done and calculated, first and foremost Kimi need to ensure that he finishes in Top Two, when he is third on starting grid. The five lights illuminate for the last time in 2007 and go off for the last time in 2007 kicking off the first race in 21 years where three potential championship contenders were racing in final race of season. First corner is greasy on the side where car 2 and 4 start and using this to great effect Kimi overtakes the McLaren at the very first corner, and is now second in the race with an outside chance of winning the title for the first time in his career. But that’s not all; there are other things that need to work out in his favor that are not exactly in his hand. Having said that he has played his part to start with. The intra team rivalry between Alonso and Hamilton that has hurt McLaren all this season more than anything else, again takes charge of McLaren’s fate, and both its drivers go wheel to wheel not ready to part with a point, and Hamilton drives off road losing balance and loses places as a result, and has to regroup himself, while all seemed to be in control he again loses it and falls to the back of all cars on track, and has to start from literally last position, and has to move up to a scoring position. In the mean while a lil bit of on track rivalry was also evident in Ferrari camp when Massa held on to the first place in his Home Grand Prix, denying Kimi chance to score a perfect 10. First round of pit stops is over and Alonso looks pretty to score his third Championship as he would score 6 from current position and move to 109 while Kimi from current position would only score 8 and move to 108, while Hamilton was looking down and out at 107. But with Second round of pit stops starting and Massa pitting in from lead and a gap of 2-2.5 secs. Kimi puts in a couple of stunning laps to wipe those 2-2.5 secs. that Massa had when he went in, and then Kimi pits from lead, stops are almost same length, but Massa just fumbled a bit on his out lap and lost no more than half a second, but that was enough for Kimi to turn the tables, and with a perfect in and out into the pits Kimi joins the race in front of Massa and this was the best he could have done for himself, now it was left to luck and as is said Luck favors the brave Alonso finished 3rd and Hamilton 7th and Kimi won the race according to the second scenario. But it must be said that turning point of not only this race but also of the season were those 2-3 laps that Kimi put in when Massa pitted, those laps were the kind of laps that one associated with Michael Schumacher, laps that were a second, second and half faster than anybody else on track. HAIL Kimi, hopefully he's learning fast to fit in Schumacher’s shoes.
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