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GP Week : Issue 18
For a team not exactly being blessed with luck in 2008, the British Grand Prix looked like another hellish experience on Friday when a rear suspension issue was discovered on Barrichello’s car, keeping both cars in the garage until it was rectified. That it was fixed and that Button and Barrichello looked so fast in the afternoon session was, the drivers said, not a real indication of pace. Indeed, come qualifying a more realistic and expected pace saw the duo in 16th for Barrchello and 17th for Button. Little did anyone know though that they had gambled on a wet set-up for Sunday. In the end it paid off. Big time. Although Button struggled and eventually finished his home race in the gravel, Barrichello put in a stellar drive to rise above the conditions, risk extreme tyres, and finish on the podium. It was the kind of boost the team needed and deserved. While nobody would argue the car has any hope of repeating such a feat in the dry, the gamble had played out perfectly in the wet. It may have been the British Grand Prix, but McLaren’s British hotshot was lagging behind his Finnish team-mate on the first two days of the event. Heikki Kovalainen had seemingly found his rhythm at Silverstone and led Lewis Hamilton throughout Friday practice. Perhaps it was external pressure, or perhaps it was the pressure of Kovalainen’s pace, but Hamilton’s fluffed qualifying run left him annoyed with himself and down in fourth place. Kovalainen meanwhile went on to set an astonishing pace to take his first F1 pole position. Looking to the race, one had to put their money on Kovalainen for the win … and yet it was the Finn who suffered in the changeable conditions. Rising above it all was Hamilton however, who drove an imperious race to beat everyone but his fellow podium finishers. Kovalainen finished a disappointed fifth but McLaren has faith that the Finn’s first win is merely a matter of time. Hamilton though was simply in a league of his own. The race had been a masterclass in which the McLaren had been simply outstanding and Hamilton, at its wheel, untouchable. A big step forward in development for Force India saw it debut its new inerta “J-type damper”, front wing, sidepods and shark fin engine cover. The drivers were happy with the step forward, which they held to be in the region of a few tenths of a second – quite a jump for this stage of the season. Despite the jump forward in competitiveness, however, neither Sutil nor Fisichella made it out of Q1. Fisichella had looked set for a Q2 shot, but a spin on his fastest lap put paid to his efforts and left him 20th, a place behind Sutil. Still, the pair were only 0.3 off Q2 and only 0.5 off Q3. And so to the race and it was a case of an early bath for both Force India drivers. Sutil went for his on lap 11 with Fisichella following suit on lap 27. The team was understandably upset that neither car had finished, given that their usual competition, Honda, had taken a podium in the unusual conditions. HONDA RACING F1 TEAM 16 17 FORCE INDIA F1 TEAM 20 21 VODAFONE McLAREN MERCEDES 22 23 F1 BRITAIN >> 37