Raikkonen returns to winning form with Ferrari 1-2

Kimi Raikkonen French Grand Prix

Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen rediscovers his winning form by taking an all-important race victory in Magny-Cours. Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa finished close behind in second with the world championship leader Lewis Hamilton in third.

It was a dominant race from the two scarlet cars, after the recent set back in the last three Grand Prix events. This race victory was crucial for Kimi as many critics in the Formula One paddock were questioning his ability as a racing driver – he is widely known as the quickest driver in the sport and many were predicting that he would be the strongest candidate to win the world championship. But after the first few races, the ‘Iceman’ has been under-performing especially when team-mate Massa was achieving the better results in qualifying and in the races.

This latest achievement, his eleventh career Grand Prix win, means Kimi remains a championship contender despite a shaking start to the 2007 season (the Finn took his first victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but after that struggle to match his team-mate let alone the McLaren pair of Hamilton and Alonso).

It was a classic performance from the Iceman as you would expect from him, but it was quite unlucky race for his Ferrari team-mate Massa. The Brazilian led from pole position and was in command throughout the French Grand Prix, only to lose out in traffic.

As for Lewis Hamilton, he was left to settle for a distant third. Despite that, he maintains his impressive finishing record with another podium place and actually extends his championship lead over Fernando Alonso by 14 points.

Ah, yes Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard had a difficult race no thanks to a problem with his gearbox during qualifying. The team repaired his MP4-22 and decided to switch Alonso to a three-stop strategy, in the hope of scoring points. He even started the race on the ‘white stripes’ Bridgestones to give optimum grip in a way of gaining places in the opening laps.

Unfortunately, this plan backed-fired as he was stuck behind ‘Quick Nick’ in the BMW Sauber for a number of laps. The duel between Nick Heidfeld and Alonso was the main highlight of the 2007 French Grand Prix as the two drove quite fiercely for track position.

It was very exciting to see the double world champion trying to overtake the BMW Sauber and on one occasion, he got by only to run wide and lost the place again.

Alonso eventually got by with a spectacular overtaking move into the fast Imola chicane. The McLaren had the better momentum on the BMW out of the 180-degree hairpin and determined to get ahead, claimed the inside line into the sweeping fast bend. Heidfeld backed off and had to drive across the kerbs to give space.

But in end, Fernando still finished behind Nick due to the disappointing race pace in the McLaren and his compromised race strategy.

Finishing in fourth was Robert Kubica, who drove a solid race after missing out at Indianapolis due to his sizable accident in Montreal. To finish behind the leaders was a great result for the Polish driver.

Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella came home in sixth, despite being overtaken by his old team-mate Alonso in the race. This race result will be quite pleasing for Renault, as the past champions attempt to rediscover their winning form.

And finishing in the last remaining championship point was Jenson Button in the Honda. Finally, after a couple of difficult months, Jenson and his Japanese team have achieved a top eight result. Hopefully, the improvements to the ‘Earth’ car means this won’t be a one-off so expect a better performance in the next few races.

The next stop in this season’s Formula One World Championship is the British Grand Prix. The title fight between Ferrari and McLaren will be even more fierce and judging by the Italian team’s Silverstone test and this 1-2 result in France, Hamilton heads to Silverstone with a slightly less bright prospects of becoming the first rookie to win his home race.

French Grand Prix, Magny-Cours – 70 laps

1. RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1hr. 30mins. 54.200secs.
2. MASSA Ferrari +2.4s
3. HAMILTON McLaren +29.7s
4. KUBICA BMW +41.7s
5. HEIDFELD BMW +48.8s
6. FISICHELLA Renault +52.2s
7. ALONSO McLaren +56.5s
8. BUTTON Honda +58.8s
9. ROSBERG Williams +1m08.5s
10. SCHUMACHER Toyota +1 lap
11. BARRICHELLO Honda +1 lap
12. WEBBER Red Bull +1 lap
13. COULTHARD Red Bull +1 lap
14. WURZ Williams +1 lap
15. KOVALAINEN Renault +1 lap
16. SATO Super Aguri +2 laps
17. SUTIL Spyker +2 laps
R. SPEED Toro Rosso +15 laps
R. LIUZZI Toro Rosso +42 laps
R. DAVIDSON Super Aguri +69 laps
R. TRULLI Toyota +69 laps
R. ALBERS Spyker +70 laps

Fastest lap: MASSA 1min. 16.099secs