Analysis: Raikkonen Adopts Gamesmanship

A bit of gamesmanship from Kimi Raikkonen may have cost Championship rival Fernando Alonso a place on the front row of the grid for today's German Grand Prix

Analysis: Raikkonen Adopts Gamesmanship

Pole man Raikkonen, having finished third at Silverstone, was 18th of the 20 cars in the qualifying order at Hockenheim, with Alonso and Juan Pablo Montoya following him.

Having set his 1m14.320s pole time, Raikkonen then drove off the circuit at Turn 1 on his slowing down lap, which put dust down as he came back on. Alonso was by this stage on his warm-up lap and, obviously, the next car through the dirty section. He lost a lot of time in sector one.

Fernando said afterwards: "I lost three or four tenths through the first corners: it was windier than this morning and the first corner is very quick and I was a bit unsettled. Then I didn't have the confidence to attack the braking zone at the next corner." Alonso doubtless thought it was the wind that had blown the dust on the circuit and his circumspection at Turn 2 will have been down to concern about dirty tyres.

Raikkonen's Turn 1 'moment' was not picked up by the main TV feed but, in the TV booths, Austrian TV was playing replays from a different camera, and this was spotted by the eagle-eyed former driver Thierry Tassin in the Belgian booth. Tassin then asked Raikkonen about it in McLaren's Saturday press conference.

A sheepish-looking Kimi admitted: "Yes, a little part of my wheel went into the dust at Turn 1..." Whereupon a grinning Ron Dennis embraced his driver with a 'That's my boy!' type of hug.

A look at the qualifying sector one times reveals just how badly Alonso was hindered. Raikkonen (16.349) set the second fastest time, just 0.009 slower than Montoya in the sister McLaren, Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault was next (16.444), front row man Jenson Button was fifth quickest (16.487), and Alonso was 15th (16.722). Only an oversteering Felipe Massa and the two Jordans and Minardis were slower than Alonso through sector one.

In sector two, meanwhile, Raikkonen was fastest on 34.974, with Alonso second quickest on 35.030. Kimi was quickest again in sector three (22.997) with Alonso fifth (23.152).

Button outqualified Alonso by 0.15 and so, with a more representative first sector time, it is fair to say that Fernando would have been comfortably on the front row alongside Kimi.

Alonso put a brave face on it: "It is actually quite good to be starting from the clean side of the track." Had Juan Pablo Montoya not thrown the second McLaren into the tyres of course, which was not part of McLaren's plan, Fernando would have been starting from the dirty side of the second row...

"I hope to make up a place at the start," Alonso said, "and I'm sure we have the right strategy. I want at least a podium and perhaps we will be able to fight for the win." If he does make a strong getaway, don't bank on Alonso being too accommodating with Raikkonen at Turn 1.

 

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