From 17th to 1st

I went to bed early to get a few hours sleep before getting up to watch the Japanese Grand Prix in the middle of the night. It was definitely worth it: it was a thrilling race, with an inspired performance by Raikkonen in the McLaren. The TV coverage of the final battle between Fisichella and Raikkonen was great, enhanced by side-by-side telemetry readout of brake and throttle from both drivers at the bottom of the screen.

It was fascinating from a technical point of view. The McLaren is almost perfect, but it has one weakness: the front wing tends to be slightly less effective under asymmetric airflow, so when it’s following another car closely the front end can lose grip. The effect is small, but it shows up quite clearly from the in-car camera. The result was that Raikkonen took a long time getting around Michael Schumacher, and was unable to overtake Mark Webber until the Williams driver pitted. Without those delays, the final dual wouldn’t have been necessary: Raikkonen would have been long gone. (After the last pit stop he was hauling in Fisichella at better than a second a lap!)

(So much for those who think that there’s no passing in Formula One!)

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