This was not Lewis Hamilton’s weekend. He woke on Saturday morning to an unspecified personal problem ‘I’m not telling you about it but it’s something I’ve learned to deal with’ and his day – and subsequently, his race – went downhill from there.
Unable to find a decent balance with the handling of his McLaren on track conditions that were changing all the time as rain threatened, Hamilton was out-qualified by his team-mate, Heikki Kovalainen, the pair of them then receiving five place grid penalties for blocking during qualifying.
Starting from ninth, Hamilton made up ground on the first lap. Then, at his first pit stop, a problem with the safety nut on his right-front wheel cost ten seconds, a delay that cost him third and dropped the Englishman to fifth.
It was a struggle most of the way with a car that continued to be a minor handful, Hamilton considering himself fortunate to have picked up four points to maintain his lead of the championship.
At the front, Kimi Raikkonen put Ferrari back in the frame after a disappointing race in Australia. Fast all the way through practice, Raikkonen ran one lap longer than team-mate Felipe Massa and used that advantage to put in a quick time and take the lead.
He need not have made that effort because Massa was to blot his copybook for the second race in succession by spinning out. Massa said something went wrong with his car but initial examination by the Ferrari technicians found nothing wrong. It could be that hitting a kerb helped Massa on his way into the gravel.
Whatever the reason for his retirement, Ferrari will not have been impressed. The score sheet at the end of the second round shows that the Italian team scored 10 points. But McLaren, after a difficult weekend for the British team, came away with the same total.
Worse still, BMW scored the most points – 11 – thanks to a very strong drive from Robert Kubica who finished second, his best result since his F1 debut in Hungary in 2006. Nick Heidfeld, who occupied the same position on the podium in Australia, came home in sixth place. BMW may not have the out-and-out pace of McLaren or Ferrari but they have the ability to score consistently if the leading duo drop the ball. The result of this race was good for F1 as a whole. Ferrari had a nightmare of a weekend in Australia (coming away with a single point) and Lewis Hamilton talked of having plenty in reserve as he walked the opening race. Seven days later and he was struggling while Ferrari seemed untouchable.
The next round is in Bahrain. Who’s going to win? Your guess is as good as mine. Good, in’it?