Formula 1: Faultless win for Hamilton at Indy
Filed under: Motorsport
In retrospect, his Canadian win came with relative ease. But in Indianapolis on Sunday Lewis Hamilton had to work every inch of the way for his second consecutive triumph as he beat McLaren team mate Fernando Alonso by just 1.5s after a gripping, race-long fight. Hamilton just got the drop on Alonso from pole, and as they sped away from Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld and Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen were both able to leap ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the second red car.
Further back, Ralf Schumacher lost control of his Toyota and collided with Honda’s Rubens Barrichello, who was in the process of running into the back of David Coulthard’s Red Bull. Jenson Button in the second Honda and fellow Briton Anthony Davidson in the Super Aguri were also delayed, while Schumacher, Barrichello and Coulthard became the first retirements.
In that first stint Hamilton did enough to eke out a lead that enabled him to pit on lap 21 and then stay ahead of Alonso once the Spaniard had followed suit a lap later. They went back to first and second as Kovalainen pitted from the lead on lap 27.
Now Alonso turned up the wick, however, as Hamilton’s front tyres grained when he really pushed hard. On lap 38 they went down to Turn One side by side, but Hamilton had the inside line and was able not just to defend against his partner’s attack, but to open a small gap again.
When the next stops came, Alonso came in first, on lap 50, and when Hamilton did so a lap later he retained his advantage. Over the final stint he was able to maintain a two-second gap, as the two silver arrows circulated 13 seconds clear of the battling Ferraris of Massa and Raikkonen. They were on different fuel strategies, and with softer tyres in his final stint the Finn was able to close in as the Brazilian was using Bridgestone’s harder tyre. However, Massa did not leave him any openings and they crossed the line in the same positions, only feet apart, after the 73 laps.
Fifth place was sound reward for a gritty drive by Kovalainen, who was always a points contender, but the late retirement of Nico Rosberg with engine failure in his Williams (which had earlier been delayed slightly by a sticking fuel nozzle) made life a little easier for the Finn.
Rosberg’s sad demise was also a bonus for Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, who had a feisty scrap with Red Bull’s Mark Webber in the closing stages as they took sixth and seventh. Right at the end, BMW Sauber rookie Sebastian Vettel closed in on them, and as the trio crossed the line a second apart, the young German scored a point on his debut.
That was a small reward for BMW Sauber, as Nick Heidfeld had been heading for a possible fourth until power steering and gearbox problems intervened to drop him to fifth, and then to prompt his retirement with hydraulics failure on lap 59.
Giancarlo Fisichella fought back strongly for Renault after spinning on the second lap, and his side by side dicing with the Toro Rossos and Alex Wurz’s Williams was a highlight of the race. He finished ninth, ahead of Wurz, while further back Davidson recovered to catch and pass his old kart sparring partner Button for 11th. Toro Rosso’s Scott Speed was 13th after a fight with Spyker’s Adrian Sutil, who ran as high as 14th initially after the first corner incidents. Christijan Albers was 15th in the second Spyker, ahead of the non-finishing Rosberg and Tonio Liuzzi, who kept his Toro Rosso ahead of Wurz for the first stint but later retired with water temperature problems.
The other retirement was Takuma Sato, who fell off in Turn Four immediately after diving past Sutil in the first corner on lap 14. By then Sato had already picked up a ten-place grid penalty for the next round after passing Button under yellow flags, a charge the Japanese driver subsequently denied.
Hamilton’s second North American triumph increases his lead in the drivers’ championship to 10 points over Alonso, while McLaren are now 35 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors’ title chase.