2008 Malaysian GP preview: Lewis Hamilton vs Heikki Kovalainen

Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton, Melbourne, 2008, 470150

The inter-team battle between the McLaren drivers at Melbourne was spoiled by the appearance of the safety car. Instead of challenging Lewis Hamilton for the lead, team mate Heikki Kovalainen ended up scrapping for fourth place with Fernando Alonso.

Will we see that battle re-joined in Sepang?

Ron Dennis said the team?s primary concern with strategy in Mebourne, as at Monte-Carlo last year, was not allowing their drivers to be compromised by the safety car. Although that was a logical approach they still got caught out on Kovalainen?s strategy (as did some other drivers).

Dennis, incidentally, will not be on the pit wall at Sepang ?ǣ he won?t be at the race at all. Will this compromise the team?s strategic decision-making? Given this was hardly a great strength of their last year I suspect not.

But Kovalainen definitely looks quick enough to challenge Hamilton. He set the fastest lap at Melbourne and although he was 0.365s slower than Hamilton in final qualifying, Kovalainen had several laps more fuel on board.

Ron Dennis thinks it will be a few races before Kovalainen achieves his real potential at McLaren:

He should go to Malaysia realising there’s absolutely no reason why he can’t be everything we know he can be. He’s nowhere near where he will be in five or six races’ time. He’s going to get better and better.

In that case Hamilton should be wary, because I don’t think Kovalainen is very far off Hamilton’s speed right now. How will the two get on at Sepang?

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20 comments on 2008 Malaysian GP preview: Lewis Hamilton vs Heikki Kovalainen

  1. I reckon these two will have Malaysia to themselves as Ferrari will treat it as an interim race to fix all their problems. I expect McLaren to let Heikki win in Sepang to show that both drivers have an equal chance of winning.

  2. Blimey, Vertigo, that’s a big "expect".  Let’s not forget that I’m the the one with the crazy predictions around here, okay?

  3. Kathryn S said on 18th March 2008, 20:57

    Hm-m-m, perhaps McLaren will plan to let Heikki win in Sepang, but maybe Lewis won’t go along with the plan and refuse team orders suggestions…but that would be a cynical take on Lewis, and I’m certainly not a cynic.

  4. OK Clive go ahead – something about Adrian Sutil winning with Lewis getting out on lap 32 with a flowerpot nailed to his head? Beat that.

  5. I can see I have serious competition here…  :D

  6. Derek said on 18th March 2008, 21:34

    Lewis will blow everyone away in Sepang, it’s about time you realised the guy is something special!

  7. Predictions:

    – it rains pink custard, holding up the start of the race until Monday due to the people with brushes not being able to get it off the track fast enough
    – when things finally get rolling, all six Ferrari engines simultaneously start smoking, at which point a junior engine technician at Maranello thumps his head and confesses using them as toasters for the department’s mid-morning snacks and that he "may have possibly forgotten to remove Thursday morning’s slices before they were flown to Malaysia"
    – Anthony Davidson is disqualified for removing parts from the Safety Car in order to keep his Super Aguri working, followed closely by disqualification for Takuma Sato because he removed parts from Bernie Ecclestone’s hire car.
    – Fernando Alonso and Heikki Kovalainen forget which team they race for and get into each other’s cars. This leads to Lewis Hamilton being very surprised when he and his "team-mate" collide on the first corner. This takes them both out of the race. This is followed half a second later by Piquet Jr starting a ten-car domino crash that results in Heikki dropping out of the race.
    – Nakajima is banned from future races for crashing into an invisible giant custard bowl in the middle of the track on lap 12
    – the custard spoon lands in the pit lane, just missing everyone but causing half the field to be forced to queue at the pit lane entry while it is removed. All of their engines overheat, meaning that they are all out of the race… …and two more cars run out of fuel while the cars themselves are moved out of the way.
    – Toro Rosso pull out of the race while its bosses negotiate with Paul Stoddart – negotiations which prove wildly successful
    – Toyota pick Sebastian Buemi to substitute for Timo Glock, who proceeds to win the race after a close fight with Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastian Vettel takes third on the last lap after the latter is taken out of the race by an errant Piquet Jr (who was 10 laps down at that point; both cars retired on the spot), to make it the first time the entire podium has been occupied by drivers whose names all start with the same first four letters.

  8. Oh, and Kimi Raikkonen to finish fourth in Bernie’s replacement hire car!

  9. Wesley said on 18th March 2008, 22:10

    Gotta give Clive props, he knew BMW was sandbagging.

  10. They weren’t sandbagging, they were "preparing"!  :D

  11. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th March 2008, 23:25

    Whatever Alianora’s on I want some.

    And Wesley you’re dead right btw he did a bang up job there!

  12. As ridiculous as it may sound I expect Kimi to take pole and win, with Lewis 2nd and Heidfeld 3rd. Yes, I know, It’s time for my meds. That’s predicated on Ferrari finding a relatively simple fix to their engine woes in the next 5-10 minutes!

  13. – Anthony Davidson is disqualified for removing parts from the Safety Car in order to keep his Super Aguri working, followed closely by disqualification for Takuma Sato because he removed parts from Bernie Ecclestone’s hire car.

    How did Kimi finish then? :]

  14. Wesley said on 19th March 2008, 23:24

    @ Alianora
    I really enjoyed that..LOL.!!  My favorite is:"Anthony Davidson removes parts from the safety car to keep his Super Aguri working"

  15. Melanie said on 19th March 2008, 23:43

    It is obvious that Heikki isn’t going to win any races as long as Lewis is there to win. Heikki was used as the mobile chicane at the Australian grand prix, it was in fact blatantly obvious that he now hold the position as the official number two driver of the Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes team.

  16. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th March 2008, 23:51

    That’s a pretty bold claim Melanie – how were they doing it?

  17. Keith, I was on the "over-excited-from-having-found-an-exam-quite-a-lot-easier-than-expected", whatever the technical term for that is.  Though now that I’ve re-read the prediction and noticed that I’ve withdrawn the cars of two of the drivers standing on the podium, I can sort of see where you are coming from with that comment…

    Paprika, I envisaged Bernie imperiously demanding the Malaysian sports minister’s car as his hire car for the weekend, since a refusal would have enabled him to charge more money next time the negotiations come round. Maybe he could recruit Kimi as a chauffeur though…

  18. Fuel, perhaps. The way Q3 works, you can no longer put both drivers on the same fuel strategy without unfairly compromising one driver or the other (since they cannot stop on the same lap – usually). So since a driver has to be treated unfairly by dint of the way Q3 works, what’s to stop McLaren putting a bit more fuel than optimum into Heikki’s car, thus denying him pole position and making him heavier in the first stint? This would give Lewis time to get away.

    However, McLaren is not the sort of team that generally gives all the advantage to one driver if it can help it. I suspect that Lewis will have to have an equal number of heavy qualifying runs, simply to fit in with the McLaren method of equality. If they hung on to it even during the Alonso/Dennis arguments of last year, then I see no reason why they wouldn’t repeat it in 2008. After all, the plan would have worked but for a few errors in the last two races…

  19. Melanie said on 20th March 2008, 0:28

    They also pitted Lewis earlier in case of a safety car, but they let Heikki stay out to block Kimi. At the end of the day it compromised Heikki’s race. A fair strategy is considered to be one or two laps appart, however Heikki was 5 laps from Lewis.

  20. Jean said on 20th March 2008, 6:48

    Melanie , I agree with you about Heikki’s race being compromised. But remember , contrary to what the team says (and that’s what cheesed Alonso off) Lewis will always have preference at McLaren , provided he delivers . Michael had that at Ferrari , but at the same time , he worked hard from ’96 to dredge Ferrari out of the state they were in , until finally winning in 2000 , to that extent he earned the status. Back to Lewis though , I think at this point , he is driving better than Heikki , more consistent. It will be a double hurdle for Heikki to 1. settle in and start driving better than Lewis 2. be able to do that while Lewis is being slightly advantaged. The same was with Rubens Barichello , a pretty good driver , but he could not quite match Schumi , and as a result , never really got the chance to anyway.

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