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Hamilton's title hopes fade in China, 2007

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Andrew Benson | 12:56 UK time, Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The 2007 Chinese Grand Prix is the event chosen to be highlighted in our classic races series this week.

There was some stiff competition, particularly from 2004 and 2006, but you just cannot look past the drama of Kimi Raikkonen's victory in 2007.

It was a race that should have been the final chapter in a golden debut year for Lewis Hamilton - but it was also the first race in which the world saw what have emerged as his major flaws.

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Watch highlights from the 2004 Chinese Grand Prix.
Watch highlights from the 2005 Chinese Grand Prix.
Watch highlights from the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix.
Watch highlights from the 2008 Chinese Grand Prix.

After a masterful victory in the rain in Japan the preceding week, all Hamilton had to do was finish ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso to become the first man to claim the drivers' title in his debut season.

And as he streaked away from the field in the opening laps, that destiny seemed assured.

As it happened, his fate was sealed to some degree by his pace on intermediate tyres on a damp track in those early laps.

As the track began to dry, Hamilton's tyres began to go off faster than those of the pursuing Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton's team-mate Fernando Alonso in third place.

As Hamilton began fighting for grip, both men passed him. But even that should not have been a problem.

Hamilton leaves his stranded McLaren

If Hamilton had finished third behind his two rivals, he would still have won the title.

But this was the year in which McLaren fell out with Alonso and the team allowed their fractured relationship with the double world champion to influence their thinking.

Instead of bringing Hamilton in to change his tyres and collecting six safe points, McLaren focused on trying to get the Englishman to beat Alonso.

They left him out too long on his deteriorating tyres, and Hamilton was too inexperienced to make the obvious call to come in to change them.

When he eventually did, his left rear was so badly worn that there was a white stripe around its circumference.

And when he tried to come into a slippery pit lane, he slid off embarrassingly at about 30mph.

It was a quite astonishing series of errors by driver and team - but it led to a fascinating race and a thrilling showdown in Brazil two weeks later, where Raikkonen emerged as champion.

As we are heading into another one of those lovely back-to-back Grands Prix weeks, it makes sense to get your thoughts on the best races in Bahrain.

It doesn't take a genius to work out which five we will be offering up for selection, considering the Kingdom has hosted five Grands Prix.

So we would like to know which one of the five races from 2004 onwards you would select as the best ever Bahrain Grand Prix?

These highlights will be available on the Red Button for digital satellite and cable viewers from Wednesday morning. They will be available on Freeview from 1500 BST till 1930 BST on Wednesday and all day Thursday till 1930 BST.


  • Comment number 1.

    Looking forward to the mini-highlights.

    By the way, wanted to compliment you Andrew on the Inside Grand Prix segment you do, it's good. I don't live in the UK but who's the nice bird who talks with you as well?

  • Comment number 2.

    Whoever put the highlights in "short form" needs to be... well, I don't know because it fails to tell the story of the race:

    - the clip at 00:50 is not needed, nor is the bit with Webber needed.
    - fails to show quite a bit of overtaking that the live report details (
    - fails to show various spins
    - fails to show Sutil smashing into the camera at the final bend

    I don't know who did the highlights... but they've done a bad job.

  • Comment number 3.

    The idea is to say what happened in the race. The highlight clip does. Sutil's crash is irrelevant, he crashed at many races, various spins aren't necessary as they tell nothing about the most important events of the race. Plus there's no point showing an overtake for 10th which had no significance. Moaning for the sake of moaning, a blog comment tradition.

  • Comment number 4.

    Just watched the clip of Lewis spinning out in the pit lane, I was hoping that I remembered it wrong!

    MM and Lewis messed that up big time.

  • Comment number 5.

    Good to see in 2008 Lewis and Mclaren made up for its poor effort 2007 and the only gravel trap in the world in the pit lane, nice one :)
    But i think my vote goes to 2006, lots of action and good fun watching them all scramble to the line when it rained on the final lap.

  • Comment number 6.

    Anyone who thinks that the 2007 race was anything other than the beginnings of Ecclestone's plan to stop McLaren winning the title is utterly misguided.

    It looked like a fix for Raikkonen and Ferrari to win then - Lewis and McLaren's legal issues were too much for Bernie to handle - and it still stinks of the same odour now. Skidding off at 30mph, do me a favour...

    Does anyone else recall the F1 Supremo saying that he'd like Kimi to win during the grid interview in Brazil? Coincidence?

  • Comment number 7.

    "When he eventually did, his left rear was so badly worn that there was a white stripe around its circumference."

    Take a look at the picture. WHICH rear?? Oh dear....

  • Comment number 8.

    "Anyone who thinks that the 2007 race was anything other than the beginnings of Ecclestone's plan to stop McLaren winning the title is utterly misguided."

    Or not a deluded McLaren fan. It was just a silly mistake, no more. No conspiracy, nothing. These things happen, then people make up stupid stories to try and cover it up.....

  • Comment number 9. a Lewis fan that race was seriously gutting but no conspiracy.

  • Comment number 10.

    this years china f1 grand prix will be the classic, button driving a brawn to win with the big three yet again crying to officials becouse they cannot get their acts together.

  • Comment number 11.

    Thx for the highlights I look forward to the Spanish and Monaco GPs.

  • Comment number 12.

    Andrew Benson, what do you mean by his major flaws. I'd like to see you handle the pressure as well as he did in his debut season.

    Imagine a scenario where you were in Hamilton's position and you had his talent. Would you have the necessary selfishness, mental toughness and will to win to trouble Alonso in your rookie season? Probably not, but there is no disgrace in that because it takes a special person to trouble the double and reigning world champion in your rookie season in equal cars.

    Most people, if they had Hamilton's talent, they would be Alonso's lap dog, and Alonso would still be at Mclaren right now.

  • Comment number 13.

    Andrew, Hamilton is a lot more than just talent as your articles about him imply. You have a habit of talking about his genius but forgetting that you need a lot more than just genius to win a world title.

    Look at Fisichella and Trulli. Hamilton may be over aggressive at times, but in terms of dealing with pressure he is way better than you ever will be.

  • Comment number 14.

    Another question Andrew. Why did you post that picture of Hamilton holding his helmet? What was the point of that.

    The whole tone of your article suggests that all this happened last year and that Hamilton hasn't won a world title. May I remind you that Hamilton is the reigning world champion, and he is the youngest ever world champion.

    Not bad for a person with "major flaws"

  • Comment number 15.

    @ TevezRules
    Major flaw as in - his inability to do what's necessary to win the title rather than risking everything to win every battle. That was the case in 2007 and up to Japan 2008 before he maturely closed out the title.. just.

    The picture displayed is an emotive shot and picturesque of the painful moment for Lewis. You don't need to take it as a Hamilton "shame" portrait.

    My vote is for Bahrain 2006. In my view that's the only Bahrain GP that's heralded a decent race. Probably my 2nd least favourite circuit behind China.

  • Comment number 16.

    I didn't ask you flukie. I asked Andrew, and I am sure he can speak for himself.

  • Comment number 17.

    @TevezRules Andrew isn't the first to have pointed out Lewis's flaws in 2007. He, and McLaren, were going all out for every win at the cost of getting points. All they had to do in China was score points, but they went for the win to try and prove their dominance and it cost them and Hamilton the World Title. It also showed that Lewis didn't have the presence of mind to guide the team from his stand point, and suggest what needed to be done. If you're going to be a Hamilton fan, be prepared to take some Hamilton bashing now and then.

    As for Bahrain, my vote goes for 2006, but I can't wait to get back to the European races.

  • Comment number 18.

    Bahrain...awesome place and I was actually there for the '08 race. Disaterous race for Lewis but the Ferrari's had a good rumble so I wouln't mind giving that a look!

  • Comment number 19.

    I wasn't going to say much. However, I feel I should apologise for not voting. Plus, I send apologies in advance, for any future times.

    Also, I would like to reiterate that the concept of the Classic GP's must continue, looking forward to the European rounds of the championship.

  • Comment number 20.

    I would like to see exteded highlights of the top 2 classic races like we had in Australia. At the momment its pointless voting because we get to see all of the races in highlights anyway, and they are all the same length

  • Comment number 21.

    Agree with lightmass, however I suspect this is temporary until we get to Europe where BBC can show pre-1996 races in full highlights form.

  • Comment number 22.

    Andrew, answer my questions.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi all

    My apologies for not answering your questions so far - I have been away on holiday.

    Tevezrules - as it happens, messyhead and flukielucas are right. Hamilton's flaws, such as they are, have been an impetuousness at times when caution may have served him better, allied to an extreme confidence that some - including some of his rivals - think veers dangerously close to arrogance at times.

    On a general note, you seem to think I am down on Hamilton. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have made it clear in all the articles I have written that I hold his talent in the highest regard. But as a journalist it is my job to draw conclusions and make assessments when they are required.

    I may not always be right in those assessments, of course, and drawing them has nothing to do with what I may or may not do if I were in the situation he is in - that could not be more irrelevant.

    When I talk about flaws, you must see it in context - of comparing Hamilton to other racing drivers of his calibre. There is no doubt he has them. That doesn't stop him from being a great racing driver. But they do arguably stand in his way of being even greater. Were it not for the mistakes he made in Shanghai in this clip, he would be a twice champion now, after all.

    Undoubtedly, his achievements so far are extraordinary. But it is my job to criticise where I consider it relevant. All people have flaws - and one of the most fascinating aspects of F1 is the way its intensity draws them out for the world to see.

    On specific points, the picture of Hamilton holding his helmet is relevant because it is from the race in question.

    And, yes, I made a slip and said the wrong tyre. Sorry about that.

  • Comment number 24.

    Andrew..are there going to be extended highlights of any races in the future

  • Comment number 25.

    @ lightmass
    If I may recite what Andrew has mentioned in previous blogs and comments.
    - All rounds where there are classic past races between 1979-1996 we will be able to vote for those and see them in the original 25-40 minute BBC highlights programme on BBCi and online. Hopefully this may include Monaco 1984 (which there may not have been BBC highlights for) and Japan 1989 (which had 1 hour 13 minute highlights) as possibilities.
    - All rounds where the choices are between 1997-2008 we will not be able to see extended highlights due to resources limitations of the BBC. Given they cover so much F1 and have the extra Onboard channel on BBCi during the race, I find that understandable.
    - The rounds of Singapore and Abu Dhabi which have extremely limited or no race histories may include miscellaneous classic race choices (ie Portugal 1984 etc). Andrew mentioned they are reviewing this possibility.

    Hope this helps.

  • Comment number 26.

    I think with Singapore we'll probably just get shown highlights of last year's race. Abu Dhabai we'll get the miscelaneous choices.

  • Comment number 27.

    For these Classic Races such as Bahrain and China, why cant you use the ITV commentary?
    The Radio 5 Live commentary is poor and awful.
    Maurice Hamilton saying some of the drivers name is awful, god I hope you show up Croft when you show the Brazilian GP highlights but please, use ITV's commentary for the races which havent been on the BBC.
    Spain and Monaco will have choices galore.
    Oh and Mr Benson, you have been critical of Lewis, yet praised Massa and Kimi when they were taking major that you say is wrong..if you critise one, you have to share the critism around, you failed to critise Massa or Kimi when they slid around at Silverstone, sniped at Lewis at various times last season and I felt you wanted him to lose the title again.
    Thats why I didnt feel you could become one of the BBC's main F1 Journalists and from what you said in this blog, you still seem to have something against Lewis, he has achieved something that British Motorsport hasnt seem for many a year and you have to critise him!

  • Comment number 28.

    I hope everyone can understand that professional journalists like Andrew, in contrast to perhaps the tabloid ones, will not have a black-or-white opinion on any racing driver. Lewis is an elite quality current driver AND he also has some persistent flaws. I'm sure it's Andrew's intent to point out both not only in Hamilton but Massa, Alonso, and Button as part of his role.

    Risk taking - is a quality that in my view has served Hamilton well as well as brought him down on some occasions. But the greatest racing drivers will discern a balance of when to take them and I don't think it's too disputable that Hamilton has taken some risks he didn't need to take and paid heavily. If someone points this out it doesn't necessarily mean they are against Lewis. The fact that Lewis isn't involved in too many crashes for the most part of the season but still pulls off many overtakes is in my view a credit to him. He's no De Crasheris and he has great pace without spinning off very often as well.

    About BBC commentary - I assume pre-2001 there was no Radio5 Live commentary and the BBC have bought the ITV audio from FOM. But for the rest I don't think we can expect the BBC to buy everything given 1) how much FOM charges(!) and 2) given the amount of resources already put into their F1 coverage.

    If the BBC are, as hoped, able to show some classic races for Singapore and Abu Dhabi, then we really only have two more circuits, Bahrain next weekend and Turkey, where the highlights will only be able to be 5 minutes. So there's plenty to look forward too for the classic F1 enthusiast!

  • Comment number 29.

    It's totally wrong to suggest I don't criticise other drivers when I feel it's required. I got slated for this article about Massa in the title run-down last season, for example, for committing the sin of pointing out what many people in F1 think about him: People are entitled to disagree with me - as I am with them. But it's not accurate to suggest I have something against one driver or for another.

    I don't have anything against Hamilton - I don't know how many times I have to say it. I think he's brilliantly talented, but he has flaws, like everyone else. They're what make him what he is. How dull would people be if they didn't have flaws?

    And it's ridiculous to suggest I didn't want him to lose the title last year. I'm totally objective about who wins the title. That's my job.

  • Comment number 30.

    Oops - must point out a slip of the fingers there. I of course meant to write "win" when I wrote "lose" in that final paragraph - and no comments about Freud, if you don't mind!

  • Comment number 31.


    What has happened to the Bahrain classic race vote? For Malaysia it was started before the Australian Grand Prix.

  • Comment number 32.

    @ GFasulo, it's not been put in dot point form like the others, but the bottom of this blog article reads:

    "As we are heading into another one of those lovely back-to-back Grands Prix weeks, it makes sense to get your thoughts on the best races in Bahrain.

    It doesn't take a genius to work out which five we will be offering up for selection, considering the Kingdom has hosted five Grands Prix.

    So we would like to know which one of the five races from 2004 onwards you would select as the best ever Bahrain Grand Prix?"

  • Comment number 33.

    Congratulations to Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Top quality wheel work all round.

    Flavio - go to the back of the class and see me after school for detention. As for the renaming of Honda to Brawn GP disqualifying them from getting the Honda TV cash - I would cite the well known legal precedent of Mars Chocolate v The People (1990) (Sun Law reports) in the case of the Marathon murder. It was clearly established that having a different wrapper bearing a different name makes no difference to the product on the inside, or indeed to the team of people constructing said product. Open and shut case.

    Also, I agree with Herr Benson about Lewis' flaws. They are endearing and make want to support him even more fanatically than I do already. If that is possible. Which it isn’t.

  • Comment number 34.


    My apologies. I didn't spot that. China was only five races and that had a vote. But, it does make sense not to have a vote.

    On Bahrain, I think Bahrain 2006 was the best. Some sensational overtaking by Pedro de la Rosa and a classic Alonso-Schumacher battle to the flag.

  • Comment number 35.

    Gfasulo, no need to apologise I was just pointing it out.

    Although it's not important to have a vote for the races, I would like to hear Andrew's thoughts on Bahrain 2006.

    I think Alonso can very proudly say that he won a true head to head with Michael Schumacher. Sure his final stop was extremely well run by the Renault mechanics but he'd closed the gap to Michael in the second stint of the race with more fuel and despite the traffic he was competitive on lap times just before the 2nd stop. I also think that a lesser driver (like Fisichella at China 2006) might have outbraked himself coming out of the pits and lost the position - Alonso positioned his car perfectly and Michael had no way through.

  • Comment number 36.

    hi andrew
    this question is more for the spanish gp but i couldn't wait till then to ask you.
    just wanted to know how far back can we go i mean im guessing u havent got footage of spain 1951 (would be good if u had tho). or can u only go back a few years?

  • Comment number 37.

    flukielucas - you will be able to read my thoughts on that race at Bahrain 2006 on Wednesday morning. I don't think it's giving away too much of a secret to say that is the race chosen as the best of the five there so far.

    WezManf1 - for Spain, we will give you a selection of five great Spanish races to choose from, and will ask you to mention any other races you think we have missed off our list - partly as a debating point, and partly because it gives us something to go on for next year. But you're right to wonder about what we have footage for. Basically, the further back in time you go, the less footage is available, but please do talk about any race you think is worthy and we will look into whether we can find coverage of that event.

  • Comment number 38.

    If anyone's interested, here's a report I did for China '07!


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