Hi folks...

We are heading into the final third of the season now and, once this weekend's event draws to a close, we will only have five races left.

Currently, of course, Lewis Hamilton still leads the race for the drivers' championship and that really is remarkable. For him to have achieved what he has so far has just been incredible and, this Sunday, we will get to see the latest 'chapter' in his debut season.

The last event, three weeks ago in Hungary, was a tough one for Lewis, McLaren-Mercedes and Fernando Alonso, with what happened in qualifying and all the fall-out from that. It is obvious that none of them will want to go through that again any time soon but, hopefully, they will all have learnt from it - and will come out that much stronger.

McLaren definitely need Lewis and Fernando to build up a bit of a relationship again as that will be crucial if they are to beat Ferrari.

Both drivers need to bear the team in mind a little more too - although, with there being a constructors' and drivers' title, it does by their very nature create a conflict.

Ron Dennis has dealt with it before though and, while he definitely seemed drained at the Hungaroring, he has had this situation with the likes of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, so it's not anything new.

McLaren do have a lot on their plate currently though and, if the on-going spy row wasn't enough - the FIA's Court of Appeal is due to convene next month before the Belgian Grand Prix to look into that - Ron now has to play 'referee' with Lewis and Alonso.

On top of that, he also has another FIA hearing to try and get back the constructors' points that the team lost as a result of the stewards' ruling in Hungary. That will take place after the event in Spa, on 19 September.

All-in-all, I hope Ron has made the most of the break, because he and the team are in for a very busy few weeks, starting as soon as the circus arrives in Turkey.

The Turkish Grand Prix is still quite a new one on the calendar and this year's event will only be the third to be staged at Istanbul Park.

Right from the off though, it was given the thumbs up by the drivers, and the purpose-built facility designed by Hermann Tilke - who else, eh? - is quite a challenge. The drivers always rave about turn eight, but there is a lot more to it than that.

The circuit features quite a lot of gradient changes and it is one of only two anti-clockwise tracks on the schedule - the other being Brazil. That makes it quite tough, as the drivers have to use the 'wrong neck muscles', something that may well takes its toll on some of the new comers.

Last year, Ferrari dominated the weekend, with Felipe Massa taking the win - the first of his career - and pole. That bodes well for the Scuderia this coming weekend and recent form in Hungary is also a very good sign.

I don't think anyone expected the F2007 to be quite as good as it was at the Hungaroring and that may be a worry for McLaren-Mercedes, especially as Turkey will probably suit the longer wheel-based F2007.

Kimi Raikkonen is definitely on form after his drive to second in Hungary and, while Felipe struggled three weeks ago - he was even quoted as saying it was the 'worst race of his career' after he had problems in qualifying and started way down the order - that may give the Brazilian the jolt he needs to put in the same kind of drive as he did last year.

McLaren will, of course, be the other main contender and both Hamilton and Alonso will have a point to prove. Fernando will be keen to cut the gap to his team-mate, while Lewis will obviously want to extend it further as the season nears its conclusion.

Hamilton's drive to his third F1 victory in Hungary was spot on. It was an excellent performance and, despite the attentions of Kimi, he didn't crack. That kind of composure is going to be crucial as the campaign draws to a close. It's all going to be very, very interesting - mark my words.

Of the rest, I am looking forward to seeing what BMW Sauber does and if the Swiss-based outfit have made any steps forward during the short three-week summer break.

Nick Heidfeld took advantage of Massa and Alonso's problems in Hungary to secure the final place on the podium - and it is clear now that, if McLaren or Ferrari make a slight mistake, then BMW will punish them.

Prior to Hungary, BMW released their third driver, Sebastian Vettel, so that he could go and race for Toro Rosso and that was very nice of them - not very F1, but commendable nevertheless.

Vettel, of course, made his Formula 1 debut earlier this season when he stood in for Robert Kubica at the USGP and, while he was never going to be able to achieve the same sort of thing with the STR02, he put in quite a solid performance, especially when you consider he had never even driven the car before practice on the Friday.

STR has since confirmed that Vettel will drive for them in 2008 as well, alongside Champ Car star Sebastien Bourdais.

The Frenchman has done very well in the USA but, for some reason, drivers coming from the other side of the pond - at least in recent years - never seem to be able to do that well in F1.

We have had Michael Andretti, Alex Zanardi, Cristiano da Matta - all very good racers, to mention just three - yet, in Formula One, it just didn't gel for them. I really don't know why. I have raced in Champ Car - or CART as it used to be known in my day - and it is a very good series, with lots of good drivers. I really hope Sebastien can buck the trend, even if things aren't going to be easy with STR.

What his signing does mean though is that there is no place for Vitantonio Liuzzi and we will have to wait and see if he can secure something elsewhere, because he is seemingly out of favour with Red Bull as well as STR.

Red Bull Racing itself was a bit dismal in Hungary and, after what they managed at the Nurburgring, it was a shame for Mark Webber and David Coulthard, as both are very good and very capable of scoring if they are given a decent car.

The other points last time out went to Toyota's Ralf Schumacher, Williams' Nico Rosberg and Renault's Heikki Kovalainen, who were sixth, seventh and eighth at the flag. Those teams will again be battling for the scraps left by the 'top three'.

Kovalainen's team-mate, Giancarlo Fisichella, didn't have such a good race in Budapest and, in the end, he was twelfth. That coming together with Anthony Davidson didn't help his cause either - and, with Ant looking very racy in his Super Aguri-Honda, I did feel a bit sorry that ultimately he went home with nothing. Guess that is just the way the cookie crumbles at times.

Super Aguri's main rivals at the back of the grid, Spyker, will introduce their new car this weekend and that may make things a bit closer at the back.

It was alarming to hear during the break however that the Silverstone-based outfit may be sold on again. Such reports can do nothing for staff morale and really it just destabilises everything they are trying to achieve. I hope it doesn't happen - there have been enough changes there over the last few years, with the team going from Jordan to Midland and then to Spyker.

I guess it illustrates though that the decision to sign Sakon Yamamoto was more to do with money than anything else. Certainly, in Hungary, there was no evidence that he deserved another go at Formula 1.

I know he was thrown in the deep end, but to spin off just four laps in really just isn't good enough. Maybe he will deliver this weekend and I will have to eat my words. Whatever happens, I'd like to think the B-spec Spyker will give them some sort of boost.

So, to sum up, I think it's going to be another close battle between Ferrari and McLaren although, if I had to choose, I'd probably edge more for the former than the latter, as Istanbul Park should play to the strengths of the F2007 more than the MP4-22.

Kimi Raikkonen for the victory? That's my tip.

Enjoy the grand prix...

MB

 

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