While Ferrari and Bridgestone head back to the drawing board after the Spanish Grand Prix, McLaren-Mercedes will feel confident that it can reel in Renault before the end of the season. It is just a pity that Kimi Räikkönen seems to be Woking’s only hope . . ..

By Mike Fourie, News Ed.

The Spanish Grand Prix undoubtedly brought smiles to the faces of hardcore Formula One fans. Whether you like the team or not, F1 is more interesting when McLaren is on form. Ron Dennis is a master at spin (and he has put his foot in his mouth on numerous occasions), but the Woking team knows how to win F1 titles.

When McLaren-Mercedes gets to the front (and heck, it has been a while since we’ve been able to say that!), all teams have to work a little bit harder for victory. It’s been that way for decades! Toyota and Williams-BMW are improving steadily, but neither team has come close to winning a grand prix this year, although the Japanese manufacturer has performed superbly to remain second in the constructors’ championship. If any team can beat Renault to the title this year, it’s McLaren.

Kimi Räikkönen has not yet achieved the success of his countryman Mika Häkkinen due to a combination of inexperience, Ferrari’s awesome superiority since 1999 and, at times, McLaren’s poor reliability. Following Räikkönen’s performance at Catalunya, it is clear that the Woking-based team now has an edge on Renault, but will the Finn be forced to beat the Régie all on his own?

After driving one of the best races of his life, Räikkönen reduced his deficit to Fernando Alonso by a meagre two points on Sunday. The Spaniard can now play it safe, continue to score podium positions, gain a couple of points over Räikkönen and Jarno Trulli here and there, and the title will be his! If Räikkönen wants to overhaul Alonso as quickly as possible, he will need support from his team-mate, the underachieving Juan-Pablo Montoya.

What happened to the guy who had no qualms about bashing wheels with Michael Schumacher back in 2003? Montoya, who injured his shoulder under dubious circumstances (some say on the tennis court, others a motorcycle accident), missed the two grands prix leading up to Sunday. Apart from a lack of race fitness, he was disadvantaged by having to do the first qualifying lap on Saturday.

Nevertheless, Montoya will have to get his act together quite quickly. He had a big spin and other incidents during the Spanish Grand Prix. It was a pity that there were refuelling problems with his car on Sunday, but the Colombian must be careful that McLaren doesn’t start to treat him like its unofficial second driver.

Come on, Juan-Pablo. For the sake of the championship (and armchair critics’ sheer enjoyment) Kimi needs you to live up to your nickname of “Monster”, take the fight to the Renault boys, and join him on the podium once in a while. Besides, in an ideal world, Kimi should battle his team-mate as often as he does Alonso, Trulli, Ralf and Michael Schumacher, Mark Webber and the rest.

On the topic of Ferrari, it is clear that the Scuderia does not have much to fight for this season, except perhaps a little pride. Schumacher memorably came back from nowhere to win the 2003 world title, but despite is exhaustive test sessions, Ferrari seems to have gone backwards since Imola. Don’t be surprised if Ferrari comes back with a vengeance before too long, but unless Alonso and Renault suddenly capitulate, the Scuderia’s title hopes are slim.

Original article from Car