Portimao - Portugal - 13 May, 2007 - Race in Portimao Rio Arade. Picture by Vittorio Ubertone/Idea Marketing.
In just one year new World Champion Sami Selio of the F1 Team Energy squad turned his reputation around from someone who was occasionally fast but unlucky, to a driver who could win under pressure capturing 3 wins in 8 starts to earn his first ever F1 title on the world wide U.I.M. F1 World Championship for power boating.
The native of Helsinki, Finland started the season with a 4th at the Grand Prix of Portugal followed by his first ever victory at the Grand Prix of France on a rough and windy day in La Rochelle in his 64th career start. A four month recess in the schedule saw him head off to China in October taking two straight 3rd place podium finishes before hitting a rough patch in the season. His 5th in Doha's first event followed by a qualifying crash with Italian Guido Cappellini almost derailed his season as he finished 7th in the race in his borrowed boat from teammate Stanislav Kourtsenovsky. Most pilots would have given up at this point but not Sami.
The driver who began racing in F1 in 1998 from F4 was known for his immediate speed and won 'Rookie of the Year' honors. During this season he took 3 top-5 finishes highlighted by a brilliant 4th place finish in Abu Dhabi after starting 21st off the dock.
Sami's early career success would literally disappear the following two years when he elected to help the ill fated OMC engine project that was run by the late ex-World Champion Cees van der Velden. Selio would finish just 4 races in 1999 and 2000 while failing to start in 6 with various engine problems that kept him on the shore. But that's past history, let's get to the present.
This season saw rejuvenation in the 31 year-old driver. Sami seemed to save his best for last winning from the pole in the final two events at Abu Dhabi and at Sharjah to take a brilliant come from behind series title when most would have thought he had no chance.
For nine-time World Champion Guido Cappellini of Como, Italy, 2007 became a replay of his 2006 nightmare. Once again he was leading in the title run going into the final event in Sharjah only having to place 6th or higher in the final race to take his much desired 10th title. Only once again the race gods were not looking favorably on Cappellini as for the 2nd straight year he failed to reach the finish dropping out and losing another title.
The Tamoil Team driver started the season well with a 2nd at Portugal but dropped out in France with steering failure after crashing with another boat and falling back in championship by 20 points. However, with the back to back success in the two Chinese Grand Prix's with a 2nd in Xi'an and a win in Shenzhen, he moved to the front of the championship table. The 48 year-old driver put more pressure on the field with another 2-1 series of finishes in Doha giving him a 15 point margin with two races to go in the Emirates. His season finally fell apart in Sharjah when he stopped on the race course in 6th place earning no points and finishing with 100 points on the season which was 4 less than World Champion Selio was able to muster after the 8 months of racing.
Cappellini shared time with three other drivers as teammates on the Tamoil squad in 2007. First came fellow Italian driver Marco Gambi racing the first two European rounds and returning late in the season with the Singha F1 Team finishing with a single point in four race starts. Another Italian driver with a lot of talent was last years 'Rookie of the Year' Ivan Brigada who was let go from Cappellini's team after crashing out in two of his four official starts with a season's best 4th at the Grand Prix of Shenzhen being his highlight for 2007. Ugis Gross of Latvia came over from the F2000 World Cup and raced twice in December in the Emirates with a 10th place finish in Abu Dhabi followed by a failure to finish in Sharjah.
Thani Al Qamzi of the Emirates Team finally showed the world that he was ready to step forward and be counted on as a real contender for future World Championships finishing 3rd in the championship with 79 points. The 29 year-old from Abu Dhabi had a brilliant mid-season campaign with two wins and two 2nd place finishes during the Chinese and Qatar campaigns. He came home to the Emirates with a lot of confidence and a possible serious run at the title. However, Thani would fall short of his goal with a big failure to finish while in 2nd at his home grand prix followed by a non inspiring 4th place finish in Sharjah and 3rd overall in the drivers championship at season's end.
Thani did his best helping lead his squad to the Team Championship as newcomer Ahmed Al Hamli earned 'Rookie of the Year' honors finishing the season in 10th place in the championship with 18 points with a fine 4th place in Doha's 2nd race as his highlight performance of the year.
The third driver on the team Majeed Al Mansoori started one race in Abu Dhabi and qualified 20th eventually dropping out and being classified 17th at races end as he is expected to race full time in 2008 on the Emirates squad.
The find of the season came from Swedish driver Pierre Lundin. He put in a 'back from the future' campaign returning to F1 for his first full season since 2003 and was the surprise of 2007 giving the Comparato Racing effort a 4th place finish in the standings with 51 points. His statistics were highlighted with two straight podiums and 4 top-5 finishes in eight starts. His strongest effort may have come at the very rough first race in Doha on the 24th of November when he started 10th and finished 3rd for his first career podium finish. Teammate Fabio Comparato from Italy had one of his worst recorded seasons with just 3 points earned in 7 starts. Four times he failed to finish a race for a driver who has 15 career podiums including a victory in Malaysia in 2004.
The Qatar Team started with high hopes with number 1 driver Jay Price leading the way with a podium in Portugal followed by a strong 4th place finish in France. However, three straight DNF's forced this team to regroup in mid-season. The native of New Orleans, Louisiana got his 2nd wind with three straight finishes including a fine 2nd at the last event in Sharjah after a 5th in Doha and a 7th in Abu Dhabi. He came home 5th in the championship at seasons end with 47 points despite a boat that was grossly overweight and didn't handle at its best when the new crash boxes were installed on the outside of the cockpit at the start of the season.
Rookie teammate Leo Bonelli of Italy had back to back top 10 performances at the first two events including a fine 7th in France. He then had a series of medical problems including a back injury that would eventually end his season on a sour note finishing 17th in the championship with 7 points. Overall, this team has a lot of talented individuals associated with it with Pelle Larsson as Team Manager and Brenden Power as engine developer and with new boats on the horizon this team should be in a real position to make a title run in 2008.
The key story of the year came in the 3rd race of the season in China at the Grand Prix of Xi'an when defending World Champion Scott Gillman of the Emirates Team, who was leading in the championship looking for his 5th title, started feeling sick in the middle of the race and had to pull out prematurely. After extensive testing it was determined that the smart thing for this 48 year-old driver from Los Angeles, California was to retire from the sport as a driver. He finished the year 6th in the driver's championship with 35 points despite an abbreviated season.
Scott ends his career with 23 victories in 89 starts. This is the second highest winning percentage of any driver in the history of the sport with a 25.8% chance of victory for each race start. Scott holds the all-time mark of 55 podiums in his 60 official race finishes for an amazing 91.6%. This incredible record of reaching the podium may never be beaten. Only Cappellini is even som