Ferrari mistakes let Hamilton in for win despite crash

2008 Monaco Grand Prix review

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Monaco, 2008, 470150

Wet conditions got the better of Ferrari at Monaco allowing Lewis Hamilton to claim victory at the principality despite hitting the barrier in the early running.

Kimi Raikkonen went backwards and ended up crashing into Adrian Sutil and Felipe Massa was out-raced by Robert Kubica on a drying track at Monte-Carlo.

Wet track at the start

Jenson Button, Nick Heidfeld, 2008, Monte-Carlo, 470313

Rain had threatened all weekend long but stayed away from qualifying. An all-Ferrari front row is not often considered a surprised in Formula 1 but at Monaco, where the team hasn’t won since 2001, it was.

Felipe Massa has never pretended to like Monaco – and when he took pole position the general expectation was that he was running a light fuel strategy. But that assumption was never really tested because of the rain that fell on the Monte-Carlo circuit 20 minutes before the race started.

More drama before the start: Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren stalled due to a software problem, and the Finnish driver was pushed into the pits to start. But despite the treacherous surface the field kept good order through the first corner, with Lewis Hamilton beating Kimi Raikkonen away from the lights to steal second.

But before the first lap had finished the bumping had begun. Nico Rosberg tapped the rear of Fernando Alonso’s Renault at the hairpin damaging his front wing. The Jenson Button, who had made an excellent start, tried a hasty move on Nick Heidfeld and clouted the BMW, requiring a pit stop of his own.

That left Massa in the lead, drawing away from Hamilton and Raikkonen, followed by Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso, both of which looked quick. Jarno Trulli in sixth began to fall back, holding up his team mate Timo Glock, then Heidfeld, Mark Webber, Kazuki Nakajima, David Coulthard, Rubens Barrichello and Adrian Sutil.

Yes, Adrian Sutil. The Force India driver had prospered at the start and was already up to 13th. That became 12th when Glock lost his front wing on lap three. Sutil would gain several more places by not making that kind of mistake.

Hamilton hits the wall

Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Robert Kubica, Monte-Carlo, 2008, 470150

The slow speed of the ‘Trulli train’ had an important bearing on the race when Hamilton hit the barrier at Tabac on lap six. It wasn’t a huge hit, but it was enough to deflate his right-rear tyre. The McLaren limped back to the pits where he took on a belt of fuel and his pit crew resisted the temptation to switch him onto extreme wet tyres.

It looked like a mistake at the time because the rain was still falling and the track was getting ever wetter. But within a few laps the rain had ceased and would not return. Thanks to the ‘Trulli train’, Hamilton came back out of the pits in fifth place, With Raikkonen now second ahead of Kubica and Alonso.

A trio of crashes at Massenet on lap eight brough the safety car out. Alonso was the first to run wide and hit the barrier, but just like Hamilton the damage was restricted to a tyre that was quickly replaced. Alonso had been on the standard wet tyres but on the formation lap had pressed his team to switch him onto the deeper extreme wets, which they did not do.

Moments later David Coulthard and Sebastien Bourdais also crashed at Massenet, bourdais hitting the crashed car of Coulthard having already lost control.

Massa loses the lead

Robert Kubica, Felipe Massa, Monte-Carlo, 2008, 470313

The safety car period eliminated what had been an impressive 11.5s lead for Massa. It was at this point that Ferrari’s race began to unravel. First of all Raikkonen was served with a penalty as his mechanics had not cleared the grid quickly enough before the start of the race. He served the penalty on lap 13.

The recovering Alonso slotted past Webber and began attacking Heidfeld. But a poorly-timed move at the hairpin on lap 14 cost Alonso his front wing and damaged Heidfeld’s car as well. Webber passed the pair of them and Alonso, along with Nico Rosberg, headed for the pits. Heidfeld followed a few laps later after being passed by Sutil. The Force India driver was now sixth, although it later transpired he had passed Barrichello, Nakajima and Nelson Piquet Jnr under yellow flags, but escaped a penalty.

Heavy with fuel, Hamilton started to lose touch with Massa and Kubica. Kubica was putting Massa under pressure and Massa responded with some faster laps – and then went straight on at Ste Devote. In a replay of Michael Schumacher’s mistake at the same corner in the last wet Monaco Grand Prix in 1997 he was able to continue without hitting anything, but he was powerless to stop the BMW driver taking over the lead.

At this point the race settled briefly, with Kubica a couple of second ahead of Massa, Hamilton seven seconds back and falling further behind, and Raikkonen a further second back and losing touch with Hamilton.

On lap 26 Kubica made his first pit stop, his lead over third placed Hamilton having grown to 18.5s. The Polish driver came out of the pits just as Raikkonen was about to go past, but the Ferrari went wide at Ste Devote allowing Kubica to keep third. That damaged Raikkonen’s front wing, forcing him to pit.

Massa stayed out six laps longer than Kubica and moved ahead of him, but his pit stop promoted Hamilton into the lead. Now the track was drying rapidly and the fastest lap time began to fall.

Hamilton pulls ahead as track dries

Hamilton was able to extend his lead by entire seconds at a time, extending his advantage from 13.2s on lap 34 to 23s by lap 42. Kubica meanwhile was falling back from Massa and was now six seconds adrift. Behind him were Webber, Sutil, Raikkonen, Barrichello and Nakajima.

By lap 50 the track had moved into the zone where teams were starting to consider switching to dry-weather tyres. As the remaining moisture began to dry Massa suddenly began to lose pace and the gap between him and Hamilton grew to 33 seconds, and Kubica was right on his tail.

One of the first drivers onto dry tyres was Mark Webber, although the Red Bull driver struggled to get up to speed at first. Alonso then switched to dry tyres, as did team mate Piquet, but the Brazilian crashed out at Ste Devote not long afterwards.

Alonso, however, fared far better on the dry tyres and when he set the fastest middle sector of the race it signalled to the rest of the field that the track was ready for grooved rubber. Nonetheless McLaren took the precaution of bringing the out-of-position Kovalainen in for dry rubber first on lap 49 before Hamilton followed five laps later.

Massa delayed his switch to dry tyres until lap 56, three later than Kubica, which proved to be a mistake. The BMW driver was quickly up to speed and when Massa came out of the pits Kubica was already through into second.

Rosberg crashes hard

Adrian Sutil, Kimi Raikkonen, Mark Webber, Monte-Carlo, 2008, 470150

But with Hamilton 40 seconds ahead it looked as though there would be no battle for the lead – until Rosberg crashed heavily on lap 62, causing the second safety car period of the day. The Williams driver ran wide on the entry to the Swimming Pool complex, clipped a kerb and hit two barriers before coming to a rest. Shattered parts of his FW30 were spread across the track.

The lapped cars took a long time to disentangle themselves from the safety car queue and when the race got going again Hamilton led Kubica and Massa, with Sutil a remarkable fourth having changed to dry-weather tyres and stayed ahead of Raikkonen. Webber’s delay had dropped him to sixth ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Barrichello.

But Sutil’s strong run came to a cruel end after the restart on lap 67. Raikkonen wasn’t even looking to make a move on him at the harbour chicane when the Ferrari slewed out of control and Raikkonen hit Sutil’s car square up the back.

Both drivers headed for the pits but only one came out – and it wasn’t Sutil, whose car had sustained too much damage. Raikkonen took a new front wing and kept going, but he fell to ninth and out of the points for the first time this year.

Hamilton wins in Monaco

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2008, 2, 470313

That was the final act in a dramatic and chaotic race. Hamilton took the chequer and on his slowing down lap discovered he had a puncture – most likely caused by Rosberg’s crash, although exactly when he picked it up is not clear.

Kubica and Massa filled the podium with Webber inheriting fourth from Vettel, Barrichello, Nakajima and the recovering Kovalainen.

Outside the points were a few drivers who must have rued hasty moves at the start of the race: Alonso, tenth behind Raikkonen, Button in 11th, and 12th-placed Glock who reversed into the barrier at Mirabeau on lap 39. He still finished ahead of team mate Trulli and last of the classified finishers Nick Heidfeld.

Giancarlo Fisichella in his 200th Grand Prix suffered the only mechanical failure of the race, retiring on lap 26 with suspected gearbox problems.

Hamilton’s win puts him back on top of the drivers’ championship with Massa and Raikkonen in close attendance. In two weeks’ time he returns to the scene of his maiden Grand Prix victory, Montreal, looking to extend his advantage.

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34 comments on Ferrari mistakes let Hamilton in for win despite crash

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  1. Martin B said on 25th May 2008, 19:56

    Hamilton is starting to look like Schumacher. Keeping a cool head, always pushing, recovering quickly from adversity, adapting to changing circumstances. If he inherits the Schumacher luck as well, look out.

    Kimi, on the other hand, thanks to the tireless efforts of his pit crew, was probably fuming at his drive-through penalty, and it affected his race.

    Incidentally, did the stewards notice his grid infraction, or was it a complaint from another team that alerted them? If he had served the penalty earlier before the field was bunched by the safety car it would have had less impact.

    Nice summary of a very incident-packed race.

    • Senor Paz said on 19th May 2009, 3:29

      “If he inherits the Schumacher luck as well, look out.”

      If? That was the luckiest win I’ve seen in years!

  2. Good race – kept away from radio/tv and enjoyed the recorded race as much – best monaco race for years – good summay as well

  3. Good and accurate summary, weel done.

    It looks like the whether men in Ferrari and Renault deserve to be fired. On the contrary McL and BMW were right. In the end, ironicaly, Alonso showed the way on the dry tyres to McL and BMW, as we could hear in the R. Kubica´s radio control.

    Fantastic race. Everyone did bet on different strategies but only McL and BMW got it right.

  4. NDINYO said on 25th May 2008, 21:06

    I guess in a race such as today’s race at Monaco, only the mistakes of your adversary and luck can help you and turns out today was McLaren day.

  5. Great analysis. I wish you wrote for an Spanish newspaper.
    I would like to add that Sutil has been warned for overtaking under yellow flag. It’s going to be a race that certainly he won’t forget…

  6. Great report! By the way what was Raikkonen’s drive-through for? I was out of the room at that point and totally missed the reason.

  7. What Ferrari did today with whether recalls me something like Williams in 1997, when they were waiting for dry race but it actually rained all the race long.

    Anyway, autosport.com reports Hamilton had a puncture in his very last lap (slow down lap) probably due to debris from Rosberg’s car at Piscines.

  8. Oliver said on 25th May 2008, 22:31

    What a race!!! An absolute nightmare to predict. I know Kimi will have his party anyway, but he was dreadful. They say Massa isn’t very good in wet conditions but he was miles ahead of Kimi today in terms of performance. Poor Sutil. Its wrong to say Kimi wasn’t trying to overtake, I believe he was trying very hard to close the gap as he believed he had better brakes than the ForceIndia car. As soon as I saw Piquet on dry tyres, I said “oh no everyone pit he will bring out the safety car”, unfortunately I was wrong he didn’t bring out the safety car, shame.
    Alonso rediscovered his Canada07 form today or was it Piquet driving his car?

    Best moment of the race:- Sutil, fatest lap!!!!? = OMG

    By the way, the live blog for this race was an absolute classic, I’m going to save it.

  9. Rabi said on 25th May 2008, 23:26

    Supreme drive from Hamilton he drove fantastic after the early error. Although for me a lot of the shine was taken off his win from that stupid twat James Allen likening him to Senna after every bloody lap! I’d love to drive Allen’s head into a brick wall.

    Having said that easily the best driver of the day was Sutil, and with Kimi stealing away something so precious from him I won’t be suprised if Kimi gets some sort of backlash sometime during the season! Maybe Ferrari should pay for the damages to prevent Sutil doing something haha.

    And that was a super, super race with both Trulli and Massa throwing spanners into everyone else’s works by being so slow around the track.

  10. Daniel said on 25th May 2008, 23:34

    Great report. I was travelling (during the race, I was trekking) and I couldn’t watch, but by reading your review I could perfectly feel how the Grand Prix was!

    I’m glad to see that, despite the mistake, Massa is getting better and better when it rains, especially for his early 11.5 secs lead!

    Felipe is fully back in the title fight, Heikki’s bad luck means Lewis will be the unquestioned nº 1 driver in McLaren, but I believe Ferrari still has the edge!

  11. William Wilgus said on 25th May 2008, 23:43

    Nice report, but your headline says it all. Too bad Massa `can’t drive in the wet’. ;^)~

  12. Nick said on 26th May 2008, 0:21

    yep, Massa couldn’t get it done…nice block on Kimi at the start as well, 2nd time now.

    Great race by Kubica, unfortunately couldn’t get past Hammy. Nick, disastrous, did they design the car this year for Kub or what?

  13. the limit said on 26th May 2008, 1:20

    One of the key moments for me in the race was the safety car incident that brought Hamilton back into the race following his brush with the wall.
    That piece of luck really was overdue, and good for the championship. In every way this was the perfect race for Hamilton, with Raikkonen finishing out of the points, and in some ways, to banish the memories of last year’s race inwhich ‘he’ felt harddoneby.
    In every race I am beginning to like Felipe Massa more and more. At the beginning of the year, if you believe the press, he was in Nelson Piquet JNR’s shoes, with his job on the line.
    How crass does that look now? When you look at Raikkonen’s other team mates in the last seven years, how many have performed to the standard at which Massa is now?
    I also enjoyed watching Alonso, whose tangle with Nick Heidfeld was one of my race highlights. I really liked some of the onboards of Fernando manhandling the car through the swimming pool section, especially his ‘moment’ after just changing to dry tyres.
    By the way Keith. Have you any information regarding the rumour that Alonso may have signed a 2010 contract to drive for Ferrari, at Raikkonen’s expense? I know these rumours of Raikkonen possibly retiring are not new, but I am curious as to what you know on the subject?

  14. Great race, especially notable for a couple of brain fades from arguably the two best drivers out there – Alonso & Kimi. Perhaps they swapped helmets with Massa and Piquet Jnr? ;)

    But there were some great drives – Lewis of course, but Kubica, Webber and Sutil all did a fantastic race as well.

    Looking forward to Montreal !

  15. Nick said on 26th May 2008, 2:40

    last years race, as in when Alonso turned down the engine while Lewis kept on it thinking he could pass the double world champ?

    unless Kimi retires, I doubt Alonso would replace him…more like Massa is kicked out of the team.

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