Problem for Raikkonen hands win to Massa

2008 French Grand Prix review

French Grand Prix 2008, Magny-Cours, start, 470150

Felipe Massa took over the lead of the drivers’ championship with a fortunate win at Magny-Cours at the expense of team mate Kimi Raikkonen.

At the track where Raikkonen out-fumbled Massa via the pit stops in 2007, this year Massa capitalised on a broken exhaust on Raikkonen’s car to win.

Apart from Raikkonen’s troubles it was an easy one-two for Ferrari on a weekend where their major rivals self-destructed.

Ferraris in formation as Hamilton fumbles

The talk all weekend long had been about what the weather would do – in the end rain did fall in the morning, but it dried up as the F1 cars took to the track.

The Ferraris romped off into an instant lead as Fernando Alonso blew his start from third on the grid in a very lightly fuelled Renault, falling behind Jarno Trulli and Robert Kubica. He was instantly on the attack however and re-passed Kubica on the exit of the Adelaide hairpin.

From 13th on the grid Lewis Hamilton’s race was destroyed within a couple of corners. Trying to pass Sebastian Vettel at the Nurburgring chicane he ran off the track but chose not to yield the place back to the Toro Rosso driver. Within a few laps he was issued with a drive-through penalty for gaining an illegal advantage.

This split opinion down the middle on the Live Blog but to my eyes it looked inevitable that Hamilton would get a penalty. Ron Dennis’s claim after the race that he’d been forced off-track was plainly inaccurate – Hamilton had just gone in too fast, as he had twice at the same corner during qualifying.

Raikkonen led the opening laps from Massa and Trulli, with Alonso looking every which way to pass his former team mate. Kubica held a watching brief in fifth with Timo Glock up to sixth after a great start.

Then came Mark Webber, Nelson Piquet Jnr and Lewis Hamilton, who first nudged then passed team mate Heikki Kovalainen on lap five. David Coulthard fell four places to 11th at the start, but moved back up to tenth when Hamilton took his penalty on lap 14.

Alonso falls back

One lap later Alonso entered the pits having started with four laps’ less fuel than anyone in the top ten. He came out of the pits shortly in front of Hamilton, and on lap 20 Hamilton flashed past as Alonso ran wide at Estoril. But it was only temporary – Hamilton himself was back in the pits for his stop at the end of the first lap.

Now the pit stops began in earnest, with race leader Raikkonen in on lap 21. Massa ran two laps longer – impressive given that he’d all-but matched Raikkonen’s time in qualifying – but was delayed by the lapped Hamilton, allowing Raikkonen to retain in the lead after Massa’s stop.

Trulli and Kubica both ran to lap 20 and left the pits in the order they arrived, Kubica pushing Alonso one place down the order.

Piquet and Kovalainen were fuelled more heavily and came in on lap 26 from what had become third and fourth. Kovalainen took the place as Piquet hesitated at the pit lane exit was he seemed to fail to disengage his pit lane speed limiter.

After his pit stop Kovalainen now ran seventh behind Alonso and Webber. Webber had passed Alonso via the pit stops but a spin on his first lap out of the pits handed the place back to the Renault driver.

Further back the two drivers who had ten-place grid penalties crossed paths, Hamilton taking 16th off Nico Rosberg on lap 28. Rosberg did a mammoth 40-lap first stint entirely on the soft tyres, but it scarcely helped him rise up through the order.

Advantage Massa

Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Magny-Cours, 2008, 470313

On lap 36 Raikkonen’s sector times began to fall off by a couple of tenths. This was the first signs of a problem with his car and it soon became clear a portion of the exhaust had worked free and was flailing around the back of the F2008.

Massa was able to take around a second per lap off him and drove past the Finn with little difficulty on lap 39. For a few laps Raikkonen circulated worryingly over a second per lap off the pace. But after the piece of loose exhaust worked free of its own accord (fortunately befre race control summoned him into the pits to have it removed) he began lapping more quickly and stabilised the gap to the chasing Trulli.

Alonso pitted on lap 43 for a long final stint but the strategy clearly wasn’t paying off for him. Once the next flurry of pit stops was over he was still down in seventh. Kovalainen used the final stops to jump ahead of Kubica and now began to draw in on Trulli.

After the second round of pit stops the rain finally came. It was a brief shower, but it at least spiced up the racing for a few laps. Trulli in particularly seemed to struggle and had Kovalainen and Kubica within 0.7s of him at the height of the shower. It never got bad enough to force anyone to pit for wet weather tyres, however.

Kovalainen had one final attempt to pass Trulli on the entry to Imola, but had to cut across the corner after Trulli squeezed him almost unacceptably close.

Win gives Massa championship lead

While that was going on Massa was rounding the final corners to take a fortunate win that puts him on top of the drivers’ championship: the first time for a Brazilian since Ayrton Senna in 1993. Raikkonen did well to bring his ailing Ferrari home second.

Third was a strong result for Toyota on a weekend when the team ran with black bands on their cars, acknowledging the death of former team boss Ove Andersson.

Kovalainen led Kubica home with Webber sixth. Nelson Piquet Jnr capitalised on a late mistake by Alonso to pinch eighth off his team mate, bringing back memories of Trulli in his Renault days losing third place to Rubens Barrichello at the end of the 2004 race.

Coulthard was ninth ahead of Hamilton on a second miserable weekend for the McLaren driver in a row. Next came the three German drivers: Glock falling out of the points but Vettel beating an utterly unimpressive Nick Heidfeld who struggled all weekend.

Rubens Barrichello, Kazuki Nakajima, Rosberg, Sebastien Bourdais, Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil were the final finishers. Only Jenson Button failed to make the flag, dropping out on lap 18 having lost his front wing.

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39 comments on Problem for Raikkonen hands win to Massa

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  1. Lady Snowcat said on 22nd June 2008, 16:43

    Don’t forget Kimi was on a much faster lap which he aborted as he had pole… so fuel correction on Felipe’s last qualy lap was not a true reflection…

    And Kimi was 6.9 seconds in front before the problem so without the faulty exhaust he had Massa “on toast” much like Canada…

    So the luck has fallen all Felipe’s way this year so far…

    Bring on Silverstone…

    And what was Alonso on?….

    Not what we expected at all….

  2. Daniel said on 22nd June 2008, 16:45

    Raikkonen was surely the driver of the day: his first stint dominance over Massa wasn’t only due to different fuel loads, and the finn once again scored the fastest lap. Unfortunately for him, fastest laps aren’t really important for race wins, it’s only necessary to be faster than your direct opponent in crucial moments, like pit stops in and out laps, regardless of how close it is from the fastest lap time.

    Fortunately for Felipe, Kimi had a problem that handed him an otherwise impossible win, in a race where he only did enough to deserve it, by not making mistakes and keeping a respectable, if slower than Raikkonen’s, pace, but still the finn was the best on track, bringing a damaged car home in second…

  3. Daniel said on 22nd June 2008, 16:47

    Still, luck is part of the game, and it played a decisive role in Kimi’s 2007 title, just as Felipe had many bad luck moments throughtout his Ferrari carreer…

  4. Felippe has been plagued by bad luck in the past, now it has changed. He drove a good race, but the makings of a good driver is to be able to admit when you are beat and luck is on your side! Fair play to him….LH on the other hand, as I commented previously, he cant cope with pressure and he puts the pressure on himself….great example today ITV showed him saying that ‘anyone can win from the front, but only a legend can do it from the back’….maybe he should concentrate on knowing the length of his own car…and stop nudgin ppl outta his way.

  5. ya Kimi won due to sheer luck..
    and penality to hamilton was unfair..so Hamilton was unlucky this time

  6. M Smith said on 22nd June 2008, 17:36

    While others drivers are just getting on with the job in hand, Hamilton has the need to talk himself up – he’s just adding fuel to the fire. After that “legends can do it from the back” line, then messing up the race, he’s only going to get more negative press leading up to the British GP.

    Just get on with the job in hand, Lewis. Let your driving do the talking.

    On another note, supreme dominance by the Ferraris today, and Trulli really punched above his weight today, great drive by him, its good to see Toyota on the podium again.

  7. Dr H&S said on 22nd June 2008, 18:08

    looking at the ITV onboard video online, Hamilton was well past Vettel before he went off, so I think the penalty must be on the basis that going off meant he overtook and got advantage by just not braking.

  8. verasaki said on 22nd June 2008, 18:40

    we are just now getting the race in states (fox sports sucks) but, it looked to me like he had passed vettel- so far no replay-but to hold the position he could neither brake nor keep on line. i guess the penalty was correct. he really does need to keep his mouth shut though. when he screws up (and honestly, i don’t think this was a real screw-up. i thought he might have pulled it off)the stupid stuff he says just makes people want to jump all over him. i gotta admit, i am one of those who likes to laugh at him.

    senna would have finished on the podium. to paraphrase one of our politicians: you, mr hamilton are no senna.

  9. I am still impressed by the hole in the Raikkonen’s Ferrari. No surprise why mechanics have to wear those suits…

  10. Sri said on 22nd June 2008, 20:12

    Kudos to Trulli… Great drive by Kimi and a testament to the fact that he could make his machinery last. Where are all those who said he destroys the same??? Massa finished the job, when presented with an opportunity, so well done again. Lewis, am one who prefers to laugh at his antics(and am not the only one), and here ‘am once again. Penalty was fair, as one must relinquish any advantage gained(as the rule says) and Lewis didn’t. Piquet for once did his name some justice by bringing the car home in points.

    @Daniel

    Kimi’s luck was more others lack of ability to work together. His opponents worked against each other. He was also helped by silly mistakes of the championship leader just as well, but no more luck. Sheer grit, the determination to hang in there, till the flag it dropped. Any objections to that, anyone???

  11. Internet said on 22nd June 2008, 20:17

    @Sri:

    Oh please, the only reason Kimi was able to bring the car home and still come second was because the Ferrari was so dominant. Anyone could have done the same.

  12. Sri said on 22nd June 2008, 21:14

    @Internet

    Ferrari was good no doubt, but it was a second or so slower(Kimi’s race pace on most laps since the incident)… What Kimi did, was preserve the car. He raced more than 30 laps with a broken exhaust. I believe F1 cars can also turn off the cylinders, which is what could have been done, to minimise damage… However, that does not take anything away from his accomplishment.

  13. Internet said on 22nd June 2008, 21:58

    @Sri

    I don’t see what’s so special about what Kimi did. Kimi wasn’t preserving the car. His last stint wasn’t what you would call slow.

    http://www.fia.com/francegp/documents/FRA_08_Race_Lap_Analysis.pdf

    Praise Ferrari for making a solid car and not Kimi for his “accomplishment”.

  14. Lady Snowcat said on 22nd June 2008, 22:52

    If Kimi hadn’t been 6.9 seconds up on his team mate at the time the problem occured he’d have never finished 2nd but probably 6th…

    The Ferrari was great but Kimi was greater today…

    Also when the rain came for a brief moment he was fastest on track and 2 to 3 seconds a lap faster than Massa in a damaged car as he was mega on the greasy track…. I am just sorry that it didn’t last….

    Sorry Internet but Kimi was very special today…

  15. Nick said on 22nd June 2008, 23:17

    disappointing to see Massa win, hopefully Kimi gets the luck at Silverstone as he surely deserves.

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