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

  1. Nick said on 22nd June 2008, 23:19

    Also, I don’t remember Felipe getting any bad luck, none more than Kimi. Most of Felipe’s problems come from his mistakes.

  2. verasaki said on 22nd June 2008, 23:29

    i think massa and kimi both did a great job and it will be interesting to see if massa can hang on to his current focus, but good man, jarno! i’m amazed no one has started the trulli to nascar rumour yet.

  3. Terry Fabulous said on 23rd June 2008, 2:33

    Felipe is doing what he needs to do.

    1. Taking wins when he is the fastest, (Turkey, Bahrain)
    2. Minimising the damage on tracks he dislikes and when luck is against him (Monaco, Canada) and
    3. Accumulating as many points as he can when Kimi is on it. (France, Spain).

    Kimi has fastest laps in the last 5 races but he just doesn’t appear to be as ‘on it’ as Felipe has.

    The championship is Kimi’s to lose, just as last years was Lewis’s.

  4. I’m surprised Kubica and Alonso didn’t get on the podium but it’s about time Toyota got something.

    I think Raikkonen should have been ordered to pit and remove the loose exhaust piece. Yes, such a ruling would have ruined his race, and when it broke finally, it was inconsequential, but had another car broken on it or had a thousand degree piece of metal landed in a spectator’s lap we’d be telling a different story right now.

  5. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr said on 23rd June 2008, 9:16

    i think the penalty on hamilton was abit harsh, what i was mnore dissapointed with was the fact that in the early laps, despite having a relativley light fuel load, he was unable to get past his team mate who was heavy, but then piquet who was also havy.

    i dont know how many times iv heard james allen recount the story of istanbul in gp2 and hamilton finishing 2nd from last place but in f1 hes yet to really do anything when the chips are down.

    im not a hamilton basher by the way, im a huge fan, im just noticing that every time he is put under pressure he dioes seem to make mistakes.

    Ferrari were untouchable this weekend, so you can pretty much guarantee the same result at silverstone.

    Although hamilton on home soil may want to make an impression (and he needs to ) swo maybe he will go light and get pole and hope he can maybe split the ferrari’s.

  6. Mani said on 23rd June 2008, 10:08

    Terry, Yes Felipe is doing what he has to, He is a good driver indeed. But what you’ve written – ‘The championship is Kimi’s to lose, just as last years was Lewis’s’ – is totally unacceptable and unfair. What made you to draw such a worthless conclusion when the championship is still open?

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd June 2008, 10:13

    Mani – take it easy, it might have just been a typo.

  8. Antifia said on 23rd June 2008, 10:35

    Massa is probably to most underated driver in the grid these days. He is the lucky one while kimi is all talent and grit. Right. Just to refresh some peoples memory, Felipe’s engine blew up in Australia, when he was ahead of kimi (who had just messed up trying to overtake Kovi. He would mess it up again trying to overtake Glok). Then, in Monaco, Felipe’s radio went off which prevented him to have his pitstop at the right time to keep Kubica at bay. Finnaly, in Canada, the team screws up and he has to make an extra stop for fuel, right after the safety car has left, which put him dead last (17 secs behind the end of the pack) – and he still overtook half of the field to arrive 5th.
    He has been lucky this time – finally.

  9. Spodo said on 23rd June 2008, 11:05

    Should Kimi have been black flagged? He was driving around with a hot and dangerous part flailing about, which was always going to come off… I’m sure there’s something in the rules about this.

  10. George said on 23rd June 2008, 11:55

    The driver of the day, for me, was indisputably Jarno Trulli – who has surely now laid to rest the notion that he can’t race as well as the rest of them. On his day, Jarno is as good as they come, and yesterday was proof of that. He pushed like hell in the final stint, and his defence of third against Kovalainen was beautifully judged. It’s hard to be surprised however – Montreal apart, he has driven a superb season, and has been one of the few drivers (along with Kubica and perhaps Webber) to genuinely wring the maximum result out of his machine at each GP. Toyota would do well to hang onto him for another few seasons yet – if they could finally deliver him the car, I am sure that Jarno would open the door to the success he richly deserves.

  11. George said on 23rd June 2008, 12:01

    I can see where sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr is coming from – seen from the sidelines Lewis’ result yesterday doesn’t look great. I think when the odds are against him he drives beyond the limit – and when you put the car in that situation you are either going to get away with it, or not, and there will be no in between. Schumacher had a similar mentality, as did Senna. However, I was watching the lap-times closely throughout and what killed the race stone dead for Lewis was the drive-through. Bear in mind that he was ahead of Kovalainen when he took the penalty and that Kovalainen almost nicked third away from Trulli at the end. Without the penalty, a good solid points finish was a virtual certainty and the bottom step of the podium was a possibility. We can debate the rights and wrongs of the penalty all day – I have to say that I thought it was marginal. I also find it frustrating that the stewards didn’t (as they have done in the past in similar situations) insist immediately that Hamilton gave the place back, rather than deliberating for 17 laps – by which time the only thing that they could do was to inflict a penalty that more or less ended his race there and then. We say that we want racing, and that we want drivers to take chances and make passes – Hamilton makes an incredibly brave and skilful one, and we penalise him for it. Ho hum.

  12. Jean said on 23rd June 2008, 13:12

    Go Felipe’ ! At some tracks , he is slightly slower than Kimi , but at some faster. Consistent too , looking more and more like a future world champion. Lewis’ penalty , very fair in my mind. He just braked too late , passed as a result , but then couldn’t make the chicane. But all credit to him for always trying , when you are in that position you have to try even harder , somtimes it pays off (his move on Massa at Monza last year) , but in this case not. Great drive by JT , hard and fair , a very well deserved podium. I wonder with Kimi , if he was not hitting the curbs too hard which caused the exhaust failure ? There are some nasty ones at Magny-Cours , which can send the car almost 1/2 metre up ? Maybe not , but it’s the first failure of that kind they’ve had this year .

  13. Mani said on 23rd June 2008, 13:30

    Keith/Terry, I apologize for what I’ve written (comment 21). A little harsh, but that was what I felt at that moment. :) I read your posts regularly, but I hardly participate in the discussions. Partisan statements annoy me too much, and that is why!

  14. Daniel said on 24th June 2008, 0:41

    Nick: apart from his mistakes in the first two races (and don’t forget that in Melbourne his engine blew up, otherwise he would have scored a few points), Felipe has been almost perfect this season, except for that spin in Monaco, where all drivers but Kubica, including the eventual race winner, made worst mistakes.

    Well, I’ll only agree with you that Massa wasn’t unlucky if you account Ferrari’s pit stop mistakes in Monte Carlo and Montreal as HIS mistakes…

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