Massa loses Hungary win to Kovalainen

2008 Hungarian Grand Prix review

Heikki Kovalainen\'s 28th F1 start was his first Grand Prix win

Heikki Kovalainen's 28th F1 start was his first Grand Prix win

Felipe Massa was three laps away from victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix – and the lead of the world championship – when a shock engine failure ended an excellent drive.

Massa had muscled his way past Lewis Hamilton at the start and had been poised to take seven points off the McLaren driver who had fallen to sixth after a puncture.

But Hamilton kept his championship lead while team mate Heikki Kovalainen seized the opportunity to score his maiden win.

Massa’s magnificent start

McLaren had the front row to themselves but it was a Ferrari that reached the first corner first – Massa’s. He out-dragged Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton before passing Hamilton around the outside of the first corner – some payback for their brief encounter at Hockenheim.

Race day had brought hotter temperatures and the Ferraris seemed to cope with them much better than the McLarens did. Massa eked out an advantage over Hamilton, tenth by tenth, until his lead reached three seconds by lap 17.

But the other Ferrari was stuck. Starting sixth on the dirty side of the grid, Kimi Raikkonen could do nothing to keep Fernando Alonso from passing him at the start. He spent the first stint staring at the rear of the Renault, usually about one second behind, while Alonso dropped back from Timo Glock and Robert Kubica in fourth and fifth.

Felipe Massa: great start, awful finish

Hamilton hits trouble

Alonso lost so much time that when Massa made his first stop on lap 18 he came out of the pits ahead of the Renault drier, with Raikkonen still tucked up behind him. Hamilton went one lap further before pitting, but re-joined the race behind Raikkonen.

Fortunatley for him Alonso and Raikkonen pitted together on lap 21, heaving him around three seconds behind Massa, just as he had been before the pit stops. And McLaren reckoned he had a few extra laps’ worth of fuel to give him a chance of passing Massa at the final round of pit stops.

That was the theory, but they didn’t get the chance to put it into practice. On lap 41 Hamilton’s front left tyre deflated at the very first turn, forcing him to do an entire lap on a punctured tyre, and then do a 29-lap stint on the super-soft tyres they were trying to use as little as possible. He fell to tenth.

Afterwards McLaren said the failure had been caused by debris and Bridgestone took the tyre away for further analysis. (At the time of writing they have not stated conclusively what the problem was but did say: “a puncture from a sidewall cut looks to be the probable cause.”)

Ferrari reacted by pitting Massa as soon as he could take enough fuel to reach the end of the race, to protect him in the event of the safety car appearing. Kovalainen had been over 15 seconds behind, and thus no longer a threat.

Lewis Hamilton’s puncture “probably” caused by debris, say Bridgestone

Alonso holds off Raikkonen

Raikkonen days went from bad to worse as he failed to get past Alonso at the first round of pit stops. The drivers came in together and Alonso revved his engine impatiently as the Renault team finished refuelling him.

He rejoined the pit lane with Raikkonen right behind him and condemned to another stint stuck behind the Renault.

The pair did gain a position at the expense of Robert Kubica, who suffered a slow pit stop. Sebastien Bourdais and Rubens Barrichello ran into more serious problems, however, as both suffered brief fires during their pit stops – Bourdais twice.

Refuelling rig fires and failures hit race

Massa’s disaster

It was for the most part a typically processional Hungarian Grand Prix with no-one able to get close enough to anyone else to make a pass. Once the first lap was done with their was very little overtaking at all, besides Jenson Button picking off his Honda team mate Barrichello on the second lap.

Raikkonen finally got past Alonso at the second set of pit stops by running one lap longer (despite a lurid slide at turn two on lap 49) and then quickly cut the gap to Timo Glock. With seven laps to go he was on the back of the Toyota but it was clear to see how hard it is for one F1 car to follow another. Having been over a second per lap quicker than Glock, Raikkonen couldn’t get close enough to make a move.

Then on lap 67 came a thunderbolt from a clear sky: with a sudden gush of smoke Massa’s Ferrari was coasting to a halt on the pit straight. The shock retirement handed the win to a surprised Kovalainen – his first victory.

Heikki Kovalainen lucks in to maiden win

Raikkonen settles for third

Althought Raikkonen, unlike Massa, was using a new engine for this race, he backed off from his pursuit of Glock and took third place.

Alonso was fourth having been pursued by Hamilton, with Nelson Piquet Jnr in sixth making it a double points haul for Renault. Jarno Trulli and Robert Kubica were the last two points scorers.

Mark Webber was the best Red Bull in ninth as the team failed to score for the third race in a row, David Coulthard 11th. Nick Heidfld finished tenth after starting 15th.

Jenson Button started where he finsihed with 12th after losing ground at the start of the race. A change of Kazuki Nakajima brought Kazuki Nakajima 13th ahead of team mate Rosberg, another driver who suffered fuel rig problems.

Giancarlo Fisichella was 15th ahead of Barrichello. Massa was classified 17th, three laps down, but ahead of Bourdais who was still running after two pit fires plus an extra stop to clear extinguisher foam from his visor.

Sebastian Vettel pulled into the garage early on after suffering car trouble following his pit stop, and Adrian Sutil retired eight laps from home.

F1 takes its annual three-week break now before the first race at a new venue – the European Grand Prix at the Circuito Urbano Valencia. For a sneak preview of the track, have a look at these links:

Onboard video lap of the Valencia street circuit
TV video footage of the Valencia street circuit

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24 comments on Massa loses Hungary win to Kovalainen

  1. jimbo said on 4th August 2008, 2:05

    I think Felipe is real good when he’s qualified right at the front and has clear air. I mean he can go v. fast and be consistent for a large number of laps. His bad luck today may get towards evening up some of the bad luck Kimi (who has had most of it) has had this season (being taken out at canada by Lewis when in the joint lead; the Silverstone tyre tactics mistake by the team when a mere 1 second behind Lewis…the.exhaust failure in France when in the lead…even today he had to back off from taking Glock for two more points because of another mechanical problem at the rear end…). Thing about Felipe is he doesn’t seem (?) to have the ability to do what Alonso, Lewis and Kimi can do from further down the field or eg in the wet…he seems less all round of a driver so far.

  2. the limit said on 4th August 2008, 2:18

    Today’s misfortune for Felipe Massa may prove a vital turning point in the season. Up until his Ferrari went boom, everything was going to plan for Massa.
    A certain race win, the lead in the championship, and yet more points taken from his illustrious team mate.
    Now, everything has been turned on its head for Massa.
    Hamilton retains the championship lead despite his problems, and Raikkonen now is the leading Ferrari driver in terms of points. If I was a racing driver, and had experienced a day as bad as that, I would be on suicide watch by now.
    Raikkonen summed up the day well in his interview. He had gotten lucky, had a reasonable race, but a bad qualifying performance. In other words, if Raikkonen gets back to his best on the Saturday, he’ll be right back at the sharp end.
    I can just imagine Raikkonen celebrating with Kovalainen, so, so gratefull for Heikki’s victory. If Massa had won today, the pressure would have been enormous on Raikkonen, within Ferrari and from outside Ferrari.
    I hate to say it, but Massa has been dealt a grevious blow today.

  3. teamorders said on 4th August 2008, 3:16

    Mansell’s “unexplained” failure was him bumping the kill switch on the steering wheel while he was waving to the fans. So I read once anyway…..

  4. Jean said on 4th August 2008, 7:06

    Yes , Hakkinen in Spain 2001 in the last lap is probably the worse one I remember. Still , as bad as it ended for Massa , he will no doubt be buoyed by the fact that after Hamilton won the last two races , seemed to have the best package this week-end , took the pole , Massa was able to pass him on a difficult track (albeit at the start) , and then very importantly open a gap even before Hamilton had the puncture. While I will keep fingers crossed for the next seven races , it’s looking like Ferrari will have a mountain to climb if they are to take the drivers championship this year. Even the constructors is starting to look like it may be slipping away. The basic package and the speed to match and sometimes beat McLaren is there , as we have just seen , but they are hurting through some reliability and Kimi struggling (by his standards) with qualifying . McLaren on the other hand , have no relibility problems , there only problem this year is tyre management.

  5. Jean said on 4th August 2008, 9:42

    and to add to Martin’s comment , asking if Heikki has “it” to be a champion , my feeling is at this stage no , he is too polite , even on the track . You can see this year , he has qualified well up in most races , but has lost positions from the start in as many. This is not saying he may not get there one day , but for now , no. And he seems OK with playing second fiddle to Hamilton , always the sign of a “nice guy” mentality , but not one who has the necessary ruthlessness it takes , together with many other attributes , to be a world champion. Massa , as we know , blows hot and cold in that area. If he can consistently pull off aggressive (but clean) moves like he did from the start yesterday , that will then put him in the league of the great drivers , and a world championship will soon follow.

  6. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th August 2008, 9:46

    By popular demand – two-part article on last-lap losers to follow today and tomorrow!

  7. michael counsell said on 4th August 2008, 12:52

    It was very good to see the Renaults and Toyotas fighting with the Ferraris, Mclarens and BMW-Saubers.

  8. GuyPV said on 4th August 2008, 23:00

    This will probably end up being contentious but here goes …

    Everyone inevitably talks about how unlucky it was for Masa to blow out in the last 3 laps, but why is this any worse than Hamilton having a puncture mid race? OK Masa did a great job at the start and continued to show good form, but Hungry eventually became the the race that never was. The fact that the two front runners, both Hamilton and then Masa, suffered significant failures denied us potentially a fantastic fight to the finish. The good news is that the gap between Ferrari and McLaren, which seemed to show McLaren in the ascendancy , seems to have been re-balanced. I for one can’t wait for the next three weeks to pass quickly and the race for the Championship to get underway again.

  9. Daniel said on 5th August 2008, 2:40

    GuyPV – the difference is that Hamiton at least scored four precious points by finishing 5th, while Massa didn’t score any…

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