Felipe Massa scores flawless win at Valencia (2008 European GP review)

Felipe Massa dominated the European Grand Prix at the new Valencia track

Felipe Massa dominated the European Grand Prix at the new Valencia track

Felipe Massa is a hard man to beat from pole position and so it proved once again in the European Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton never managed to get on terms with the Ferrari driver but second place means he retains the lead in the drivers’ championship.

But Massa is being investigated by the FIA stewards for an incident where he left the pits and almost hit Force India’s Adrian Sutil.

Felipe Massa led away at the start while Lewis Hamilton scrambled across from the dirty side of the grid to defend his second place from Robert Kubica. He got out of turn two ahead of Kubica but by the end of the first lap Massa was already 1.4s up the road.

The predictions of collisions on the first lap came true and as far as the crowd were concerned it was the worst possible outcome. Fernando Alonso was hit from behind by Kazuki Nakajima and the home driver headed to the pits to retire.

Further around the lap David Coulthard spun off and dropped to the rear of the field. He rejoined the track and quickly moved past Rubens Barrichello and Nelson Piquet Jnr. But his attempt to pass Adrian Sutil’s Force India was over-optimistic and the pair collided, Coulthard spinning off.

Up ahead Massa quickly established a lead over Hamilton, with a 2.9s advantage by lap six, then 4.4s by lap 14.

At first Kubica dropped back at a similar rate but on lap eight he suddenly lost three seconds and fell into the clutches of Heikki Kovalainen and Kimi Raikkonen – the Finns having swapped places at the start. But Kubica got his head down and re-established a three second advantage over Kovalainen.

This had consequences when the two leaders made their pit stops as Massa came out in front of Raikkonen following his pit stop on lap 15. Hamilton went only two laps further – setting a new fastest lap on the way, and came out behind Raikkonen. Raikkonen was shortly in as well however, and following Kubica and Kovalainen’s pit stops Massa took over the lead again.

Raikkonen’s stop left him behind Timo Glock, who was one-stopping, which allowed Kovalainen to extend his advantage.

The race was extremely processional with all the leaders gradually getting further away from each other in the middle part of the race. Massa extended his lead over Hamilton to 8.3 seconds with Kubica even further behind.

But when Massa came in for his pit stop on lap 37 it started to go wrong for Ferrari. Massa left his pit box as Adrian Sutil was passing by, and had to drive alongside the Force India as the headed towards the pit lane exit. The stewards announced they would decide whether he had been illegally released into the path of another car after the race.

Six laps later Raikkonen came in and he also left his pit box too early. The fuel hose was still attached and as he set off it dragged at least one member of his pit crew to the ground before he came to a halt.

He was later released but only lasted a few more laps before his engine failed – possibly related to the extra time spent idling in the pits.

But all the excitement was in the pits. Out on the track the cars simply slotted into place after their various pit stops and few were able to get close enough to race for position. But far from being the ‘fault’ of the design of the track, this was the same old story of F1 cars not being able to get close enough to each other to race because of their aerodynamics.

Aside from a problematic pit stop Massa’s drive was utterly crushing. Ferrari have often had the better car on hot days when using the softer tyres, but he maximised that advantage in a way Raikkonen seemed incapable of – and not for the first time this year.

Hamilton’s second place means he retains the lead in the drivers’ championship with six points over Massa and 13 over Raikkonen.

Kubica took a hard-earned third place and is still within 15 points of Hamilton in the title race. But Kovalainen, fourth today, has fallen 27 points behind and surely he will be resigned to supporting Hamilton soon.

Sebastian Vettel delivered on the excellent pace Toro Rosso showed this weekend by finishing sixth – the same position he started in, only losing a place to Jarno Trulli (fifth). Glock made it two Toyotas in the points with an excellent run to seventh from 13th on the grid. Nico Rosberg scored the final point – his first since the Turkish Grand Prix.

Only Adrian Sutil joined Raikkonen and Alonso in retirement, and the expectations of a safety car-filled race proved unfounded. The European Grand Prix was short on drama, but if the stewards take a dim view of Ferrari’s pit lane tactics there could be a final twist yet to come.

Update: Felipe Massa did not receive a penalty

Lewis Hamilton was booed by the crowd but finished second

Lewis Hamilton was booed by the crowd but finished second

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57 comments on Felipe Massa scores flawless win at Valencia (2008 European GP review)

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  1. Looks like Massa has been fined so no chance of losing out a second win on the trot – which personally I’m quite glad (but surprised) to see.

  2. Derek said on 24th August 2008, 16:18

    I thought he should have got a ‘drive through penalty’. Failing that a 10 place grid penalty at the next race.

  3. Spencer said on 24th August 2008, 16:20

    Altogether a very boring processional race. Massa should not be penalised as he did a great job, but Ferrari should have their constructors ponts stripped for the unsafe exit of car number 2. Massa did well to spot Sutil in his mirrors and avoid another serious pit lane incident.

  4. Shocking decision in my book. What sort of precedent does that set? No one cares about a fine. You will see teams launching cars in front of others all the time now (well not all the time, but when needed) and the offending team will just point to the Massa incident.

    He should of got a drive through, finished 2nd, and effectively lost 2 points. I think that would of been fair.

  5. Twister said on 24th August 2008, 16:24

    Yep confrimed on Autosport vhttp://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/70038 so the FIA have confirmed that the incident was no more serious than crossing the white line on entering or exiting the pits or speeding in the pits – why bother having rules if the penalty is worthless?

  6. Damian said on 24th August 2008, 16:27

    Another example of bending the rules for Ferrari. If anyone disagrees, please find similar examples where the driver/team escaped punishment.

  7. Twister said on 24th August 2008, 16:32

    I just don’t understand stewards, how can this incident been seen as less serious than holding someone up on a qualifying lap? This is a clear breach of the safety rules just like overtaking under waved yellows and should be punished in just the same way.

    At minimum ferrari should have lost constructor points for today’s pit incidents. Exactly why did mclaren loss their hungary points last year just because alonso held up hamilton yet ferrari release a car early and drag a pit member down the pit lane with no penalty – something is wrong here!

  8. I totally agree with your comments Twister, I am very surprised at the decision.

  9. Spencer said on 24th August 2008, 16:38

    Does the F in FIA stand for Ferrari???

  10. Juhhi said on 24th August 2008, 16:39

    Most boring race ever,was there one overtake in race???…Ferrari and Kimi was so bad also!! Massa did fabulous job, hat for Him…

  11. M Gillett said on 24th August 2008, 16:45

    How can this be flawless, his team was deemed to commit a serious safety fault for which they received a fine, any other team would have received a drive through penalty at least for this reckless and potentially very dangerous behavior but as it was Ferrari they effectively get away with it.

  12. I think i’ve have seen on more than one occasion, teams trying to send a car out before their competitors, who also happened to be in the pits. Cars were real close to each other, almost touched, with no penalty to any of the teams so far. In a couple of cases, cars exited the pit-lane side-by-side for that matter, yet attracted no penalty. I was really surprised to see this being reported(by the stewards), as it is the first time in more than a decade that i see this come up.

  13. M Smith said on 24th August 2008, 17:12

    Great race by Massa, he certainly deserved this victory. And no, he did not deserve to have the victory taken away from him. But I do believe the punishment should have been more severe, it should be directed at Ferrari, not Massa. Maybe a larger fine. Massa did well to prevent an accident.

    I can’t saw I am surprised with people complaining about a Ferrari bias. While I can’t recall specific examples, a few times has this type of incident has occurred and no penalty at all was given.

    Impressive races by Kubica, Trulli and Vettel today.

  14. M Smith: Thanks for corroborating the fact that no penalties in recent past have been imposed at all, leave alone disqualifying the team or driver or both.

    Vettel, Trulli and Glock did a good job with the race today.

  15. Hold on a minute! Alonso holds up hamilton and we can’t score constructor points and raikonnan leaves the pits nearly killing his a member of the crew and don’t even get a slap on the wrist.

    This is in breach of safety regulations and just shows the clear bias behaviour towards ferrari. I agree with you Twister.

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