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)

  1. spectre said on 24th August 2008, 17:32

    About the pit lane thing… Almost the same thing happened in the GP2 race and the same stewards gave that driver a drive-through penalty. What’s the point handing Ferrari a small fine when the constructors points the gain by holding on to the win is worth much more in real money from FIA? And not only did Ferrari do a lousy job almost taking out a car from a “lesser” team (they obviously expect teams at the end of the grid to always let them past no matter what…), Massa showed that he don’t know the rules by being upset on the driver he should have let by without driving dangerously. This is just absurd. If it were Sutil exiting the pit in that way, you can be sure he had gotten a drive-through within 5 laps of the incident.

    I am kinda intrigued that the race was so boring. There were several good overtaking opportunities on the track. But still, after only 2 laps, the cars were lined up with 1 second between each of them and then the parade begun. Was there any overtaking at all on the track? Right now, I only remember Coulthard’s (of course) stupid move on another car.

    I really don’t get the logic when handing penalties in F1 anymore, and that together with races without any action whatsoever has taken me to a point when I actually starting to lose a great deal of my fascination for F1. Today, I started to tape the race after about one hour and was out in the summer sun instead. And that when F1 comes to a new “exciting” track! Something clearly has to be done about the basic of the sport. The hell with traditions and such – have the courage to create something that aging reminds the spectators of true motor racing between drivers.

  2. Spencer said on 24th August 2008, 17:40

    I agree with sassan. This stinks. Financial penalties mean nothing to drivers and teams. Points are what hurt when you are in a championship race. Farrari released Massa in a unsafe way and Kimi nearly ran over the refueling guy by leaving before his light was green. Once again it seems if you drive a red car you can push the boundaries that little bit further.

  3. M Smith said on 24th August 2008, 17:42

    Sassan, this is clear, blind, anti-Ferrari bias.

    Yes, Raikkonen didn’t even get ‘a slap on the wrist’ for the accident.
    Barrichello in Australia ’08 – exactly the same incident – didn’t get ‘a slap on the wrist’.
    Button in San Marino ’06 – exactly the same incident – didn’t get ‘a slap on the wrist’.

  4. absolute joke, but we have learned to expect nothing less from the FIA

  5. Spencer said on 24th August 2008, 17:56

    M Smith, if my memory serves me correctly in both Honda incidents you refer to the lolipop man was a bit keen to lift the stick. In todays incident, Kimi was racing Heikki out of the pits and left before the the light went green.

  6. ‘Flawless’? Doesn’t the rank, stinking fix of a fine instead of a drive through penalty count as a ‘flaw’ then? And to blame Sutil was ludicrous. Expect M Smith to accuse me of ‘clear, blind anti-Ferrari bias’ now. Perhaps if the stewards dispensed justice as it should be, without fear or favour, there wouldn’t be any need for us to have to comment on these issues. Their clear, blind pro-Ferrari bias every other race requires us to do so, sadly.

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th August 2008, 18:26

    On the flawless thing – my point is his performance was flawless. On a new, fast, dusty, barrier-lined track he never put a wheel wrong. I don’t think I even saw him lock a brake. It was a first class drive.

    Yes, his team released him from the pits in the path of another car. But Massa’s not in control of when his team tell him to go and he probably had no idea Sutil was there until he came out of his pit box. I’m not saying this should go unpunished, I’m not even saying the team should be punished instead of Massa. But give Massa credit when he’s due it. This was an excellent performance from him, one I would not have put a penny of my own money on at the start of the season.

  8. spectre said on 24th August 2008, 18:30

    “But Massa’s not in control of when his team tell him to go”

    Interesting. I thought the rules were such that the driver SHOULD be in control whatever somebody else tell him/her.

  9. DASMAN said on 24th August 2008, 18:35

    @Spencer

    The light you refer to was not the pitlane light, but Ferrari’s own light which is in-lieu of the lollipop man. This type of incident has never been penalised, nor should it be IMO.

    The type of incident with Massa is a different matter, altho still not requiring a penalty IMO, based on the precendents set by previous F1 incidents which were never penalised.

  10. Come on now, did any one expect anything else from FIA.
    Felipe, was never in any danger of the win being taken away from him. Now if Lewis or Heikki had done the same as Felipe in the pit lane, it is clear what the outcome would be. Drive in or 10 places next race.
    It’s a shame because it clouds what was a good race by Felipe.

  11. LMAO at all you!!!!
    Obviously hangin on every word of the ITV wallies…

    If it was soooo unsafe where was the accident….Hamilton fans including ITV were wishing further bad luck on wee Massa who was obviously the best driver of the weekend!

    Face facts

  12. Spencer said on 24th August 2008, 18:42

    Keith is right. Massa did drive well, he even avoided a serious accident in the pit lane. This is why I feel that Ferrari should have been given a penalty not Massa. No constructors points would have been a much more sensible outcome than a fine.

  13. Oh and Massa for the championship!!!! Cmon you reds!

  14. martinb said on 24th August 2008, 18:48

    From the Canadian Grand Prix discussion (where Hamilton was blinded by a red light and crashed into Kimi):

    Was Kimi Raikkonen let out of his pit box too soon?

    In the aftermath of the Raikkonen / Hamilton / Rosberg pit collision, some people wondered whether a contributory cause was that Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica were side-by-side at the pit exit, rather than one in front of the other. This happened because Ferrari allowed Raikkonen out of his pit box as Kubica was passing, meaning they drove down the pit lane side-by-side.

    Is this illegal? Not necessarily. The sporting regulations say:

    23 i) It is the responsibility of the competitor to release his car after a pit stop only when it is safe to do so.

    In other words, it’s up to the race stewards whether Ferrari were right to let Raikkonen out when they did, and it seems they were happy with it. In a situation where a large group of cars had entered the pits at the same time, it would have been hard to avoid some overlap. But they probably wouldn’t be able to do it in Monaco.

  15. Spencer said on 24th August 2008, 18:50

    @ DASMAN
    I’m well aware of the Farrari pit system. My comments regarding their “Lolipop” light was addressed to to M Smith and how the Honda cases were team / lolipop error as opposed to driver error. At least Kimi has shown some cocern for Pietro Timpini who he mowed down today and agrees that he made a mistake.

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