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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

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

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  1. ‘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.

  2. 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.

  3. “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.

  4. @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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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.

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

  9. 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.

  10. @ 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.

  11. Poor Kimi… This time he couldn´t even score another fastest lap!

  12. Massa should have been given a drive-through penalty. Period. That’s the rule, and it should have happened. For those who say that the Constructor should be punished and not him, Massa is a PART of the Constructor, and thus should have been punished.

    Yet another case of the Ferrari Insurance Agency settling a matter in their favor.

  13. I think the worst decision made by the stewards so far this year was Monaco. Kimi getting a stop-and-go because his mechanics didn’t get his wheels on fast enough while waiting on the grid. The race hadn’t even *started*. No one was endangered. No one got an unfair advantage. And it was the team’s fault, not Kimi’s.

    A small fine to be paid by the team was the appropriate penalty.

    Kimi hasn’t been the same since.

  14. Very lovely race track, beautiful even. However, the race did have the feel of one held in an abandoned town or in a factory complex. The sad reality is F1 has just had an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars for another processional car parade.

    The pitlane in Valencia is very narrow, its not like in Montreal where 2 cars can drive out side by side with enough margin between the 2car. Both Ferrari and Massa deserved to receive a penalty.

    Ferrari, for releasing their car when it was clearly unsafe to do so, and then Massa for not immediately taking precaution and allowing the faster car through.
    The FIA seem to be completely at a loss as to how they evaluate the severity of infringements. Alonso was fined for crossing a white line, and Massa was similarly fined for putting personnel in the pitlane at risk. There is just no consistency and other teams should proceed and contravene the rules and fight it out in court if need be when they feel they are wrongly penalized.

    Massa in the end, drove a very impressive race, I had a feeling the car was working too good that he just had it on cruise control.

  15. Robert Kubica is back on podium again!
    What You think about gossip that Koo-BEETS-a is talking with Honda?

  16. Fergus Gallas
    24th August 2008, 21:22

    Instead of weeping words about an incident that happens, as long as i can remember, in almost every race without penalty, Ask yourselves why, once again, can’t Hamilton catch Massa-The man not qualified for a F1 Title? as is posted here so often about him.

  17. Fergus – I think it’s an exaggeration to say I always criticise Massa.

    Sometimes I say positive things about him:

    Felipe Massa: great start, awful finish
    Could Felipe Massa do a Prost?
    Changing my mind about Massa

    Sometimes negative:

    Has Felipe Massa been found out?
    The Massa delusion

    But my intention is always to be fair and back up what I say with facts. If you think I’m not being fair about Massa, please show me why and where.

    Of course, other people in this thread think I’ve been too kind about him – see the criticism above about me using the word ‘flawless’. You can’t please everyone all the time…

  18. Great drive from Massa today. Hamilton also turned in a good performance, albeit after a rather flakey start. Kimi got unlucky, but was always going to walk away from this looking glum, given his quali position. Anyone fancy a bet on Luca kicking him out at the end of the season?

    Shame on Team Tilke though for producing a circuit where overtaking just ain’t gonna happen. Let’s just hope they get the paint pots out before next years race so they can mask the grey uniformity that adorns most of this track. Even just “TURN 4” in 4 foot high letters at the appropriate corner would help the viewing public.

    I do find it galling that FOM can remove races from tracks like Spa and Silverstone, where overtaking is a reality, and foist these processions upon us using the excuse of ‘enhanced paddock facilities’. Given that most of F1 money comes from TV rights and the advertising bonanza that goes with it, why should we, the viewing audience, give two hoots about corporate entertainment facilities we are not privvy to.

    Really hope the new raft of changes next year does the trick and that racing will start to take priority again, but somehow I doubt it.

    Okay – rant over. Spa next – thank God!

  19. Salty – couldn’t disagree more about the track. I’m sticking to my “don’t blame the track blame the cars” mantra. The GP2 drivers could race each other, the F1 cars couldn’t. Why? It’s all down to the aerodynamics, as usual.

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