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

  2. Paige said on 24th August 2008, 18:59

    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.

  3. martinb said on 24th August 2008, 19:08

    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.

  4. Oliver said on 24th August 2008, 20:43

    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.

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

  6. Fergus Gallas said on 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.

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th August 2008, 21:45

    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…

  8. Salty said on 24th August 2008, 21:49

    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!

  9. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th August 2008, 21:53

    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.

  10. Salty said on 24th August 2008, 22:02

    Keith – there was no overtaking at all today in the F1 race. This circuit was commissioned and designed for F1. Odds on you will see overtaking at Spa, be it wet or dry. I agree the aero has made it much more difficult, but not impossible as we will see in the next round. I am sure Valencia is a great place, but a concrete encased ‘street circuit’ was never going to provide the racing we all wanted to see.

  11. martinb said on 24th August 2008, 23:18

    Just a thought about Kimi. Was he worried that his engine was going to blow up like Massa’s did at Hungary? Maybe he turned the rev limiter down a touch for the whole weekend, not that it helped in the end.

  12. David said on 24th August 2008, 23:24

    Seems Hamilton almost didn’t race this weekend due to runing a fever and neck spasms – if so, second place looks a great achievement.

    Massa’s been annoying me since he boxed in Hamilton off the grid in São Paulo last year to let Kimi get pass LH, and then let Kimi past again via the Ferrari pit stops! Can’t say I’d be that sorry to see him lose out today via a FIA sanction, but there was never any chance of that happening. His comment that Sutil shouldn’t have been ‘racing him’ in the pit lane was absurd and deserved a penalty in itself given that it shows no understanding of the rules and the safety aspects involved, or indeed general fair play in relation to other competitors. The blame obviously goes on Ferrari’s new anti-lollipop scheme, though: penalty or not, shouldn’t FIA have ‘investigated’ that and made a ruling seeing that it provoked two incidents, one potentially serious?

  13. I agree with you Keith. I mean phoenix was a terrible circuit but senna and alesi went at each other hammer and tongs.

    I feel todays race is great testimony to the deep flaws in the FIA. Hungary 2007 was a slightly fair punishment to mclaren and Hamilton in montreal, however today i was expecting a punishment in which would show us that the FIA are not bias towards ferrari. 10 000 fine to someone who is already a millionaire is not enough.

    My punishment would be ferrari stripped of their constructor points.

  14. Snoopy said on 24th August 2008, 23:47

    By Ferrai it was same part of Kimis car what did brake than what did brake Massas car in last race. Ferrari is thinking use “joker” card for next race and change Massas engine, just in case.

    It is supprise that Ferrari have so much technical problems. we have seen things like that last time in somewhere mid 1990.

    FUNNY things about that poor mechanic: 2000 in Barchelona Grand Prix Schumacher broke feet of his mechanic when he left pitlane too early. Mechanic was Nigel Stepney. After that accident Pietro Timpini took over Stepneys job as a fuelling person and now Kimi broke his toe. I think its little bit funny and remind us as well that even Schumi himself did stupid things like that lol.

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