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. There is something surprisingly wrong with F1 nowadays.
    Kimi smashed his mechanic and FIA says nothing about it.

    For instance: a driver got punished if he cross the white line. But not if he cross the mechanic.

  2. Fergus Gallas said on 25th August 2008, 0:15

    Keith,
    As you can see on my post, i didn’t mention names on it. But it does serves for anyone that feels touched by.
    I enjoy this site, just can’t stand some comments over certain situations/drivers. It’s so partial and mania guided that annoies who’s not on that train.

  3. Dorian said on 25th August 2008, 0:16

    Have to say that it was the most boring race of the season thus far. I cannot wait till next year as I agree with Keith’s mantra: The track is fine, in fact it’s more than fine, it’s just that the cars aren’t equipt to overtake the way we would like them to. Next year, however, is likely to change that.

    Great drive by Massa, solid by Hamilton and a special big-up to Vettel. Cannot wait to see that guy in a WDC/WCC winning car.

    I’m not going to get into my opinion on the penalty or lack thereof cause I’ve posted it on the other blog.

    All I can say is ‘BRING ON SPA!!’ (my favourite track :-)

  4. Leslie said on 25th August 2008, 1:13

    Hello Keith

    Ho Hum

    I’m beginning to wonder whether I should stay up until the early hours of Sunday morning while two ginks from Australias Channel 10 pretend a. It’s live, and b. It’s exciting; the race is broadcast here after it’s finished!

    Very Boring.

    Regards………./Leslie.

  5. Um KB, I think you’ll find most people here can’t stand the ITV commentary team (at least, James Allen). In fact some go so far as to watch F1 with the sound off, so your assertion that we are ‘hanging off every word of the ITV wallies’ is misguided to say the least.

    Blind Freddy could see that Massa should have been awarded a penalty. Pity he is not an FIA steward.

  6. Brar said on 25th August 2008, 5:59

    For us Brazilians is very difficult to understand why Massa deserved to be punished (and not Ferrari only with points).

    To understand that I needed to put myself in the other`s one mind, imagining if all of this happens in the same way but with Schumacher in Massa´splace.

  7. Freeman said on 25th August 2008, 7:09

    I have this to say about Valencia in terms of Entertainment Value for F1…

    I got my wife (a casual enthusiast) and her sister to watch to race. Coincidentally, Valencia GP was clashed with Olympics closing ceremony. Before the race, I was telling my wife how exciting Valencia’s going to be. “Honey, it’s a new street circuit in a beautiful setting. But it’s high speed, with chances of overtaking, tough challenges for drivers. I’m sure it’s action packed, let’s get your sister over to watch!” (Her sister is a newbie, and the 3 of us are going to Singapore GP with some mates)

    After a couple laps, the ladies are complaining it’s getting boring (I must agree somewhat), then suggesting watching the Olympics closing ceremony. Reluctantly, I switched over suring commercial break. Then like magic, the ladies are “wowing and ahhing” at the top notch performances (which it was amazing). Now time to swtich over to F1….

    “Honey, dammit! Massa now 5.1 seconds ahead of Hamilton! I wonder if he’s running light” No response from the missus, and actually now both of them flipping through magazines! Another ad-break, the ladies spring back to life with their jaws dropped with the amazing performance by the Chinese. “Hey I wonder when Beckham’s appearing on stage” says my wife… (which of course we missed the moment cuz I was waiting for the second pitstop window)

    No, I’m not saying us lads should not watch F1 with their missus. But, all the money that went into setting up a fascinating Valencia circuit, and all that glamour that comes with F1, is not that appealing to casual fans. Althogh we have a few entertaining races this year (thank god!), but those who watch sports to kill time, are not that entertained by 20 cars going round without any action. Does this explain why TV numbers are down?

  8. Arake said on 25th August 2008, 14:32

    Thank you Felipe. It was F…Great!!!HAT TRICK…What else can I talk about? sorry for my poor english…I’m just brazilian jungle guy

  9. Scootin159 said on 25th August 2008, 17:30

    FWIW, apparently Kimi’s right cooling exhaust chimney was damaged during the infamous pitstop… it is much more likely that this caused a much more severe cooling issue than the extra few stationary seconds in pit lane, and was a much more direct cause of his engine failure.

  10. ferrari should give Massa the No.1 driver – only 6 races to go..

  11. Gman said on 27th August 2008, 3:49

    I’m not qualified to really comment on the race- I was away in Baltimore to see a weekend series by the Yankees, and the hotel’s crummy 30-channel cable package diden’t include Speed network :(

    After reading up on everything that happened, I’ve come to a few conclusions from what I can see:

    – I agree with the assessment that Ferrari- not Massa himself- should be blamed for his car being released with Sutil coming. I’m still trying to figure out the system they use for letting him know he’s good to go, but don’t the drivers trust the crew to give them the all-clear?

    – The lack of overtaking must have been a great disappointment to all of you tuning in live, I know it is for me when we see races like that. I don’t know enough about either circuit design or automotive engineering to give a good opinion, but hopefully things will improve once the new regs come into play next season.

    – Love it or hate it, but the fact of life at ferrari is that Massa is outperforming Kimi on a consistent basis. Even if the race was a procession, he did bag pole and a win on a new track, and that would be two wins in a row if not for bad luck that was none of his fault in Hungary.

    I have nothing against Kimi- he’s a brilliant talent- but Felipe is without a doubt Ferrari’s best bet for the title.

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