Alonso wins as Hamilton and Massa stumble (2008 Japanese Grand Prix)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso won for the second race in a row
Fernando Alonso won for the second race in a row

Lewis Hamilton has been accused of being too hot-headed and risking too much in championship deciding situations. Felipe Massa has been criticised for making mistakes in wheel-to-wheel battles.

Watching the Japanese Grand Prix, it wasn’t difficult to understand why. As the two championship contenders provoked controversy in the opening laps, Fernando Alonso motored through to claim a second, richly deserved victory.

A chaotic start

Lewis Hamilton threw away his hard-earned pole position the instant the lights went out as Kimi Raikkonen zapped past him. Not for the first time, Hamilton seemed to lose sight of the fact that his championship rival was Felipe Massa, not Raikkonen, and risked everything in a do-or-die move to recapture the lead.

He dived for the inside, smoke pouring from locked wheels, and ran wide, forcing Raikkonen to take evasive action. Massa, who was also at the outside of turn one, was similarly delayed, and the mess allowed Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso into the lead from sixth and fourth on the grid respectively.

Hamilton made a slow recovery and was passed by Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli and the Ferraris. But on the second lap he got a clear run up the inside of Massa at turn ten and was through. Massa tried to come back at him at the following left-hander, but with two wheels on the kerb and two wheels on the grass he tipped Hamilton into a spin and down to last

McLaren responded by pitting Hamilton straight away to discard his badly flat-spotted tyres and inspect the damage from the collision with Massa – which included the barge boards and part of the floor. When he returned to the track he was 52 seconds behind leader Kubica.

Hamilton was not the only driver in trouble on the opening lap. David Coulthard was swiped sideways into the barrier at the exit of turn one. Kazuki Nakajima lost his front wing and had to pit for a replacement – an ironic development for the Japanese driver at his home race, since he had eliminated Alonso during his home event at Valencia on the first lap.


Within a few laps Massa and Hamilton were hit with penalties: Hamilton for the turn one incident, Massa for hitting Hamilton.

That sent Massa plunging down the order from sixth to 14th and cost Hamilton even more time.

Massa and Hamilton?s Fuji crash – the penalty they got right (Video)
Hamilton and Raikkonen?s Fuji clash – the penalty they got wrong (Video)

Alonso gets ahead

Meanwhile Raikkonen had passed Jarno Trulli for fourth on lap seven with a neat move at turn ten. That became third when Kovalainen came to a halt on lap 16 with what turned out to be engine failure.

Up front Kubica was leading Alonso but unable to pull away quickly despite having slightly less fuel. The BMW driver made his first pit stop on lap 15 and although the Renault only stayed out one lap longer, it was enough for Alonso to leapfrog ahead of Kubica. This pit stop switch-around decided the winner of the race.

Jarno Trulli took over the lead (Raikkonen having pitted), and Sebastien Bourdais and Nelson Piquet Jnr also took turns to head the field. But once the first round of pit stops was over, Alonso was firmly in control.

More trouble for Massa

Massa’s penalty and pit stop left him 13th with Hamilton just 10 seconds behind. After being briefly stuck behind Jenson Button he found a way through and Hamilton followed a few laps later.

Hamilton made his final pit stop on lap 41, leaving him with a 26-lap run to the flag. Massa, however, didn’t have to make his last stop until lap 52 and he was setting fastest laps in the run-up to it as the chance of a point or two beckoned.

But on lap 50 Sebastien Bourdais came out of the pits in front of him and the pair collided at the first corner, Massa spinning around. After the race the stewards added 25 seconds to Bourdais’ time.

Bourdais gets 25s penalty

Kubica holds off Raikkonen

Raikkonen emerged from his final pit stop directly behind Kubica in a battle for second place. The Ferrari was clearly quicker than the BMW, and the long, wide straights of Fuji gave him little chance to run an hide.

Still, Kubica gave a master class in defensive driving: he covered the inside of the hairpin when he had to, and took care to slow Raikkonen’s pace at the apex of the corner to deny him a run at the next bend.

After several laps of careful and utterly clean defending by Kubica, Raikkonen’s attacks began to fade and he settled back into the third place he would keep until the flag.

Further back Massa was finding his rivals’ defensive tactics either irrelevant or inadequate. He made light work of the other BMW of Nick Heidfeld, passing him on the main straight as if his Ferrari had an extra gear.

That brought Massa onto the tail of Mark Webber on lap 64. Webber covered the inside line on the right but Massa dived to Webber’s extreme right, over the pit lane exit, to get alongside the Red Bull.

Had Webber continued straight ahead Massa would have been obliged either to lift the throttle or run out of road. But Webber backed down, pulled left and gave Massa the space to take the position.

Alonso wins

Alonso took the chequered flag after 67 laps to score his second consecutive win of the season. At Singapore he rode his luck, but here he beat Kubica in a straight fight and capitalised magnificently on Ferrari and McLaren’s problems.

Kubica’s defence of second place was gritty stuff, and the eight points leaves him 12 behind Hamilton with two races to go. But for that penalty at Singapore, he would be an extremely convincing championship contender.

Raikkonen salvaged third for Ferrari and that, along with Massa’s seventh place (promoted from eighth after Bourdais’ penalty) put the Italian team back in the lead of the constructors’ championship. After Ferrari’s failure to score in Singapore, the same fate befell McLaren at Fuji.

Nelson Piquet Jnr took fourth on merit despite a hiccup on lap 62 when he spun at turn five, losing four seconds. He still kept Jarno Trulli behind which was a major blow for Toyota on home ground. With Timo Glock retiring early on, Toyota are now 16 points behind Renault in the battle for fourth in the constructors’ championship.

Sebastian Vettel was promoted to sixth ahead of Massa and Webber. Heidfeld was tenth, Nico Rosberg 11th and Hamilton was the final runner on the lead lap – he un-lapped himself from Alonso on the final tour in the forlorn hope four or more driver might stop on the last circuit.

Both the Honda drivers oddly set their fastest laps of the race on the final lap, Rubens Barrichello 0.7s ahead of Jenson Button after a miserable home outing for the team. Nakajima limped in 15th and last in his first home race, though he at least fared better than the Force Indias, neither of which finished.

80 comments on “Alonso wins as Hamilton and Massa stumble (2008 Japanese Grand Prix)”

  1. Before the race I thought that maybe Kubica has said too much commenting to La Gazzetta couple of days ago that Hamilton shouldn’t drive so aggressively. I was proved wrong today by the Brit himself on the very first corner of the very first lap. What shocked me more even was when Hamilton tried to fight Alonso who kept his head cool and let him go through to avoid some freak-last-lap clash. Massa was lucky to get those two points instead of the one he earned himself as the penalty for Bourdais was just preposterous. I’m very glad to see Kubica still in championship contention and happy to have seen the second consecutive Alonso’s win.

  2. hey, that alonso guy isn’t a half bad driver is he?

  3. To be honest. I seriously hope Kubica wins this championship. Hamilton is too rash to deserve the crown. Massa is more deserving i think (purely based on his driving) but after constant intervention by the FIA, it wouldn’t really be right for him too. Also, if Kubica won, it would mean that everyone would stop whining.

  4. Not just Alonso; even Renault seemed very competitive on Sunday.

    They were clearly quicker than BMW; may be at par with Mclaren.. only slower than Ferrari

  5. I have been watching GP racing now for over thirty years and have never been so appalled with the way the authorities are (supposedly) managing our sport.
    I remember a day when drivers were allowed to race, when a fist corner incident was just a first corner incident and the stewards let the drivers get on with it.
    I keep hearing that the drivers are supposed to remain within the confines of the race track, but only penalise those who don’t drive red cars.
    The authorities do not realise how much damage they are doing to their credibility in ruling they way they do. Joe Public could do a lot better.
    I feel that the only way forward is to paint all the cars red which would, in my opinion, confuse the pants of those idiots who we call themselves stewards.
    And my last point is what an appalling commentator James Allen is.

  6. Have to agree with you Steve. Chatting about Brunle’s shirts-that’s what Allen’s good at.

  7. What a load of rubbish F1 is turning in to. I have watched F1 since 1983 and i have really enjoyed it apart from the last 2 years where the FIA have definately got it in for Lewis and McLaren I think for the future of the sport no matter what team you support that we should all boycott the sport until the FIA make it fair for every team and not be biased to Farrari.

  8. To those who are heaping praise on Kubica and Alonso and bashing Lewis, Kimi and Massa, I want to say: wait till those guys find themselves under intense pressure at the front of the grid and then we’ll see how calm and composed they are.

  9. I just think everyone here is a bit paranoid. When Hamilton was being 90’s Schumacher cover last year and playing dirty and the FIA was just banging Alonso’s head it was OK. I agree they have had this inclination to overlook Ferrari’s mistakes since Schumi got there but I think it’s not always like that anymore – sometimes it’s just “honest mistakes”.

    And I’m still rooting for Kubica – he’s the best driver though he doesn’t have the best car (After Alonso that is – that one is magic, he really brings 1 second to the team he’s in. POINT.)

  10. ‘wait till those guys find themselves under intense pressure at the front of the grid and then we’ll see how calm and composed they are.’

    Alonso is a double world champion and is rated by many as the best all round f1 driver currently in f1, so surely that is ‘front of the grid’ and we don’t have to ‘wait’, he’s already suffered the intense pressure

    Kubica is still in contention for the world championship, took a brilliant win earlier this year and has made the least mistakes this year and you can’t really say f1 racing isn’t a high pressure job so I really don’t think your point makes sense Shashi.

    The simple fact is Alonso and Kubica have made far less mistakes than the guys in front, and i firmly hope Kubica wins this year.

  11. Post 25 – Totally agree Steve. It seems these days they only have to sneeze..
    I really hope Kubica takes the WDC. Alonso’s drive today was amazing. If Renault had risen earlier in the championship this would have been way more interesting

  12. The FIA and steward incosistencies are really becoming intolerable. another incident missed is JPM-Vs-Schumi in incident in Sepang, Poor JPM got pushed off by Schumi dangerously, let Schumi through and after all that received Drivethrough, everyone was under impression that Schumi should have got the penalty.

    Sebastien Bourdais was innocent victim of the Penalty.

    On separate note – Massa and Lewis, have proved that they can’t handle pressure situation. I compare this with Alonso’s battle with JPM at Brazil’05, when JPM pressurized, Alonso didn’t press the matter, his focus was the championship win.

    Terrible race, only highlights were Alonso and Kubica and of course Live Blog experience :D

  13. Alonso demonstrated his championship qualities today: Fast, smart, avoiding contact, and opportunistic when it counted.

    With the continuing idiocy of Massa and Hambone maybe Kubica can steal the title ala Kimi last year? That would be tremendous for BMW and Robert!

    I can’t understand Massa’s attitude: Nothing is ever his fault, it’s always the other guy. At least Lewis will ‘fess up when he screws the pooch. Relative to his tagging of Lewis, he had no business attempting to come back up the inside at the chicane exit. He stated Lewis left the racing line, but all he did was hit the apex. Massa hit Hamilton. For that transgression he should have been black flagged. Ultimately it still gave Massa an advantage and damaged Hambone’s car.

    One question for all: How does Ron rein in Hamilton’s aggression and keep him from self destructing…yet again??

  14. Grande Alonso!
    I wish he could go to Ferrari next year.
    Bravo Alonso!

  15. Personally I’d rather Alonso stay at Renault and they both return to the force they were in 2005-2006 it would be so much better for the sport to have both Renault and BMW on the level of Ferrari and McLaren. And Toyota/Red Bull aren’t too far behind so hopefully they too can close the gap for next year.

  16. When Lewis Hamilton was penalised at Spa last month, I was one of the first to cry ‘foul’ along with everybody else. Not because I have any kind of affection for Hamilton, but because it destroyed the grands prix as a spectacle.
    I have also been one of those who have consistently accused the FIA of supporting Ferrari, despite Max Mosley’s denials, which has undermined the sports integrity and made it more look like wrestling than a motorsports series.
    However, arguing about it does not change the reality. From Hamilton’s and McLaren’s point of few, they will always have to play with the cards they have been dealt. Thus taking the kinds of risks demonstrated by Hamilton today will almost certainly play into the hands of his rivals, because, if he is ever to prevail, he must beat them at their own game.
    This is not the Formula One of the 1980s or 1990s, that aspect of the sport has long since been destroyed.
    It is no good complaining about the officials, or the rules, or how the cars are contructed and circuits designed, if the basic, fundamental aspect of the sport is banished. That is the art of overtaking.
    The most scary thing about Formula One’s current position is that alot of the teams cannot afford to keep spending as they are, cannot afford to compete. Bourdais’ penalty and that of Kubica and Rosberg at Singapore due to outdated, and inept rulings, has the potential to cost teams millions in revenue. Formula One will cease to exist, if the playing field is not level and policed in ‘everybodys’ interests.
    Engine freezes and slick tyres are all wonderfull ideas, but the average punter goes to watch to see twenty men ‘overtaking’ each other, not to see the stewards meeting afterwards.
    Bourdais committed the ‘same’ offence, as the man he collided with, yet recieved a far more costly punishment. It is simular to awarding a football player with a red card and a three match ban, and another player from the opposing team a yellow card for the same offence.
    This sport cannot survive unless ‘serious’ changes are made to the rules and that they are properly implemented by those concerned. I don’t give a rats backside about who wins the championship, as long as it is on the circuit, and not in a Parisian courtroom.

  17. Keith,

    can you explain to all how Lewis lost the lead shortly after the first turn at the start ? I saw the video and it really doesn’t show how he was overtaken by Kubica and Alonso. He was clearly ahead going into turn 2. What happened ? He was not under any pressure that I could see. The cameras did not show how he was overtaken by Kubica/Alonso, because they focused on RBR’s crash.

  18. F1Fan, it was pretty simple, while McLarens and Ferraris got themselves in that mess, both Kubica and Alonso come out clean from the other side of the track. Then Hamilton tried to overtake Alonso end went out of the track and lose a few more positions.

    Here’s a youtube video:

    The second half has a helicopter shot from the whole start.

    The funny thing is Alonso didn’t start well and Massa had already overtake him, a better start and he would likely got himself in the confusion as well.

  19. Congratulations go out to Alonso and Kubica for a perfect race! Kimi showed a great battle for 2nd as well.

    As for Hamilton, I wish he had been punched out after the race by Alonso for attacking him at the last lap. What the hell is a lapped driver doing battling the race leader before the checkered flag!? As much as I would have liked to see Alosnso fight him off he did keep his cool and made his childish attempts perfectly clear by blatantly pulling aside.

    If I’m not mistaken, when someone unlapped himself vs Senna , Ayrton paid him a visit after the race and punched him in the face.

  20. Great race , honestly I really enjoyed it. Lots of negatives about Lewis and Massa , but you need to also see they are hot-headed racers . If Lewis had passed Kimi , won the race , everyone would have been singing his praises. Similarly with Massa , if he had not got the penalty , and got say 4th place , the talk would have been how his aggressive driving could end up winning him the championship. That’s the way they race , often it will work , but sometimes not. Massa’s move on Webber , although Webber did attempt to squeeze him , was even more risky , but it paid off. Kimi would not try a move like that it’s not his way. Alonso’s win was great , and further convinces me of what I’ve been saying before that he is best off staying with Renault.Wish I could advise Briatore to keep Piquet for next year too. He proved he can race in a decent car , and next year can only get better for him.

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