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

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.

Penalties

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.

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

  1. Patrickl said on 13th October 2008, 9:17

    What do people mean “Hamilton made too many mistakes”? Just because he outbraked himself trying to keep the lead? Or that the stewards all of a sudden changed the rules and gave him a penalty for it. (and not to all the other drivers who missed their brake point due to cold tires)

    Mind you last year at Spa, Alonso pulled the same stunt on Hamilton and did not get penalised for it. Alonso obviously did it on purpose.

  2. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th October 2008, 9:31

    F1Fan – yep Filipe is right, it wasn’t seen on the TV, at least not in Britain. If you have a look at this picture you can see how badly Hamilton’s tyre was damaged.

  3. Barri said on 13th October 2008, 9:45

    Patrick, what about turn 3 and Ham running wide losing 4 places? ‘Mature driving’ perhaps?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhbwX89kK28

  4. Another good win for Alonso, I think he is probably still the best all round driver in F1 at the moment.

    Given the grid order I think Massa and Ferrari would have been happy to go away from Japan scoring more points than Hamilton and McLaren.

    As for the incidents in the Grand Prix. I was surprised Hamilton was penalised as it was a first corner incident. I know it has been said by some that incidents in the first corner/lap tend to be ignored, because of the nature of the start of a race with everyone jostling for position etc, (most recently in the last GP at Singapore when someone posted a comment about Alonso missing a chicane and gaining some places). But I guess that idea isn’t official policy.

    As for Massa’s drive through penalty. After the Spa precedents of Kovalainen being penalised for having a collision when attempting an overtake, and then Hamilton being penalised for going of the track to avoid colliding with Raikkonen. I felt the stewards had no choice other than to penalise Massa for missing the chicane and hitting Hamilton, putting Hamilton to the back of the field.

    When it was announced that the incident involving Massa and Bourdais would be investigated after the race, I never even considered that they thought Bourdais had done anything wrong let alone that he would be penalised. I thought that if anyone was in the wrong it was Massa. However as it was only Massa who spun and lost time and that Bourdais did not seem to be adversely affected, I thought at the time it would be harsh to penalise Massa. But then when I looked on Teletext later for some of the post race comments I was amazed that they had given Bourdais a 25-second penalty, thus giving Massa another point. I guess the people who are saying that after Spa if Massa wins the championship it has to be by more than six points or he won’t be a worthy champion, will be changing to more than seven points.

    After Massa overtook Webber by going outside the white lines that define the circuit on the start/finish straight and onto the pitlane, James Allen said that the stewards might want to investigated that, although I think that would have been harsh to. To save me having to look up pictures of other circuits, could anyone tell me if any other circuits have a cars’ width of tarmac outside the white lines on the start/finish straight like that at Fuji. I think Monza has a wide straight but I can’t remember the location of the lines.

  5. Hi Keith.

    Alonso showed his class. That man has to be the finest F1 driver on the grid today, and seeing Renault’s resurgence, suddenly his claims of having brought 6/10th of a second to McLaren don’t seem far-fetched. And Shashi, if there’s one thing Alonso does well – on track – it’s handle pressure and keep his cool, so am not sure where you’re coming from with your statement.

    I have always felt that Hamilton is a great driver, but doesn’t have the attitude of a champion…he’s more like a spoilt and petulant child..the British press may not see the sheen coming off, but the last few races have see Lewis bare his ugly side, and it’s pretty ugly. He still might win the WDC, but both his and Massa’s would be undeserved wins. I hope Kubica pulls some rabbits out of his hat, and Hamilton’s his usual stupid self in the last two races. Massa anyway doesn’t have it in him.

    Cheers,

    Quirky Indian

  6. good on alonso backing massa just now on sky sports news.
    Hamiltons demina himself has made him unpopular with other drivers.
    Alonso was treated appalingly at mclaren time for revenge fernando.
    take him out-we dont need that sort of upstart winning the most presigous prize in motor sport.

  7. Sorry forgot- if hamilton wins world championship i will turn my back towards the tv.
    he has acted disgracefully in the last 2 races.

  8. rossgh said on 13th October 2008, 13:59

    Back to back Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso has admitted he would assist the title challenge of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in the last two races of 2008.

    After his disastrous tenure at McLaren last year, the Spaniard makes clear he is not barracking for the British team’s Lewis Hamilton, who leads the points standings against Massa by five points.

    In the official post-race press conference at Fuji Speedway, Alonso admitted he agreed with the stewards’ decision to penalise Hamilton for his first corner incident.

    The 27-year-old later told Italy’s Sky: “I didn’t know why he (Hamilton) had been penalised. After last year, I want Ferrari to win. I will help Massa if I can.”

    Despite backing Massa over Hamilton, however, Alonso admits he has not been overly impressed with either driver’s championship campaign.

    “They have thrown away many points,” Spain’s Diario AS newspaper quotes him as saying.

    “After 16 races the leader has 84 points, but I had that many after nine races in 2006,” Alonso recalls.

  9. schumi the greatest said on 13th October 2008, 14:24

    Sorry forgot- if hamilton wins world championship i will turn my back towards the tv.
    he has acted disgracefully in the last 2 races

    Andy, sorry but what did hamilton do that was so disgraceful in singapore?? or even italy???

    great win for alonso again showing his class and why hes regarded as the best.

    said my peice on hamilton in the thread about the penalty so i wont go into it here.

    massa?? very lucky, but i think if china is a dry race then you’d have to say hes the favourate shanghai (dry) and interlagos will suit the ferrari but i hope lewis can gain some composure and take the championship.

    Alonso must stay with renault now and lets hope he gets a championship contending car next year

  10. Jolene said on 13th October 2008, 15:10

    Andy : I think you’re being a bit harsh where Hamilton is concerned. I agree he’s a bit hotheaded but acting disgracefully?

    And please dont shoot me but why do some people think that Kubica will be a more worthy champion? He only seems to gain from the misfortunes/stupid actions of others like Lewis,Massa etc. Please, dont let our personal opinions about someone interfere with who is most deserving. To me that will be the person who tried the hardest. Here’s to hoping that Lewis will calm his nerves and take the WDC coz he wants it the most.BTW, shame on Alonso for making such a public statement if he did indeed say those things. He’s gone down a notch in my books.

  11. Hi jolene
    I think what hamilton done at singapore italy belgium and indeed japan (sorry not last 2 races last 4 races)

    has been innapropiate-i believe and i know many other fans feel he has brought this sport into disripute through his lack of respect for other drivers and driving dangerously NOT JUST IN RACES but pre qualifying.

    I have no disrepect against colour or creed but i firmly feel he tried this card at an appeal.

    Perhaps this is why its all backfired on him.
    Im as fanatical as anyone wanting a british world champ but this guy is off the rails.
    His mind is all over the place and his driving is erratic to say the least.
    I dont believe him or massa should win it as i feel kubica is beyond these two a very classy driver.
    I just dont want this guy winning as i feel it would send wrong message to younger drivers.

  12. @Andy

    What exactly did Hamilton do in Singapore? And what has he done that other drivers – Schumacher, Senna, Alonso etc. have not done in the past?

  13. erratic,dangerous driving,bad attitude-dont take my word for it common knowledge put forward by other drivers.

  14. @Andy
    I agree.

    Quirky Indian

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