Hamilton on cusp of title after dominant win

2008 Chinese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton was untouchable in the Chinese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton was untouchable in the Chinese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton dominated the Chinese Grand Prix and heads into the final race of 2008 with a strong chance of claiming the title that eluded him last year.

At the scene of his disastrous retirement last year, Hamilton simply ran away with the race this time, leaving the Ferraris to swap positions late in the race to limit the damage to Felipe Massa’s title chances.

After all the hype and tension building over the race start the Grand Prix began in an orderly fashion – the top five crossed the line at the end of lap one in the same order they started. Hamilton got a clean start and team mate Heikki Kovalainen did even better, picking off Fernando Alonso around the outside of turn one.

Alonso came back at Kovalainen though, hustling him around the first lap until Kovalainen ran wide at turn 14, allowing the Renault driver bck ahead.

The only drivers to misbehave were Sebastian Bourdais and Jarno Trulli, who tangled at the first turn. Trulli spun off and pitted with damage at the end of the lap. He limped around another tour with a visibly damaged sidepod, then retired.

Hamilton gets away

The Ferraris simply couldn’t live with Hamilton’s pace in the opening stint. Each time around, the MP4/23 was another two or three tenths further ahead, so that by lap 13 Raikkonen was 4.1s behind.

Massa was having just as much trouble keeping up with Raikkonen, losing just as much time to his team mate in the same 13 laps. But the driver really struggling in the opening phase was Heikki Kovalainen. His brake had visibly been smoking on the grid and he lost around 1.5 seconds per lap to his team mate in the opening stint.

Mark Webber, who started 16th after an engine penalty, made excellent progress in the opening stint. He leapt up to 12th at the start, then picked off Timo Glock, Rubens Barrichello, and Nelson Piquet Jnr to take ninth.

Kovalainen hits trouble

Webber was clearly running light and made his first pit stop on lap 13. But Massa and Alonso came in the next time around. McLaren – possibly reacting to Massa’s stop – brought Hamilton in on the next tour, and Raikkonen pitted at the same time.

This made no material difference to the running order, however. Massa briefly fell behind Robert Kubica, who was running heavy after uncharacteristically qualifying outside the top ten, but it made little difference to his race pace.

Kovalainen pitted on lap 17 but the tyres he took on wouldn’t last the stint. On lap 35 he limped in with a puncture front-right tyre – the same corner of the car where he seemed to have a brake problem earlier in the race. Fifteen laps later Kovalainen came back in to retire.

Hamilton consolidates lead

Hamilton began his second stint with an out lap 1.2s faster than Raikkonen’s. He quickly increased his lead to over seven seconds and kept it at that level.

Meanwhile Ferrari began manoeuvring their drivers to get Massa into the second place he needed to minimise the damage in the championship to Hamilton. Their problem was that Raikkonen had a seven second advantage over Massa, which had been eight seconds until he lost a lot of time lapping Giancarlo Fisichella’s Force India.

Raikkonen lost several seconds during his final pit stop but still found himself over two seconds ahead of Massa. Over the following laps the gap sporadically decreased and finally Raikkonen slowed right down and Massa took second.

Aside from Webber’s moves and a brief pass-and-re-pass between David Coulthard and Bourdais, the Ferrari shuffle was one of very few overtaking moves in a surprisingly calm race.

Hamilton, though, was dominant throughout: he won from pole and set fastest lap, and was fastest in every session bar one. Just as he did at Silverstone, he responded to the criticism and pressure of the previous races with an utterly consummate performance.

But with Massa second and Raikkonen third neither of the titles are decided yet: but Ferrari look as comfortable at the top of the constructors’ leader board as Hamilton does in the drivers’ title race.

Alonso was fourth ahead of the two BMWs, cementing Renault’s resurgence in form. Heidfeld finished fifth ahead of Kubica, whose slim title hopes were finally extinguished.

Timo Glock claimed seventh ahead of Nelson Piquet Jnr, with Sebastian Vettel out of the points.

Coulthard was tenth, suggesting that Webber’s strategy of fuelling light had been a mistake. The Australian finished 14th, behind several cars he had overtaken. Between them were Rubens Barrichello, who put in an excellent performance for Honda, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Bourdais.

Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button and Giancarlo Fisichella rounded off the finishers, with Adrian Sutil joining Kovalainen and Trulli in retirement. It was the sixth mechanically-induced retirement of the year for the Force India man.

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81 comments on Hamilton on cusp of title after dominant win

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  1. Peter Boyle said on 19th October 2008, 10:31

    Only real question now is will interlagos be a fuji
    or a shanghai.

  2. I’m happy with the results because the championships will be decided on an interesting track. :D

  3. Rahzam said on 19th October 2008, 10:32

    Great driving by Hamilton.
    Keith, I have a question.
    Is it under rules to change orders of Ferrari drivers?

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th October 2008, 10:37

    On the team orders thing, which we had a lot of discussion about on the live blog.

    Yes, they’re illegal. The Sporting Regulations say:

    39.1 Team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited.

    But if what Ferrari did today was team orders, then it was when McLaren did it at Hockenheim and when BMW did it at Montreal. You can’t accuse just one team of doing it.

  5. Patrickl said on 19th October 2008, 10:42

    At Hockenheim, Hamilton was a second a lap faster than Kovalainen. How on earth does he need team orders there?

    Seriously it’s bizar that people will compare that to the disgraceful swap of positions here. Of course it had to be done and it would have been ridiculous if not, but to say that Hamilton needed team orders for his Hockenheim win is seriously demeaning the great effort that Hamilton put in there.

  6. S Hughes said on 19th October 2008, 10:46

    I really like Heikki as a person from what I can see of him, but what is wrong with him as a driver? Either Lewis is just super brilliant (which of course he is) or Heikki is just rubbish. I wonder if Ron Dennis is considering whether retaining him was the right thing to do. We know he’ll probably never be as quick as Lewis, but he’s not even in a position to help Lewis or the team with the constructors. I wonder what Keith’s take on this is.

  7. I am no longer going to contribute nor read this site… there are some people who are just so completely biased towards one driver…for example, “Lewis is just super brilliant” @6 … No, he isn’t. He is very talented but has made many mistakes this season and has been on the good side of luck on occasions too with the weather. It is a shame that the website is hijacked by such biased comments because Keith obviously puts so much effort into it. So signing off… Over and out…

  8. Charlie said on 19th October 2008, 11:02

    Well, I for one was disappointed that there were no unfair penalties against McLaren and specifically Lewis this time around (or even pro Ferrari). Where was the inappropriate drive-through penalty for car 22? Where was the clearly invisible infringement that only the FIA’s super-expert stewards can pick up on? Where was Heikki’s mistake that Lewis cops the punsihment for?

    We NEED consistency from stewards and their implementation of the rules on a whim and a pro-Ferrari bias. Otherwise how are we supposed to know what to expect? I was very disappointed. This race and their decisions have destroyed Formula One for me and it’s not what I have come to expect from them over the last few races. I think they should be replaced by someone less experienced and preferably with a more pro-Ferrari bias. Jean Todt anyone?

  9. qazuhb said on 19th October 2008, 11:03

    Massa is the best pilot ever…!! (perhaps this just makes Kate come back) :-)
    If Felipinho wins the title we will all remember the Spa farce…

  10. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th October 2008, 11:04

    Kate – You know, it’s not as if no-one ever posts comments criticising Hamilton…

  11. Paul F said on 19th October 2008, 11:06

    Kate – I am no longer going to contribute nor read this site… there are some people who are just so completely biased towards one driver…for example, “Lewis is just super brilliant” @6 … No, he isn’t. He is very talented but has made many mistakes this season and has been on the good side of luck on occasions too with the weather. It is a shame that the website is hijacked by such biased comments because Keith obviously puts so much effort into it. So signing off… Over and out…

    ————————————————————-

    So you would rather be involved in “debate” with people who have the same opinions as you? Sounds rather boring to me… I’m sure we’ll all agree we’re here for war! ;-)

  12. qazuhb said on 19th October 2008, 11:06

    If Felipinho wins the title we will all remember the Spa farce…

    …and Lewis’ Fuji blunder, too :-(

  13. Patrickl said on 19th October 2008, 11:07

    Lol, Kate you have got to be kidding. No one on this site can have a bias? We all have to be impartial, just so you can stay here?

  14. Trip Hazard said on 19th October 2008, 11:21

    Lewis made it look easy today, no one could touch him. Dull for us, but a great result. Well done!!
    P.S. Although, I do find myself waiting for a penalty of 25secs from the FIA for him making F1 look easy.. If there isnt a rule now, I’m sure it will be in for the next race.

  15. Internet said on 19th October 2008, 11:25

    Anyone notice how easily Alonso outdragged Kova down the long straight even without the help of a slipstream? Reports of Renaults engine being underpowered are greatly exaggerated

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