Hamilton on cusp of title after dominant win

2008 Chinese Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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.

81 comments on “Hamilton on cusp of title after dominant win”

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  1. Great drive by Lewis.. And full credit to Mclaren for producing a bumper car..

  2. Ferrarista – this is not a McLaren blog. This is an F1 blog. Perhaps you should read this post for an example.

  3. Loki: truly horrifying that an engine blow or any mechanic failure can change the whole momentum thing. The question I asked and everybody asked before this race was if that Lewis could cope with the pressure. With Fuji, Shanghai 07 and Interlagos 07 in mind that was a valid doubt. I think we now can look back to Monaco and Silverstone as the benchmark races instead. Lewis is good at bouncing back, going back to Interlagos this year he is mentally strong enough.

    Bbut will the car cope with potential heat in Sao Paulo? That’s anyone’s guess. That is why the team desperately need Heikki to up his game and go for a finish ahead of the Ferraris, especially with a fresh engine. In the worst(or best) scenario with hamilton out Heikki could still maybe save the title for LH by finishing first and Massa third or lower. The support the Ferrari drivers has given eachother has been invaluable at this stage.

  4. Keith, Hamilton has the joker engine option for Brazil doesn’t he? I know Kova utilized his a couple of races ago but haven’t heard anything about Ham using his. Can you confirm for us the status?

  5. @Kate
    Every one is entitled to their opinion. Someone thinks Lewis is brilliant another one thinks he is not. We don’t all have to agree with one post. But if that is all you can say about this article then there is clearly something wrong somewhere. In my opinion, the driver who under performed the most this year was Kimi, who is the current world champion and the highest paid driver, with about 7 seasons experience in F1, can not keep up with a driver who is only in his second year of F1 racing. Would be good if you tell us who your favorite driver is, so we can cheer for him also.

  6. whats your opinion guys on bou/tru first corner?
    seems tru was hoping the outside til hei came over, then we miss the action on the take focusing on front… at that time tru seems to be half a car on front of bou, but still don’t having the racing line, was he much too optimistic tryin’ to get the line a bit early?


  7. @NDINYO
    he wont be allowed the joker according to the regs – http://www.formula1.com/news/features/2008/2/7366.html

    today’s race was bit of a yawn, but having said that, it was refreshing to see a race without controversy (despite massa’s poor form and even poorer ‘pass’ on kimi).

  8. 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

    I’ve heard Renault has been working hardly with Elf and they have obtained 6 hp extras since the last four races.

  9. Jian

    Actually it’s cold and rainy for this time of year, at least here in Rio. São Paulo in two weeks could be cooler than usual, and rain is always a good possibility in southeastern Brazil.

  10. Lewis was catching Heikki, but Heikki pulled over like he was parking the car. Lewis would have needed some laps to pass him, which may have caused his tires to lose their ultimate grip and less he may have been unable to pass the others for the win…although they also pulled over for him, so most likely not.

  11. @Kate

    Sometimes, I also say the same when I read this blog. But I don’t have problem when people praise Hamilton. He really is a great driver and should be praised. I hate when people start crying when some penalty or something bad happen with Hamilton. I think we also have to respect other’s views.

    And today, I was expecting from Keith and people on this site that they will cry again on Ferrari swap but I found them +ve.

    We should be F1fanatic and we should praise any driver who did good job. Today was Hamilton’s day. How can we praise any other driver when Hamilton was superb.

  12. @Internet

    Renault is much improved. With lot of rules being changed next year, I think they will give tough time to McLaren and Ferrari and Ferrari still struggling for KERS.

  13. i think collectively, lets stop kissing Ham’s ass and making him out to be the second coming of Senna. Ham hasn’t won anything yet. He has yet to become the youngest driver to win the WDC, and, in fact, last year he became the youngest driver to throw away a 17 point lead with three races to go. that being said, what happened with Ferrari today is no different, i repeat, no different than Germany or Canada. there was no competition in any of the three cases. each team member moved aside for the other, that is a fact, no matter the difference in lap times. conspiracy theories aside (nonsense, IMO) and barring mechanical failure, you will see Ham crowned as champ. and why? because he deserves it and he’s earned it, more so than Massa, definitely more than Kimi or Kubicza. Today i saw in Ham what i didn’t see last year or last week for that matter. he raced a clean, smart, and levelheaded race. his car played a large role in that, but he was having brake issues, and yet he drove a flawless race. he simply outshone everyone this weekend.

    please, please, please, let’s put the conspiracies aside for the final race, everybody. because when i read all you conspiracy theorists out there, for me, it takes the shine off of what Lewis has achieved up to this point, and what he may very well achieve in two weeks time. Well done, Lewis.

    Cheers all.

  14. Rocco Siffredi
    19th October 2008, 15:02

    This was such a boring race, I can’t wait to see slicks and F1 cars with reduced wings. Boooring Boooring Booring

    I slept through the second half of the race…

  15. Quite shocking seeing HK that slow and out of pace all year long. It can be easily seen that his talent can´t be compared with FA´s, riding car number 2 in McLaren. Makes me think of last year´s FA´s tremendous exploit. At the last races his car was rubbish, just as HK´s. How sad.
    I would adore to be wrong (really).

  16. To Kate (although she has exited this site now), I cannot apologise for my Hamilton-mania. It is up to Keith to ban me for this. I go on other sites where there are Kimi maniacs and Alonso maniacs and loads of quite nasty comments about Lewis. I have to accept this despite me not liking it, so why can’t you? As long as a post is not abusive to another poster, or not racist or homophobic, then it should be allowed. Surely you would prefer free speech. I have never heard something so ridiculous. And by the way, Lewis IS super brilliant and has been his whole career.

  17. IDR

    I’ve heard Renault has been working hardly with Elf

    Haa haa.. Nice goof-up there..

  18. At ferrarista
    Mclaren still haven’t use the “engine joker” on Hamilton’s car. So fresh engine for him at Interlagos.

  19. David: cool is cool! Was in Rio+Sao Paulo in May, was dry and cold back then when the winter began. Rain sounds ok, let’s see then if Massa spins it and bins it.

    No joker engine allowed the last race so that’s a non issue. A engine failure would be a nightmare for the team and driver. I actually enjoyed the predictability of todays race, also supporting Liverpool and my heart can only take so much.

  20. Formula 1 isn’t what it used to be. I’ve come online several hours after the chequered flag has fallen and no-one’s been demoted / had time added to their race / been penalised for turning up, etc.

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