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. Will Chambers
    19th October 2008, 16:52

    I’m not sure if it was mentioned (i think i can be forgiven for dosing off a few times in this instance :P) Why was Massa but not Kimi running with the extended engine cover?

  2. Maclarista – No he can’t, because the rules forbid it:

    Sporting Regulations

    28.4 f) Except during the last Event of the Championship season, each driver will be permitted to use a
    replacement engine without incurring a penalty the first time this becomes necessary during the

  3. @ Post #8.

    The average brilliance of the forum just increased by a good number of points! Thanks.

  4. Jian

    Well my head says warm and third-place for Lewis is better than heavy rain and complete track chaos! Though the latter would definitely be more interesting. Overcast with a little light rain to cool the track would perhaps be perfect…

    I’ve been wondering why McLaren didn’t use Hamilton’s ‘joker’ engine: maybe because it’s supposed to be used only in the event of a technical/mechanical problem and they were worried FIA would question their data? Or do they trust more in an engine that’s seen some action and they’ve got a race full of information on?

    Incidentally (Kate if you’re still there) I’ve just been reading a Brazilian F1 newspaper blog, and I’d say at least a third of the bloggers were giving their support to Hamilton, not Massa. Pretty much the ratio found here, if not slightly more pro-Hamilton. Bias is normal and based on a wide range of motives, not just nationality. The only people I expect to be impartial are FIA and its stewards.

  5. Haa haa.. Nice goof-up there..


  6. Great drive from Lewis, just what was needed after the last race. As far as I’m concerned he won the championship today because of the points that have been stolen from him.

    As for Kate’s threat, that’s just too funny, come on, if we can bear to watch F1 after the stunts the FIA have pulled against Lewis this year then you can bring yourself to read this blog. Otherwise it has to be goodbye, as a suggestion why don’t you try http://www.ferrai.com? Although it probably redirects to http://www.fia.com these days, it should be more to your taste.

    Honestly, too funny.

  7. I’m going to stick up for Kovy, albeit in a backhanded and patronising way. The absurd conspiracy theories can be dismissed easily. McLaren in no way try to impede Kovy’s progress so that Hamilton always gets a better grid slot, etc. That would be counter-productive for the team as a whole, and for Lewis in particular in Shanghai, where it would have been useful for him to have Kovy up at the front. Okay, so I haven’t seen many references to that kind of conspiracy on this site, but that’s because F1fanatic commenters are much more intelligent and articulate than the average F1 blogger (insert annoying smiley face thing here).

    Kovy has had a few problems – today McLaren say they fitted mismatched tyres and a puncture was almost as bad as the engine blow up last week. Apart from that, his performance has on average been below what many people expected this season. I disagree (and this is the backhanded, patronising bit coming up) – his performance has been very good considering the competitiveness of Ron Dennis’s technical package (that’s the car); it’s just that Lewis has been consistently better.

    Looking at fastest lap times in the race and in Q2, you’ve got to say that Ferrari have had the dominant car this season. McLaren have had only 3 fastest laps to Ferrari’s 12, and even in Q2, Ferrari have been fastest 9 times to McLaren’s 6. We shouldn’t be thinking that Kovy has been disappointing this year, but that Lewis has been exceedingly good.

    Is Kovy any better or worse than he was last year? The maths says he’s only a little worse, and fortunately we have Giancarlo Fisichella to help us figure that out. At Renault in 2005 and 2006, Fernando Alonso scored 65% and 70% of the team’s points against Fisi. In 2007, Kovy scored 59% of the team’s points against Fisi. And in 2007, Fernando and Lewis each scored 50% of McLaren’s points. So we can assume that – all things being equal – were Lewis to partner Fisi, he would also score 70 per cent of the team’s points, a margin over Kovy’s performance against Fisi that pretty much matches Lewis’s margin over Kovy this year (Lewis has 65% of McLaren’s points so far in 2008). I didn’t explain that very well, but in general a driver’s performance from year to year is pretty consistent and varies much less than the intrinsic performance of the cars he drives.

  8. So, why aren’t you allowed to use your engine joker before the last race? what makes it any different from any other race. Seems odd to me.

  9. @ Post #48.


    Yes. KOV is only a little worse from last year. Last year he was at Renault — when they had their worst car. And the same amount of performance with McLaren clearly shows that something is wrong.

    He has clearly demonstrated that the car hasn’t played any role in his performance this year; if it did, it only makes “his” performance even worse than what it was last year. He would have been worse at renault this year than at McLaren.

    @ Post #49.

    That’s classic FIA absurdity.

  10. John,

    So you are basically saying (in your last paragraph); that Kovy is a better partner to Lewis than Fisichella. :D
    Is that really a compliment these days..

    Kovy has not done very well; but after the acrimonious 2007; I think Kova is what Mclaren needed..even if it means one lost WCC.

    But I disagree about Mclaren being consistently slower than Ferrari; I think Germany(mid-way) onwards; Mclaren has had the faster car. And their car was always better in the wet

  11. For those that want some notion about weather here in São Paulo, if the race was today (it would be on right now), it would’ve rained earlier enough to everyone to start with intermediates and it’s 16o.C. Expect something similar in two weeks.

    One thing no one has mention yet is that we gonna see the very unusual (I can’t think of it happened before, but imagine it likely happened at the earlier days of F1) of one of the WDC contenders racing at home for the final round. As far as most Brazilians are concerned Lewis is the enemy and he is gonna find a very very unfriendly audience during the whole weekend (and probably not only at Interlagos).

  12. Filipe,

    I think; it has happened before; in Brazil itself. Alian Prost was given police protection for the entire weekend, while he battled Senna for the championship. I don’t remember which year.

  13. As far as most Brazilians are concerned Lewis is the enemy and he is gonna find a very very unfriendly audience during the whole weekend (and probably not only at Interlagos).

    There is a Brazilian who posts here, I think it’s Bergen? It’ll be interesting to see what he says because I remember him, or it could be another Brazilian, saying that there’s not a love for Ferrari over there because of what has happened with Rubens and Massa (being designated number 2s) and lots of love for McLaren and Lewis because of the Senna ties.

    Massa’s chances are very very remote, but you could say the same about Kimi this time last year. Watching a newly crowned champion on his home grounds would definately be a sight to witness – or see on TV, for those who can’t afford the daytrip to Sao Paulo! I cannot imagine what the place will be like if Massa does win the championship!

  14. Just want to say, I had the utmost respect for Rob Smedley’s post-race comments today. He seems to be a graceful winner and loser, a rare breed within ferrari it seems.


  15. Felipe:

    One thing no one has mention yet is that we gonna see the very unusual (I can’t think of it happened before, but imagine it likely happened at the earlier days of F1) of one of the WDC contenders racing at home for the final round.

    I think it was mentioned by James Allen during the race, that this has only happened once before – Farina at Monza (presumably 1950).

  16. ha ha ha

    i read this on a news piece about max mosley’s decision to cut costs by standardising engines, quite funny really.

    ………”What commercial and marketing benefit BMW, for example, might see in winning with a Ferrari engine, has yet to be explained.”

  17. A McLaren 1 & 2 will certainly clinch the title for both Constructors and drivers.

    I think Lewis & Heiki will drive for that in Brazil, that is if they fuel themselves light similar to Ferraris. They certainly had the faster cars in Shanghai.

  18. #49 and #50:

    For once the FIA are right. Personally I think the two-race engine rule is very un-F1 but the “last race” clause is at least logical and consistent. If you allow a penalty free engine change for Lewis etc before Brazil you would be encouraging the use of an extra engine, regardless of any actual engineering need. This would be contrary to the stated aim of the 2 race rule of reducing cost by reducing the number of engines used.

    I don’t like it but it is at least consistent.

  19. @John Harding

    Indeed Rob Smedley’s words are amazing. Compare that to how Flavio was badmouthing Hamilton.

    I wonder how Massa will feel about that though. Massa always thinks he’s the fastest. If he doesn’t win it’s the car. Now his engineer is saying that Hamilton is probably the fastest driver. That must be shocking for the little guy.

  20. #59

    The two race rule is not what I was talking about. I was talking about why JOKER cannot be applied to last race? There’s no rationale.

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