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

  1. Rahzam said on 19th October 2008, 14:42

    @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.

  2. Rahzam said on 19th October 2008, 14:47

    @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.

  3. 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.

  4. Rocco Siffredi said on 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…

  5. Gérard said on 19th October 2008, 15:18

    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).

  6. S Hughes said on 19th October 2008, 15:31

    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.

  7. IDR

    I’ve heard Renault has been working hardly with Elf

    Haa haa.. Nice goof-up there..

  8. maclarista said on 19th October 2008, 16:43

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

  9. 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.

  10. Alex Cooper said on 19th October 2008, 16:52

    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.

  11. Will Chambers said on 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?

  12. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th October 2008, 16:53

    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
    season.

  13. MacademiaNut said on 19th October 2008, 16:57

    @ Post #8.

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

  14. David - BR said on 19th October 2008, 17:22

    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.

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

    ;-)))

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