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. That was the perfect weekend for Hamilton in comparison to what happened a week ago.

    Although I want Hamilton to win the championship I have a feeling that Massa will still snatch it at the death. Be this through a Hamilton mistake, McLaren reliability issue or FIA interference. This is mainly down to me being a pessimist, as I usually think my favourite teams will lose in sport.

    Massa did himself no favours by trying to claim in the press conference that he passed Raikkonen on merit rather than being let through. I liked Kimi’s response when asked about it of a knowing smile and saying he knew what he had to do.

    This could be sad reflection on the current state of the sport, but I kept on checking the results every couple of hours after the race to see if the stewards had come up with a penalty to change the result.

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned anywhere as I have not read all the posts, but did anyone notice that in the race Raikkonen’s Ferrari had the classic style engine cover, whereas Massa’s had the anvil/shark fin engine cover. Has this been going on for a few races and I have just noticed it now?

  2. Phil B said on 20th October 2008, 17:40

    PJA: No favours indeed, I was amazed to hear Massa describe himself as being “quite strong” at that point in the race and that it was the “best time” of the race for him. Either he doesn’t seem to realise that Kimi gave him the place, or he doesn’t realise that we can all see that that’s the case. Either way there’s some delusional thinking going on. If I was Massa I would have summed that moment up as a “necessary evil”, thanked Kimi and dropped all pretence that the ‘pass’ had any merit.

    “Most shameful bit of the race, particularly given the fact that I’m supposed to be worthy WDC material” would also have summed it up quite well but that might be a bit much to expect.

  3. Regard comment #52

    “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).”

    We are in Brazil, not in Spain. Brazilian fans doesn’t HATE Lewis, in fact, he had an expressive fan base growing at every race because there´s a common feeling that Lewis´s driving style and his determination remember Sennas´s.

    Another point is: Felipe Massa has not the same charismas as other Brazilian drivers from the past. He is not able to moving the fans´s heart as Senna has easily done in the past or as Alonso has done at Spain so far. Felipe is not a hero or unanimity. Go through any blog or forum and you will see a huge controversy regarding his talent and skills as a driver.

    I think the crowd will praise Massa as they should do, but will not disrespect Lewis at all. Last year, Lewis were the favorite driver for the Brazilian F1 fans to win the championship. I can’t understand why he would be mistreat here!

    I think it will be a great party!

    I work in a broadcast company; we have here in our complex, cable TVs, radios, newspaper and internet press coverage. Last year, in the GP´s coverage, the main subject were Lewis, Lewis, Lewis… His youth, his talent and the most interesting, his “Brazilian ethnicity” were something to praise and cover through that weekend.

    I think is time to Lewis visit the place where Senna is buried (I´m at less 1 km from there!) and praise his/our hero. Would be great for all Brazilian F1 fans to see a great driver praising Senna.

    “or it could be another Brazilian, saying that there’s not a love for Ferrari over there because of what has happened with Rubens”

    In fact, when the guys here sees Felipe getting a DNF, there’s always some conspiracy theory appearing at any place. Since Rubens “incident” the fans has not any confidence in Ferrari. I remember that Galvão Bueno, or James Allen, has said after that German GP that the FIAT has had some responsibility with Brazilian customers and must to do something to protect Rubens´s rights. Another point is that Senna is primarily remembered as a McLaren driver. Schumacher never was a popular driver in Brazil and this has help this sort of anti Ferrari feeling that has weaken only because of Massa and just in the last two years …

  4. Senor Paz said on 21st October 2008, 0:03

    Congrats to Hamilton.

    We have to give it up for Lewis, who managed to answer the critics at the right time, on track and in a level-headed manner. As a Massa fan, it hurts me to say this but Lewis has pretty much wrapped up the title. Deservedly so.

    I say that despite the fact that it’s clear that Felipe has been the better overall driver. Ferrari has let him down too many times this season: just thinking about Singapore and Hungary makes you realise Felipe should have already been crowned champion!

    But that’s how sport goes, and that’s why I love F1. However, I think we have to remember that, more than anything, this season was McLaren’s long due comeback. The team really deserves all the praise, with Lewis playing an important inspirational role and delivering crucial results following his own mistakes. The fact that his car has not had a single major problem yet is remarkable (they seem to have caught up with Heikki), the pit crew has not messed up once, and even the team strategies have been thoroughly consistent (with the exception of Hockenheim, though that didn’t matter in the end as the car was so much quicker than the Ferraris).

    That is why I say I hope people don’t complain if Lewis’ good fortune with his car runs out in Brazil. He’ll be running with his second engine and, statiscally speaking, he is really due to have a mechanical failure. Let’s hope it goes well for him and he wins the championship in style, on the podium.

  5. Oliver said on 21st October 2008, 7:22

    It’s obvious you have no idea what you are talking about. A car is set up to address, 3 basic priorities, namely, reliability, performance and then feel. Reliability and Performance are determined by the team and will be standard on both cars. The drivers feedback helps determines the feel. To say a Lewis is using, Pedro’s settings is laughable, because pedro is not driving the cars. If you had said, pedro may help in interpreting the drivers feedback to the race engineers, then your comment may have some merit. One other thing, Pedro is the reserve driver so he attends all the races all things being equal.

    You mention DC, but look at this, Dc is the number one driver in Redbull, but is acting like the number 2 driver.

    You talk about dreams and ambitions, but you do not understand that an ambition starts with a dream. Without a dream, what are you aiming for. Do you perhaps think Lewis slept and had a dream he was champion? It is AMBITIION that has brought Lewis to F1 and is pushing him to work hard and perform.

    You mentioned Senna’s drive in 84 in Monaco, while that was a great performance indeed. Do not forget that the same Senna while leading in the same Monaco, in 1988, crashed into the barriers. He was also human.

  6. David - BR said on 21st October 2008, 13:04

    Hi there Becken, didn’t realize you’re from Brazil too. Your post is spot on concerning the F1 fans and media. You’re also right about the ‘paranoia’ on Brazilian blogs concerning Felipe’s car when there’s a DNF! In fact some were questioning the difference in aeodynamic foils used in China by the Ferraris and whether Ferrari were deliberately sabotaging him (or helping Raikkonen with new stuff), though this seems to have down to difference in driving styles/cornering. Can’t wait to see all this pan out in São Paulo next week, though having to listen to Galvão Bueno on TV Globo criticize Hamilton from start to finish will be a complete nightmare as always!

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