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Turkey 2008: Massa Roars To Victory

Turkey 2008: Massa Roars To Victory

Felipe Massa has underlined his ability to compete well at the Istanbul Park circuit, winning his third race at the track and pulling himself back into contention for the 2008 world championship. And with team mate Kimi Raikkonen finishing in third, Ferrari are looking imperious at the top of the constructors leader board. Lewis Hamilton did well to finish in second, splitting the red cars and controlling a tyre problem from Bridgestone.

Some will say the race was a little dull, Massa leading from from lights to flag, and others will say it was exciting, full of passes, battles and breath-holding moments. Massa drove well in the lead, something he usually does well at when given the opportunity. His command of the race will make Kimi Raikkonen think about his weekend, but the Finn should be happy with his third place, retaining the lead of the drivers’ championship and surely able to extend his margin in the coming races without too much difficulty.

Lewis Hamilton endured a tougher weekend, qualifying going less well due to his choice of tyres, and in the post-race press conference the Briton admitted to being forced to use certain compounds for certain lengths of time due to Bridgestone fearing a tyre failure could be the result of only stopping twice. Comparing the F2008 to the MP4-23, you have to say Maranello are doing a lot better than Woking at the moment! Certainly on the tyres at any rate.

BMW improved their qualifying form to finish in fourth and fifth, Robert Kubica once again getting the better of Nick Heidfeld. However, considering the Swiss-German squad started the season with podiums and pole, fourth and fifth suddenly doesn’t look so good. Robert Kubica drove reasonably well from fifth on the grid, but if the team really want to be fighting for victories, they need to find a little more pace in their F1.08. Heidfeld drove a very quiet race, and about halfway through (after pitstops) he managed to find himself in fifth. Considering the German started his afternoon in ninth, a points-paying position at the chequered flag is a good result for himself and BMW.

Heikki Kovalainen didn’t do quite so well, despite lighting the track up in qualifying. From the front row, Kovalainen had a poor start in comparison to those around him and lost out to Kubica and Hamilton. He also picked up a puncture from Kimi Raikkonen as the pair made light contact going through T1, for which the Finn needed to pit for a new tyre. This effectively ruined Kovalainen’s race, and by the end of lap 58 he had climbed up to twelfth place, one lap down.

During the race however, Kovalainen had some fun with Nico Rosberg and Timo Glock. The German Toyota driver showed his credentials when attacked by Kovalainen, the pair having a great battle in the final complex of corners. Raw power won in the end, but the moves each driver pulled were both respectful and fun. Later on in the race, Kovalainen was to repeat his efforts in the final set of turns, this time with Nico Rosberg.

Lewis Hamilton also made a few fans stand up and take notice as the young McLaren driver charged his way past Felipe Massa on lap 24. Going into T9, Lewis dived up the inside and took control of the racing line. Massa did begin to move in but relinquished the line and the position when he realised just how far into the apex Hamilton was. While the move was textbook stuff, it gained applause perhaps because we we haven’t seen any real passing moves in a while.

Unfortunately for Lewis, is race was effectively ruined by the tyres and therefore the strategy he had to go with. The team changed him to a three-stopper, and stint of fastest lap-sharing with Felipe Massa allowed him to maintain second place as the race drew to a close. However, Ferrari clearly had the pace at today’s grand prix, and McLaren will have to work hard during the next few events to reclaim the margin Ferrari have over them.

Further down the finishing order, Fernando Alonso drove well to sixth, and Mark Webber gained yet more points for Red Bull by finishing in seventh. Whatever the Australian is doing for luck right now, he’d do well to continue it! Jarno Trulli also did an okay job to collect the remaining point of the day, also having a relatively quiet afternoon and keeping himself to himself.

Sebastian Vettel should be celebrating this evening, the German finally finishing a race, albeit in last position. The young STR driver has gained a bit of a reputation in recent races for not being able to get past lap one, but today he completed all 58. Unfortunately for the team, Sebastien Bourdais had a silly moment and retired his car on lap 26. We are still awaiting official reason for the retirement, but suffice to say it looks like a mechanical failure led to Bourdais’s STR being beached in the gravel and unable to continue. If it was a driver error, then it was a very embarrassing one for Bourdais.

Adrian Sutil also completed the full race distance, finishing ahead of Vettel as well. Although Force India once again lost their star driver early on, Giancarlo Fisichella being involved in the only lap-one-turn-one incident. From the footage shown, it looks as though Fisichella simply forgot to brake and drive straight into the back of Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams. However, from what I saw, I would suggest it isn’t entirely Fisichella’s fault, as I could clearly see another car to Nakajima’s left being forced to swerve around the Williams, implying Nakajima braked early (possibly for good reason) and Giancarlo had nowhere to go. I’ll go out on a limb and say it was a racing incident, but it did mean both Fisichella and Nakajima retired on the spot.

Only three retirees at Istanbul Park means 2008 is becoming another reliable season. Spain only saw one driver not finish, although there were two less cars running in Turkey; Super Aguri no longer competing in the sport. Rubens Barrichello completed the race and now holds the record of the driver with the most Grand Prix starts: 257. And Nelson Piquet Jr. continues to disappoint, finishing in fourteenth in the same Renault that Alonso took sixth place with.

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Oliver White

5 comments

  • Hi Oliver

    Cannot follow you on that “official-McLaren” stamped explanation about Lewis tyre’s problem.

    Don’t get me wrong here : Lewis did a fantastic job and his 3 stops race was a great achievement showing fantastic abilities as a driver!

    That said how can ANYBODY believe that fairy tale about the Bridgestone problem?

    – As far as I know the tyres are randomly given by Bridgestone on every GP week-end. How is it possible that ONLY Lewis experienced problems with its tyres?

    – Was it the car then? How is it that Heikki didn’t notice anything?

    The only obvious thing is that Lewis is ruining his tyres much more than any other driver. It is already acknowledged that Lewis is hard with the tyres and I can only conclude that Lewis did a poor job with the softer set.

    Only because of his fantastic driving abilities he was able to achieve the result we have seen.

    That can be a bit of a problem for the rest of the season…

    Heikki was unlucky with this puncture he had, and Kimi played it very safe with its front wing damaged : he is leading the championship on a bad day he goes in “damage limitation” mode.

    Amazingly despite his fantastic race a very good result Lewis arrived in Turkey 2nd in the championship and he is leaving it in 3rd position. Compared to last year, and everybody admits it was a fantastic year for Lewis, the facts are that after 5 GPs Lewis is 10 points late (28/38) and Kimi 12 points ahead (35/23). McLaren is 34 points late (42/76) and BMW 14 pts ahead (44/30) Ferrari 7 pts ahead(63/56)… Trouble trouble…

  • What’s this “official McLaren-stamped explanation” stuff? Lewis said in the press conference he was forced to do a three-stopper due to a risk with his Bridgestones letting go if he did a two-stopper.

    Regarding Lewis’s, McLaren’s and Bridgestone’s handling of the tyres, I have a whole post dedicated to the matter: Should McLaren Think About Reinventing The Wheel? Indeed, 2008 isn’t going so well for Hamilton, even Ron Dennis got a bit annoyed after qualifying.

  • Sorry Oliver you wrote “Lewis Hamilton did well to finish in second, splitting the red cars and controlling a tyre problem from Bridgestone.”

    A tyre problem from Bridgestone? Nope. A driving problem from Lewis. That makes a slight difference doesn’t it ?

    Just now got an alarm from my RSSReader : A spokeswoman from Bridgestone said :In actual fact, nobody else has had a repetition of any of those problems this year, with the exception of Lewis,” she added.”He is the one driver who perhaps with his style of driving has put higher forces onto his front right tyre.” (woaw that is very tactfully said!)

    (…) Bridgestone advised McLaren on how long they felt the tyre was safe for the Briton to drive on and the team then decided he should make an extra stop as a precaution.

    (Autosport http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/67359)

    I guess “trhe Briton” doesn’t include Heikki. Lewis is a great guy but are we going to change all rules -including the use of cranes ;-( – to please him? The man has got all the talents it’s time to show he can adjust to a given situation. I’m pretty sure he’s got what it takes so why all this blah blah? Come on Lewis move !

  • @Ago: Well, as you just got the alarm in your RSS reader, I think it’s fair to say that when I wrote this post, all I had to go on, “officially”, were the comments from Hamilton in the press conference. Had I speculated, I would got into trouble that way – sometimes there is no pleasing some people! 😉

    Please, take the timing of the post and the re-direction to a more recent post as perhaps the situation has changed with time.

  • I didn’t had to wait for the race or even for Lewis’s comments: Yesterday on your qualif’s post I already made the comment about Lewis and the tyres, while you discussed router problems with Alianora 😉 so you didn’t noticed it 😉

    I made the comment that only Lewis and Felipe didn’t improve their times between Q2 and Q3 -Massa explained why in the saturday press conference and kept the soft to Q3-

    I also, very diplomatically, asked the question as where did Lewis found the missing tenths to qualify in 3rd position on hard tyres when all the others improved from Q1 to Q2 by switching from harder to softer and kept the softer for Q3. Obviously the answer was fuel and the reason for it was soft tyre’s problem for Lewis.

    I also believe that Bridgestone felt they had to issue this statement because McLaren had this unfair comment on them. When it goes wrong Ron always feels like he has to put the blame on somebody else 😉 Nothing new under the sun…

    PS : I noticed that when Lewis is low on fuel it’s strategic, and I remember when it’s Fernando it’s for the fans or marketing oriented… Let’s be fair many people are ready to cheat a little bit if they can gain an advantage… For Lewis it worked and that’s great, for Fernando, in Spain, it didn’t and I’m sorry for him… but this time he did it again and he ended 6th, quite a good result and another step in the right direction. Currently 8th only 1pt behind the 7th… finishing in the top 6 would be the proof of his true value.

    And don’t take all that for you Steve… I like this “free speech” place and you know it 😉

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