Felipe Massa will start on pole position for his home grand prix – the season ending Brazilian Grand Prix as Championship leader Lewis Hamilton could only manage 4th fastest. The surprise package of the session was the Toyota of Jarno Trulli who was second fastest, pushing Kimi Raikkonen to third place on the grid. Heikki Kovalainen would start on the third row with Fernando Alonso alongside him in sixth. Sebastian Vettel, Nick Heidfeld, Sebastien Bourdais and Timo Glock complete the top 10.
Brazilain Grand Prix Grid - Toyota's Jarno Trulli in P2, Ferrari's Felipe Massa on Pole and Kimi Raikkonen in P3
BMW’s Robert Kubica had a dismal qualifying session as he failed to make it to Q3. Others who failed to make the top ten shootout included the two Red Bulls of David Coulthard and Mark Webber, Nelson Piquet and Rubens Barrichello. Q1 accounted for the two Force Indias of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil, both the Williams’ of Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima and Honda’s Jenson Button.
Star Sports again gave prominence to EPL and hence the deferred telecast of the Qualifying session is only at 1 AM in the night
It was a copybook victory for Lewis Hamilton at the Chinese Grand Prix as he led from start to finish in a blemish-free and slightly drab race. Felipe Massa finished second and kept his title hopes alive, albeit very diminished & teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished 3rd. There were none of the starting shenanigans as in Fuji and the top three cars ran around in the same order until Raikkonen allowed Massa to pass for 2nd place with a few laps to go. The 2008 Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship will be decided at Interlagos in the last round of the season.
Chinese Grand Prix Podium - Hamilton, the winner, Massa 2nd and Kimi 3rd
I was dozing off for most of the race (courtesy a really early start of the day for me) but I guess it wasn’t as exciting as Fuji anyway! Alonso and Kovalainen’s starting moves and few midfield battles were all that were for us to cheer about. And for Kimi fans, the ungainly sight of him slowing down to allow Massa to pass for second place was disappointing. Kimi has only the last race left to claim the most fastest laps record. Go Kimi Go! The title challenge is however a relatively easy one for Hamilton as he holds a seven point advantage over Massa and just needs to finish 5th to be crowned the sport’s youngest champion. One must bear in mind that last year too, he had the same seven point advantage over Kimi and lost the title! So anything can happen…
Race Reports: Formula1.com | BBC Sport | Grandprix.com
Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix with nearest rival Felipe Massa in P3. Kimi Raikkonen was second fastest while Heikki Kovalainen was fifth with the on-form man Fernando Alonso in P4. Red Bull’s Mark Webber was sixth fastest but will drop down ten places because of an engine change. Nick Heidfeld, Sebastian Vettel, Jarno Trulli and Sebastien Bourdais take the last of the top ten places on the grid. The front row of the grid is exactly same as the Japanese Grand Prix where Raikkonen had pulled off the starting line much quicker than Hamilton. If that happens again and with Massa and Alonso just behind Lewis, it can quickly turn into an ugly scrap for the race lead into the first corner.
Chinese Grand Prix Grid - Lewis Hamilton on Pole, with Kimi Raikkonen alongside and Felipe Massa on P3
Q1′s early leaders were Nelson Piquet, Timo Glock & Sebastian Vettel but when the big four came rolling, it was Lewis Hamilton who was P1 ahead of his teammate and the two Ferraris. Both the McLarens paced in the mid 1 Min 35s times and at the end of the session, the Toro Rosso of Sebastian Vettel and the Renault of Fernando Alonso were in between the McLarens and the Ferraris. BMW’s Robert Kubica made it into Q2 by the skin of his teeth as he could manage only 14th fastest at the tail end of the session. Those who dropped out of the session were the Red Bull of David Coulthard, Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima, Honda’s Jenson Button and the two Force India’s of Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella.
Q2 started off amidst complaints from Coulthard about the BMW of Nick Heidfeld impeding his run but that’s something the Stewards will look into later on. Kimi Raikkonen was the early pace setter but was almost immediately pegged back by Heikki Kovalainen, who in turn was immediately pegged back by Massa. Hamilton could manage just fifth fastest initially but then put on soft tyres and did a blinder of a lap – the only driver to drop to 1 Min 34.9s – and was P1 for that session. Robert Kubica was again in trouble and could manage only 11th fastest which ultimately dropped down to 12th. Joining him in being relegated from the second session were Nelson Piquet, Rubens Barrichello, Timo Glock and Nico Rosberg. They will however move up a place on the grid owing to Mark Webber’s 10-place penalty for an Engine change (and may also move up two places if the stewards decide to punish Nick Heidfeld for impeding David Coulthard).
Q3, as usual, was a straight shootout for the pole position amongst the top two teams and as in Q2, Raikkonen was the early leader and surprisingly, Mark Webber was second fastest. Massa and Hamilton both couldn’t pip that but Heikki Kovalainen did and put his McLaren on provisional pole in the initial runs. When the final runs were made, it was Kimi first, then Hamilton eclipsed that effortlessly but Massa couldn’t and neither could Kovalainen. Crucially, Massa was slower than Kimi which meant he was in P3 and immediately behind Lewis. Fernando Alonso put his Renault in between Massa and Kovalainen and if the front-runners trip over themselves at the start of the race, it can be yet another win for the double world champion! All is set for an exciting race tomorrow!!!
Two in a Row!! Fernando Alonso notched up a second successive victory as he won an exciting Japanese Grand Prix at the Fuji speedway as Championship leaders Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa fell away at the start of the race. BMW’s Robert Kubica held onto second place in front of a spirited Kimi Raikkonen who kept off a belligerent Nelson Piquet at bay. Jarno Trulli finished fifth at Toyota’s home grand prix ahead of the Toro Rossos of Sebastian Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel. Felipe Massa came in eighth to collect just the one point for his efforts. Lewis Hamilton meanwhile finished twelfth and out of the points.
Robert Kubica, Fernando Alonso & Kimi Raikkonen - 2008 Japanese Grand Prix Podium
The race was effectively turned on its head at the start itself as Lewis ill-advised lunge into the first corner – as he was out-gunned by both Kimi and Kovalainen at the start – proved to be his undoing and causing a melee which saw the running order change dramatically. The Ferraris were pushed down, David Coulthard spun off into the wall, Kazuki Nakajima damaging his wing in the process and after the dust settled on the first and second corners, it was BMW’s Robert Kubica who emerged as the race leader in front of Renault’s Fernando Alonso! Kovalainen moved into third place in front of Kimi as Hamilton and Massa duelled further down the order and as Hamilton took advantage of a Massa mistake, the latter came back vehemently and touched and spun off Lewis who dropped down to 18th and last. Both of them had to serve a drive-through penalty which compromised their races though not their Championship fight. In other incidents of note, Toyota’s Timo Glock had to retire with a suspension damage & Force India’s Adrian Sutil was running as high as tenth but a rear-tyre puncture saw his race undone. McLaren had an off-day as Kovalainen’s race fell apart in the sixteenth lap & he was forced to retire with a mechanical problem.
Renault gambled on a short first pit-stop for Alonso and that worked out very well as he came ahead of Kubica and eked out a big enough lead over Kubica and when their second round of pit-stops came, it was Alonso who was still ahead. From thereon it was a matter of holding onto the lead and he did just that to notch up his 21st career victory and his second consecutive one this season. Down the order, Massa had a sort of mini-revival as he overtook a couple of cars to claw his way back into eighth position and thus salvage just one point. Hamilton finished out of the points but still maintains his lead in the Championship battle, now cut to just 6 points. Kovalainen’s non-finish meant that Ferrari leap back into the lead of the Constructors’ Championship over McLaren. Renault took home the biggest haul of points having finished first and fourth and consolidate their fourth position in the Constructors’ table. After them, Toro Rosso had the best race with Bourdais finishing 6th in front of teammate Vettel in 7th.
There remain just two more races in the season and time is running out for Felipe Massa to overhaul Lewis’ advantage in the championship. The next races are at Shanghai and at the Interlagos and assuming Massa is the favourite to clinch his home Grand Prix, Lewis just has to finish close to the top in each of the races to emerge Champion. But as last year showed, a couple of non-finishes could mar proceedings heavily. Hamilton must now keep his nerve and ensure a good enough result in China next week. Robert Kubica has cemented his third place position in the standings and still has a mathematical chance of winning it. Kimi, however is ruled out and thus ends his defense of the crown. The fact that he finished a race after four DNF’s and that too on the podium augurs well for his motivation levels.
Fernando Alonso won the first-ever night race in F1 while starting from 15th on the grid in a topsy-turvy Singapore Grand Prix which saw no less than two Safety Car periods. Ironically, it was the crash of teammate Nelson Piquet which brought out the safety car in the first place which saw Alonso leapfrog many of the front-runners since he had already made a pit-stop before the accident. Both the Ferraris – and especially pole-sitter Felipe Massa – lost out massively in the first safety car period. Massa’s race and effectively the Drivers’ Championship chase was compromised when the fuel-nozzle got stuck while he made his first pit-stop and he was released with the nozzle still stuck into the car. Kimi Raikkonen was waiting behind and though his stop was not compromised that much, it delayed him enough so as to drop the pair to 16th and 18th places. It turned from bad to worse as Raikkonen crashed out four laps from the end, thus effectively ending his Championship defence. Massa finished 13th to signal the worst race for Ferrari this season!
Williams’ had a good race as Nico Rosberg finished in a creditable 2nd after running as high as P1 after the first safety car incident but had to serve a stop-go penalty for pitting when the pit lane wasn’t yet opened. Robert Kubica also had to endure a similar penalty which saw him drop out of the points contention altogether. Lewis Hamilton drove an almost inconspicuous race involving only one overtaking move over David Coulthard and finished third, which sees him open up a 7 point gap over Massa in the drivers’ championship. Toyota would be sad and happy at the same time; sad to see Jarno Trulli retire from a possible podium place with a one-stopper strategy and happy to see Timo Glock finish fourth. Sebastian Vettel, Nick Heidfeld, David Coulthard and Kazuki Nakajima finished in the last four point-scoring positions.
Force India had a glimmer of a hope in finishing in the points as single-stopping Giancarlo Fisichella was running as high as second after the first safety car period but a lack of pace meant he steadily dropped down the order and eventually finished 14th. Teammate Adrian Sutil was the casualty which saw the second safety car period as he smacked into the barrier at turn 17. This time around, there was no impact on the race except getting the front-runners to bunch up closer than they were before. From thereon, it was just a matter of holding onto the lead for Alonso and holding Hamilton behind for Rosberg and they managed to do that effectively.
The one team that will love to forget the Singapore Grand Prix will be Ferrari. A small electronic connection between the fuel nozzle and the stop/go red n’ green lights might have played the most crucial part in deciding the 2008 Drivers’ Championship yet! In Massa’s defence, the lights did go green for a split second before turning back to red again but in that split second, he had lifted off and was off…taking the nozzle with him! And what on earth is the matter with Kimi Raikkonen? It is the fourth consecutive race in which he has failed to finish which doesn’t bode too well for a defending champion. All he had to do was to hold onto his fifth position but a wobble over the kerbs meant he went straight into the wall at turn 10, drawing the curtains on a miserable weekend for Ferrari. To make matters worse, they were overtaken by McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship – though by just one point.
The F1 caravan now moves eastwards for the Japanese and Chinese Grands Prix and looks like McLaren and Hamilton have it nicely sewn up, unless Ferrari and Massa can pull off something special. Sigh! Time to switch over the support to Massa [as one guy over at BBC Sport pointed out, he's the Tottenham Hotspur of F1 ]
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa put his car on pole position for the first-ever nighttime F1 Grand Prix at Singapore with a storming drive that left title contender and Championship leader Lewis Hamilton high and dry in second place. Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica were 3rd and fourth fastest. So we have a situation wherein the top four in the Drivers’ Championship occupy the top four starting slots in the Singapore Grand Prix! Awesome! What was NOT awesome was Star Sports’ decision of not to telecast the Qualifying session Live…even though its being held in their own backyard EPL is of more interest apparently! Anyways, there are other means to catch the action and I did just that [Or maybe as it happened last time around, it was only my DTH provider who's not getting the live feed for the Quali!]
There was bad news for Force India fans even before the Qualifying started as Giancarlo Fisichella suffered a crash in free practice after hitting the kerbs on turn 10. A lot of repair-work later, he did emerge for the session but was out again almost immediately. Sebastian Bourdais was the surprise dropout after Q1 alongside Rubens Barrichello, Nelson Piquet and Adrian Sutil. Meanwhile out at the top, after some scrappy runs, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen did a flyer of a lap to be P1 in the first session & Heikki Kovalainen bettered the lap set by teammate Lewis Hamilton to be P2.
Q2 started in terrible fashion for Fernando Alonso as his Renault was crippled with a fuel transmission problem and wasn’t able to post a time. Felipe Massa was the quickest in this session and Raikkonen was running second fastest until Kovalainen placed his McLaren in between them. Hamilton had a scare as he wasn’t able to set a time until just five minutes were left in the session and even then, could manage just 8th fastest…and then dropped to 10th and was in danger of missing the cut for Q3. But as luck would have it, the Red Bulls of David Coulthard and Mark Webber and the Honda of Jenson Button couldn’t squeeze past him and dropped out of the second session along with Alonso and Jarno Trulli.
Hamilton put that disappointment behind him as he went quickest in Q3, only to be pipped by Massa almost immediately! Kimi put in a quick lap but that wasn’t enough to trouble the championship leaders as they yet again exchanged fastest laps. Hamilton went quicker again but Massa was in no mood to be left second-best and his response was a stunner of a lap that was almost five-tenths of a second quicker than Hamilton’s and thus grabbing pole position. Raikkonen and Kubica were 3rd and 4th respectively with Kovalainen 5th, Heidfeld 6th, Vettel 7th, Glock 8th, Rosberg 9th and Nakajima 10th. We are in for an exciting race as the two Championship leaders are at the head of the field with Kimi & Kubica lurking behind in the second row. Gonna be a cracker of a race tomorrow!!!
Oops! Two ‘rejected appeal’ posts one after another
FIA’s International Court of Appeal has dismissed McLaren’s plea against the 25 seconds penalty accorded to Lewis Hamilton in the Belgian Grand Prix on the grounds that it is “inadmissible”.
The Court rejected McLaren’s right to appeal, citing Paragraph 5 of Article 152 of the International Sporting Code, which states: “Penalties of driving through or stopping in pit lanes together with certain penalties specified in FIA Championship regulations where this is expressly stated, are not susceptible to appeal.” The Court’s decision means Hamilton’s championship lead remains at just a single point over Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who inherited the victory at Spa.[Formula1.com]
That was what many pundits had foreseen but back then, my immediate thought was that the penalty would be overturned! As it turned out, mine was one of the very few opinions in favour of McLaren/Hamilton . Most of his racing colleagues were also against him and supported the penalty, albeit somewhat mutedly.
The F1 season is now moving into its home-stretch, with just four more races remaining and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa trails Hamilton by just one point. As ESPN’s Sporstcenter showed earlier tonight, if the remaining four races go the same way as last year, Massa would win the Drivers’ Championship by 4 points! The onus is now upon Lewis to lift himself up for the immediate Singaporean Grand Prix. No doubt, the news would have come as a shot in the arm for Massa and he also would look towards maximising the results from the next races. Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica would be ever eager in the background to snap up the points in case the leaders trip up. Exciting days (and the lone night) ahead for F1.
Sebastian Vettel took his and Scuderia Toro Rosso’s first-ever F1 victory at the Italian Grand Prix which started out in damp conditions and behind the Safety Car. Heikki Kovalainen was second for Mclaren with BMW’s Robert Kubica taking third place. Just when it seemed that it would be a dull race behind the safety car, came the news that it would pull off in the second lap and when it did so and racing resumed, there were no sudden manoeuvres or lunges from any of the drivers as the conditions were still treacherous to make any ill-thought moves. The first few laps were very gingerly done as the drivers tiptoed around the fast Monza circuit on extreme-wet-tyres while trying to watch the track in-front through the spray threw about by the car in front but as the rain relented, the front-runners started making their moves and it was Lewis Hamilton who made the most places as he overtook a bunch of cars and ran as high as second at one time.
Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel scores his maiden F1 victory at the Italian Grand Prix
The pit-stops were strategic as few drivers were on a single-stoppers whilst others were on two-stoppers but ultimately almost every driver stopped twice – those on a single-fuel-stop had to stop again to throw on intermediate tyres as the forecast rain did not appear and the track dried sufficiently to warrant going onto them. The middle-part of the race saw Felipe Massa as the strongest of the drivers as he wove his way around the slower cars in front while Hamilton again demonstrated his wet-weather drive as he overtook few cars again after his second pit-stop; but he didn’t endear himself to his fellow drivers with some needless aggression on those moves! Those who had a disappointing second-stops included the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen & both the Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock who dropped down to 14th, 15th and 16th places at the end of it! Those who took advantage from their sole stops included BMW’s Robert Kubica who was the last of the drivers to stop for fuel thus propelling him to third place. Towards the latter laps, tyre graining on the intermediates affected many, including Lewis Hamilton as he almost lost his seventh place to the Red Bull of Mark Webber and there was a needless shutting-of-the door from Lewis as he and Webber touched wheels. The only retirement of the race was that of Giancarlo Fisichella on the 11th lap, who hit the back of David Coulthard as he overtook him and damaged his nose-wing in the process. It was a bitter end to the Italian’s home grand prix and also scuppered Force India’s best start of the season.
Amidst all of this, Sebastian Vettel drove a near-perfect race as he led from start to finish and became F1′s youngest ever victor, beating Fernando Alonso’s record. Toro Rosso also hauled in their first-ever victory in F1 but it could have been all the more sweeter if Sebastian Bourdais’ car hadn’t stalled at the start of the race. McLaren had something to savour as Heikki Kovalainen took home second place ahead of Robert Kubica. Renault had their best finish of the season with Fernando Alonso taking the fourth place with BMW’s Nick Heidfeld in fifth. Felipe Massa ended where he started on the grid – in sixth – but his title contender Lewis Hamilton made up eight places and took the seventh place. Mark Webber finished eight and took the last available point. Kimi Raikkonen went home with 0 points and just the fastest lap to his name! Surely this signals the end of his Championship defense…especially with Kubica now moving seven points clear of him into third place in the Championship table. F1 now moves onto Singapore for the first-ever night race with Lewis Hamilton holding a 1 point lead over Felipe Massa (pending the Spa penalty appeal, which will be heard on Sep 22).
Image Courtesy: Reuters