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GP Week : Issue 3
25 www. GPWEEK. com F1 malaysia >> I N TENNIS you’d have called it an unforced error. In rugby, a fumble. But whatever you choose to call it, Felipe Massa’s retirement from the Malaysian Grand Prix robbed Ferrari of a 1-2 in what should have been a complete tour-de-force for the Scuderia. The Italian team was utterly dominant at Sepang. In race conditions, nobody had an answer for them, nor for reigning World Champion Kimi Raikkonen who, in taking victory, obliterated the disappointment he and his crew had felt just seven days before in Melbourne. The margin of his victory over BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica meant little. The fact that the Champ won this one at a canter reflects that in all probability that gap could have been exponentially greater. Massa led the race from the pole position he had so emphatically taken on Saturday for the opening 17 laps, with Raikkonen never further than a few seconds down the road in second. Kubica had jumped to third at the start, with Mark Webber making an excellent start to sit fourth ahead of Hamilton, Trulli, Kovalainen and Heidfeld. The order remained unchanged until the first stops, Webber taking his on lap 17, Massa, Trulli and Heidfeld coming in one lap later. The Brazilian came out behind Kovalainen, Trulli managed to exit ahead of Webber, while Heidfeld emerged slightly behind the Australian. Lap 19 saw Raikkonen come in from the lead having set the fastest lap of the race, and his pacey in-laps were just enough to see him emerge ahead of his team-mate. One lap later and Hamilton was in for his first stop. As his crew took a few notches out of his front wing levels, the right front spinner became detached from the wheel gun, and the resulting delay cost the Brit around 10 extra seconds at a standstill. He exited ahead of Heidfeld, but was again looking directly at Webber’s rear wing. Kovalainen pitted on lap 21, with Kubica following suit from the lead one lap later. They filtered back into a pack of drivers yet to stop that included Alonso, Coulthard and Button, and when the aforementioned trio made their trips in for fuel and tyres, the order saw Raikkonen lead Massa, Kubica, a storming Kovalainen, Trulli, Webber, Hamilton and Heidfeld. The race settled into a fairly humdrum procession, with Raikkonen pulling out an easy lead from his team-mate. But on lap 31, the Scuderia’s dreams of total dominance ended in the gravel as Massa lost the back end of his Ferrari through turn 7, spinning across the track and dumping his F2008 backwards into the run-off at turn 8. Game over. From there on, all we really had to hope for was rain… which never came. The second stops saw the order pretty much maintained, although Webber again suffered in his, and as the positions played out he lost two places, slipping behind both Hamilton and Heidfeld. The Brit meanwhile had started to catch fourth-placed Trulli, but despite a last lap attack he could find no way past the experienced Italian. And so it finished, Raikkonen at a canter from a delighted Kubica and Kovalainen, all three of whom made up for their Melbourne disappointments of missing out on the podium. Trulli held on for a fantastic fourth, with Hamilton taking a fifth place which saw him maintain his championship lead. Sixth went to Heidfeld with Webber seventh and Fernando Alonso eighth after a spirited race-long battle with Coulthard.