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GP Week : Issue 10
U NDOUBTEDLY the race of the year to date, the Turkish Grand Prix was a bustling contest of strategy and sheer brilliance. Ferrari, the most impressive team of the last four races, arrived in Istanbul as stone cold favourites and, with Massa taking the previous two victories at the track a third straight win looked on the cards from day one. That he achieved it with such aplomb, and with his rivals so closely matched in pace however, owes weight to the growing belief that the Brazilian could be a genuine contender for the title. The pole-sitter always seems to win in Turkey. It’s not that it’s impossible to pass at the track – far from it – but the man who gets away cleanly just always seems to gain an added advantage. So when Massa shot off into the lead from pole and into the lead it was little surprise. Lewis Hamilton had made up a place at the start to sit second behind Massa. What nobody knew at the time was that Hamilton was running a three stop strategy – the only man on the grid to do so – following advice from Bridgestone that his driving style leant itself to another potential tyre delamination, such as the one which did so much damage to his 2007 race in Turkey. The Brit stopped three laps earlier than Massa in the first instance, taking on his second set of the harder tyres which had been more to his liking all weekend. Thereafter Hamilton hunted down the Ferrari, sweeping past and into the lead on lap 24 in a fantastic move at Turn 12. By this point Raikkonen was sitting pretty in third. Having made contact with countryman Kovalainen at the start, Kimi’s front wing had been damaged. But the World Champion was able to keep his ride steady and true, although never really finding himself able to fight at the front. Kovalainen meanwhile had been forced to make an unscheduled pitstop to change a puncture picked up in the first corner exchange, and the Finn was doggedly charging through the field in what would be a hugely entertaining but ultimately fruitless attempt to get back into the points. He didn’t have to worry too much about getting past Nakajima or Fisichella, the duo coming together at the first corner when the Italian got his braking all wrong and ended up flying over the top of the shocked Williams driver. Fisi was out there and then, but Nakajima made it to the pits where he retired. Sebastien Bourdais made it a little further, but wound up in the gravel when “something broke at the back of the car.” They were the only retirements. Back at the front, Hamilton had pulled out a fair gap over Massa, but when he pitted for the second time on lap 33 and took on his third set of hard tyres, it was obvious he was on a three stop strategy and the real race began. He put all he could into catching the Ferraris of Raikkonen and Massa, eventually sitting just shy of the Finn when the next round of pitstops began. Massa ducked in for his second and final stop 18 laps from home, with Raikkonen following suit three laps later. This left Hamilton back in the lead and in clean air to try and put in some fast laps… which he did. He pitted 12 laps from the flag for the third time and emerged in second position, under a second ahead of Raikkonen – but over five back from Massa. On the same fuel loads the trio were now racing at an almost identical pace, and Massa duly crossed the line after 58 hard-fought laps to seal victory ahead of Hamilton and Raikkonen. Best of the rest went to BMW who had one of their quietest races in a while to notch up more valuable points with Kubica in an ascendant fourth over Heidfeld in fifth. Fernando Alonso was sixth following a good start with a steely Mark Webber seventh and Nico Rosberg back in the points again in eighth. They’d all had relatively lonely afternoons and the lack of any real documentation of their exploits is evidence of such. The fight for ninth to 15th however was worthy of note and praise. Coulthard, Trulli, Button, Kovalainen, Glock, Barrichello and Piquet had provided much of the afternoon’s entertainment. They may not have been fighting for points and, with the midfield as tightly packed as it is at present that’s a huge shame. Kovalainen showed the sort of pace which is sure to net him a victory when circumstance finds favour enough to grant him his chance, but Button, Glock and Piquet in particular stood out as drivers who had just gone out and raced their socks off. Barrichello’s record-breaking 257th race didn’t quite bring home the result he would have wanted, but at the very back Sutil and Vettel did both at least get to see the chequered flag – the second for Sutil and first for his compatriot. 30