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GP Week : Issue 16
F1 france >> F ELIPE Massa strode to his third Grand Prix victory of the 2008 season at the French Grand Prix, inheriting the lead from team-mate Kimi Raikkonen after the Finn picked up damage on his Ferrari. For the red cars, the French Grand Prix was a dominant return to form, as even with a damaged car Raikkonen was able to take an easy second position, ahead of a delighted and unexpectedly pacy Jarno Trulli for Toyota. With an all-Ferrari front row, the red cars blasted into the distance at the race start and Raikkonen set about building up a steady four second lead from his team-mate. The duo pitted one lap apart, Raikkonen on lap 21 and Massa on lap 22, and the Finn continued to eke out the gap to six seconds at half distance. Then came the moment that changed the race for the duo. The cameras showed something hanging from Raikkonen’s right rear engine cover. On closer inspection, his exhaust pipe could be seen flailing around in the wind. As the Finn struggled to keep pace in his broken car Massa took vast chunks out of his lead and eventually passed him on lap 39. From there on, and despite a broken car, Raikkonen held second place with Massa imposing a 17.9 second lead after the second round of stops to win with ease. But if the story at the front was one of ease, the tale behind was one of hard fought determination. Jarno Trulli got a great start from fourth on the grid to jump Fernando Alonso into Turn 1. From there, he endured race-long pressure for his position from first Alonso, then Robert Kubica and finally Heikki Kovalainen. But the Italian gritted his teeth and rose above the challenges to record the team’s first podium in two-and-a- half seasons. Behind him was the McLaren of Kovalainen. Starting 10th after his qualifying ‘impeding’ penalty, he had been passed early on by team- mate Hamilton who was also fighting back from his grid penalty. The McLaren duo became stuck behind the brilliant defensive driving of the far heavier Nelson Piquet (Renault), and when Hamilton was handed a drive-through penalty for cutting a chicane on the opening lap, Kovalainen was left behind the impassable Brazilian. The first pit stops saw the duo come in together, and on the pit exit Piquet slowed drastically having accidentally hit the neutral button. Kovalainen dinked around him and never looked back, setting a blistering pace, passing Webber on-track for sixth, and then Kubica and Alonso via pit strategy to finish fourth after a fine attempt at third. Only Trulli’s sheer guts denied him a podium. Kubica had nowhere near the pace of his Canadian triumph, and had a fairly quiet race. Although getting Trulli lined up after the first stops, he just didn’t have the pace to keep up and settled for fifth. Webber was delighted with sixth for another points haul at Red Bull after jumping Alonso at the second srtops, but then having to keep a pair of Renaults at bay. The first of those was Piquet. Dusting himself down after his pit exit blunder, he drove with maturity and determination, passing his double world champion team-mate two laps from the flag. Alonso was far from happy to have been dislodged to eighth, but a double points haul for the team was its most consistent result to date. The results leave Massa at the top of the championship table on 48 points, the first Brazilian to hold such a position since Ayrton Senna in 1993. Kubica holds onto second with 46, while Raikkonen sits third on 43, five ahead of Hamilton. In the constructors’ championship, Ferrari lead the way on 91, with BMW Sauber on 74 and McLaren on 58 points. 25