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GP Week : Issue 25
>>F1EUROPE W ELL, it wasn’t quite the classic we’d been hoping for, but Felipe Massa righted the wrongs of his cruel misfortune in Hungary three weeks previously with a show of force at the new Valencia Street Circuit. The Ferrari driver had been fast all weekend and, blasted to pole position on Saturday with a perfect lap to relegate championship rival Lewis Hamilton into second on the grid by two tenths of a second, with Robert Kubica third. And that’s the way the race ended. Hamilton had compared driving the new track to taking a spin around a car park, and with what appeared to be a large percentage of Spain’s tarmac quota forming absurdly large run-off areas at most corners, it wasn’t the most challenging of circuits. It was like a proper race track, but with a few buildings as backdrops … and about as many overtaking opportunities as we’re normally treated to at the other Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. A shame, really. But there was some excitement. Off the line, Massa was inch perfect, while Lewis Hamilton suffered somewhat on the dirtier side of the track. The Briton had a tough battle with Kubica through the sweeping left-hand Turn 1, but held his nerve into Turn 2 to maintain his grid slot and a shot at catching Massa. Behind them, the lowly qualifying position of local hero Fernando Alonso (a disappointing 12th) left him open to a bit of craziness on the first lap, and Kazuki Nakajima found himself with nowhere to go at Turn 4 and used the Spaniard as a brake. The Spaniard’s rear wing and gearbox were ruined and it was game over for him. The order settled down with Massa pulling out a healthy lead from Hamilton, followed by Kubica, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Trulli and Rosberg. It was the Brazilian who was first to pit, coming in on lap 15 for his first stop. He emerged narrowly ahead of his team-mate, and with Kovalainen ahead of him, one’s natural expectation was for the Finn to try and slow the Ferrari enough to afford Hamilton an advantage … but he didn’t. Instead, Hamilton drove two stunningly fast laps, pitted, and emerged behind Raikkonen. When the first set of stops had all panned out, the only real change in the order was that Trulli had jumped ahead of Vettel, and the one-stopping Toyota of Glock was sitting fourth. The German took his stop on lap 30, and normality was restored. Then it all went a bit mad. Massa took his second and final stop on lap 38, and was released into the path of the Force India of Sutil. 24 hours earlier, the same had happened in the GP2 race and the driver in question had been slapped with a drive-through penalty. Game over for Massa we thought … but we thought wrong. A big fine for Ferrari, but no race-affecting penalty. Two laps later Hamilton stopped and emerged second, and with Kubica doing the same on lap 41. Adrian Sutil’s afternoon ended in the wall at Turn Two on lap 43, and before there was even a chance for the Safety Car to be called, Raikkonen and Kovalainen pitted. The McLaren stop was perfect. The Ferrari stop was not. So eager was the champ to get going, that he pulled away with the hose still attached, injuring the fuel man. The time he lost was inconsequential. Two laps later he crossed the line and his engine popped. Raikkonen’s last win came in Spain, but today he joined the small list of retirees and took an early bath. And so the order was set. Felipe Massa strolled home to record a deserved victory in spite of the team’s pitlane error, with Lewis Hamilton 5.6s down the road in second. Robert Kubica drove a steady race to third, while Heikki Kovalainen took fourth and sealed more points for McLaren. Jarno Trulli finished fifth while Sebastian Vettel took a brilliant sixth and Timo Glock an equally impressive seventh. The final point went to Nico Rosberg, for Williams’ first bit of good news since Silverstone. The title race then has become very interesting as Lewis Hamilton now sits on 70 points, six ahead of Massa on 64. Raikkonen goes third on 57 with Kubica hot on his heels with 55. In the constructors’championship Ferrari lead on 121, but McLaren are getting ever closer on 113. BMW, meanwhile, is still lurking in third, just 17 points behind McLaren. 29