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GP Week : Issue 27
>>F1BELGIUM F ELIPE Massa didn’t actually win the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix, but the history books may well show that he did. What they will fail to show is the wonderful drive of Kimi Raikkonen, the tremendous battle between him and Lewis Hamilton and, depending on who is writing the history book, the highly debatable decision of the race stewards to ruin it all. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The race had begun under clear skies for one of the first times during a weekend which had been permeated by wet weather. Hamilton would start from pole position on a track which, shortly before the skies had cleared, had been subjected to a quick but substantial does of rain. It was slippery, but not treacherous. As the lights went out, Hamilton got a flyer, and shot into the lead from Massa and Raikkonen, who almost put each other onto the grass on the run down to Les Combes. It was Raikkonen who won that little battle and the race order at the front was set … for now. Behind them all hell broke loose when Kovalainen ran wide and Bourdais smashed into Trulli’s gearbox. Everyone emerged relatively in tact, but the order had been tremendously jumbled to place Alonso fourth, and Bourdais a fine, if lucky, fifth. Lap 2 was where everything changed, however, as race-leader Hamilton was caught out by the damp track. He spun at La Source in what he admitted was a pretty pathetic moment (after locking the rears on the final down-change), but got himself going again before Raikkonen could get past. The Finn bided his time, and nailed Hamilton into Les Combes. And that was the order for the first two thirds of the race. Raikkonen led Hamilton, Massa, Alonso, Bourdais, Kubica, a recovering Kovalainen, Heidfeld and Webber. To be fair, it actually started to get a bit boring. The sight of F1 cars banging around Spa-Francorchamps can never become dull, as in Valencia dull, but there certainly wasn’t much danger of any overtaking at the front. The first pit-stops simply confirmed the status quo, although a drive- through penalty for Kovalainen after he nerfed Mark Webber into a spin, jumbled up the lower points order, placing Kubica sixth, Vettel seventh and Heidfeld eighth. The interesting part, however, didn’t happen until right at the end. With the drivers taking their second and final stop, and the prime tyre to boot, Hamilton suddenly found himself at an advantage. Raikkonen was struggling to put heat into his tyres and the McLaren took great chunks out of the Ferrari’s lead with every passing lap. Then, with three laps to go, rain started to fall … lightly at first, and then like there was no tomorrow. Hamilton and Raikkonen had their chicane moment, and Hamilton gave back the position. He retook the lead at La Source, and Raikkonen nudged him with his front wing for good measure. It was proper racing. As the rain fell ever harder, first Hamilton and the Raikkonen ran off the track, but it was the Finn who was to ultimately become unstuck, skewing across the circuit and into the wall with just one lap of the race left to go. Hamilton tip-toed around to take the win, with Massa coming home second and Nick Heidfeld, who had pitted for intermediate tyres two laps from the flag, coming home a surprise third. In the craziness after the race, however, Massa was promoted to first, Heidfeld was investigated but took second and Hamilton had to make do with third. Alonso kept fourth, while Vettel took an unexpected fifth. Kubica slotted into sixth, with Sebastien Bourdais, who had looked odds on for a podium until the rain, seventh and Mark Webber inheriting eight after Timo Glock was handed a 25s penalty for passing the Australian under yellow flags. And so attention moves to Monza. It had been a brilliant end to an ordinary race, but politics ruled over sport and the right result was turned all wrong. The decision came through so late that all the fans had already gone home, only to find out that the guy they’d just watch win the race… hadn’t. When F1 is trying to win back fans, this is the kind of PR it really doesn’t need ... 25