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GP Week : Issue 33
> F1china> L EWIS Hamilton drove a faultless race in possibly the single dullest contest of the 2008 season, but with season-long title rival Felipe Massa taking second position, the title goes to the wire. It wasn’t the greatest race on earth, in fact it was universally derided as one of the most boring races of the season, but Lewis Hamilton’s perfect drive on the circuit at which his 2007 title aspirations started to slip from his hands has brought the Englishman to within touching distance of his first Formula 1 World Championship. Hamilton led away from the stunning pole position he had taken on Saturday afternoon, and never looked troubled for the 56 laps of the Grand Prix of China. Despite starting on the harder compound Bridgestone Potenza tyre with both Ferrari drivers setting off on the softer option, Hamilton pulled out a sizeable lead in the opening segment of the race, which he continued to increase with almost each passing lap until the chequered flag. It was the drive of a champion; solid, measured and mature on a day when the expectation and nerves of a championship showdown could all too easily have set Hamilton on edge. Second position went to Felipe Massa, although this was only down to Kimi Raikkonen gifting his team-mate the position on lap 50. Raikkonen’s lead over Massa had been such that not even a slow pit-stop could reverse the positions, and so it was that the Finn gradually eased off and allowed Massa to pass. And that was pretty much as exciting as the afternoon got. Fernando Alonso put in another great drive, although with the Ferraris and McLarens up front and not getting themselves into any tangles, a repeat of his last two wins was never going to be a realistic expectation. The Spaniard had spent the opening laps of the race in fifth following a nifty start from Heikki Kovalainen to steal fourth spot at the first corner, but with the Finn running heavy the 2005/2006 World Champion quickly made his way past and held onto fourth for the rest of the race. Fifth should have been Heikki Kovalainen’s but a flat front right tyre picked up on lap 35 sent him spiralling to the back of the field before his ultimate retirement from the event on lap 50 with hydraulic issues. A mismatched set of tyres on the first set had wreaked havoc with the opening of his race, but the eventual tyre issue is believed to have been a puncture picked up on track after his first stop. Into fifth spot, then, moved Nick Heidfeld, with team-mate Robert Kubica in sixth. It had been a tough weekend for the BMW boys who had never really seemed to be on the pace. With Heidfeld starting ninth and Kubica 11th their afternoon was always going to be tough, but clever strategy and a good start from both drivers put them in solid points positions. Seventh went to Timo Glock whose Toyota team had gambled on a one stop strategy which pulled the German up from 12th on the grid, while Nelson Piquet had another solid drive to bring home the last point in eighth. While it wasn’t a race to tell the grandkids about for most, for Hamilton it will have exorcised the demons of 12 months ago. At the track which had done so much to kill off his championship hopes in 2007, in 2008 the Grand Prix of China showed just how much the youngster has matured and developed as a racing driver and a man in just 12 months. With just one race to go, not only does he hold a points advantage, but given the margin of his win at this of all tracks, he holds the mental advantage too. 27