Ferrari's Felipe Massa followed up his pole position in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix with an untouchable victory in the race at the Circuit de Catalunya. However, although Massa has firmly staked his place in the championship fight, ...
Ferrari's Felipe Massa followed up his pole position in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix with an untouchable victory in the race at the Circuit de Catalunya. However, although Massa has firmly staked his place in the championship fight, McLaren's young star Lewis Hamilton scored second place which was enough to elevate him to the lead of the championship standings.
At the start of the installation lap Massa was slow away and it proved to be a temporary glitch. But Toyota's Jarno Trulli was not so fortunate and bought out the yellow flags on the grid due to a fuel pressure problem. The pack had to do another installation lap and line up again. Massa and local hero Fernando Alonso fought off the line but Massa was on a roll from qualifying and wasn't about to let up.
Alonso went into the dust off track as he fought for the lead with the result that the slipped down to fourth behind the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton had got his McLaren up to second and was intent on aiming for his first F1 win.
Alex Wurz' Williams had a clash with the Toyota of Ralf Schumacher, which sent them both into the pits for a visit. Schumacher re-emerged but Wurz didn't. "I was lined up behind Ralf going into turn 10 and he suddenly had to lift for someone in front," said Wurz. "It's such close racing out there so I had zero chance to react and ended up on his wheel. It proved the end of my race."
It was a short race for Raikkonen, who retired fairly early with an electric gremlin. "I was running at a good pace and could have had a good result, but suddenly the car had an electrical problem and all I could was come back to the garage," said the Finn.
The Red Bull of David Coulthard was having a good afternoon, up to seventh, and Alonso was attacking Raikkonen with no success. The Honda of Jenson Button was up to 11th, one behind teammate Rubens Barrichello. It was a short-lived race for Red Bull's Mark Webber, who retired under 10 laps down with what he suspected was a repeat of Saturday's hydraulic problems.
"Unfortunately reliability problems cost me a race finish today," said the Australian. "At the moment, I think it's a recurrence of yesterday's hydraulic problem. We had planned to go for a long first stint because of my low grid position, but it doesn't matter what strategy you have if you don't get to the finish."
The Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button had a moment and Button lost his front wing, another problem Honda didn't need. Button went into the pits and was a bit slow away after his front adjustment. Meanwhile, while the pit stops were circulating, the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld was in the lead.
But it was short lived for the BMW hairy driver, as the crew failed to attach a wheel nut properly in his stop and it fell off at the pit exit. Heidfeld managed to nurse the car all the way round back to the pits and get it fixed but eventually it was actually a gearbox problem that ended his race.
Renault's Heikki Kovalainen was attacking Coulthard for fifth and at the front Massa was serenely sailing ahead. Hamilton was 15 seconds behind by then and not likely to make any impression on the lead. Once again, after Bahrain, if you can remember that far back, McLaren struggled for pace in the middle stint of the race.
Spyker's Christijan Albers got a drive through penalty for ignoring the blue flags but it hardly made a difference to the running order. By then it was done and dusted, Massa away in the front and Hamilton lagging behind. Scott Speed's Toro Rosso had a big tyre blow out, the American continuing his tough season. Aside from that, the second part of the race was pretty uneventful.
"Fantastic!" exclaimed Massa about the win. "The duel at the start was very tight. I took some risks but I absolutely did not want to lose position and that meant we touched when he (Alonso) came up the inside of me. Luckily, the car was undamaged, and so I was immediately able to pull away from my pursuers. I wanted to get a good lead straight away so that I could manage the situation in the second stint of the race and that's how it went."
Hamilton, unsurprisingly, was upbeat. "Going into the race, we knew we had a very good strategy," said the new standings leader. "At this track you can't really overtake, so the key is to try and get the best position in the first corner and so the aim was to get as many places at the first corner and fortunately I got past Kimi but Fernando and Felipe touched and I was able to get past Fernando. It was very close, I think when he came back on, he nearly hit me but nevertheless, we managed to pull it off."
"My chance for victory disappeared after the incident at the first corner," Alonso explained. "I got off the line OK at the start and was able to get a tow from Felipe and challenge into the first corner as I was already half a car length in front however we touched, and I had to go on the gravel to avoid an accident. We were both lucky to finish the race."
Everything happened in the early stages at Barcelona and once things settled down there was not a lot of excitement. Still, it's interesting to see Hamilton and Massa out-ranking their highly-rated teammates again -- and a big cheer for Sato's point for Super Aguri! Final top eight classification: Massa, Hamilton, Alonso, Kubica, Coulthard, Rosberg, Kovalainen, Sato.