Kovalainen takes surprise victory in Hungary

Kovalainen takes surprise victory in Hungary

Want to know what Formula One racing is all about? It's about making an audacious, if improbable, move from the second row stick straight off the start line. It's about beating a guy everyone would tell you is better than you to Turn 1 then ...

Want to know what Formula One racing is all about?

It's about making an audacious, if improbable, move from the second row stick straight off the start line. It's about beating a guy everyone would tell you is better than you to Turn 1 then building a lead over him. It's about looking at sure victory and the world driving title lead only to have your engine cook three laps from the end.

Heikki Kovalainen takes the checkered flag.
Photo by xpb.cc.

What Formula One is about is luck, good and ill. What it is not about is justice.

Thus Ferrari's Felipe Massa, exemplary through 67 of 70 laps, held his head Sunday as the only move left to him after his Ferrari F2008 engine blew up to give the Hungarian Grand Prix to McLaren Mercedes's Heikki Kovalainen. A shredded left-front tire kept the pole sitter, whom Massa overtook into Turn 1, Lewis Hamilton, from inheriting the lead. Instead, the man whose contract option was picked up in the past week, the man seen as the amenable if unnamed No. 2 on the McLaren Mercedes team, was standing ready to serve when the team star could not fulfill his duties.

The victory is the first for Kovalainen, in his sophomore season, a season increasingly giving new meaning to the phrase "young and gifted" (remember Robert Kubica's inherited victory in Canada?). Kovalainen, whose victory makes him the 100th driver to win an F1 race, shared the podium celebration with fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who finished third behind Toyota's Timo Glock.

"Of course, I'm very happy," front-row starter Kovalainen said. "We've been in position after Saturday quite a few times to fight for victory but always something has gone wrong and it hasn't functioned perfectly. Today, obviously, Massa and Lewis were both very fast at the beginning of the race. But halfway through the race it was starting to work for me a little bit better. Then at the end I just tried to put pressure on Massa, hope that something would happen, and it looked like he had a mechanical failure. So it all worked fine for me today and I'm very, very happy about it, of course."

Timo Glock, Toyota F1 Team, TF108.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Glock's second place completed a superior performance that delivered his first podium after his best qualifying performance, fifth. The German who crashed out of his home grand prix spectacularly two weeks ago led veteran teammate Jarno Trulli in a double-points finish. Trulli was seventh.

"It's just unbelievable," Glock said. "I couldn't believe when I saw Felipe's engine going off and I knew I was P2. And get the pressure from Kimi. With the soft tires at the end there, I struggled quite a lot. We knew that already from Friday that soft tires would be difficult.

"The last stint when I saw I was nine seconds ahead of Kimi, I had a reasonable pace but then they told me he's just four- or five-tenths quicker per lap then nearly a second. I just tried to push more and more, and I just destroyed the tire every time. I had to really be focused on the tire, just keep it easy, keep it cool, and don't get too much under pressure from Kimi."

Current world champion Raikkonen, who started sixth, spent much of the race behind the Renault of former world champion Fernando Alonso. Then speedy pit-crew work shot Raikkonen back on track ahead of Alonso after the Finn's final stop and he went on to set fast lap at 1 minute, 21.195 seconds.

Raikkonen, who said Saturday he had made a qualifying mistake that cost him time, reiterated that fighting for victories is a Saturday thing, and his season won't improve all that much until he can sort qualifying.

Kimi Raikkonen, Scuderia Ferrari, F2008.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"I think we could have managed to do the race a little bit better," Raikkonen said. "But we were stuck behind Alonso all the way until the second stop. Then on the inlap I was eight-tenths faster on my own, but it was a bit late at that point. But at least we had a good car. I was able to get in front of him and catch Timo, but I had to back off in the end.

"We were a bit lucky with all the people going all over the places and most of the points from the first three cars in the championship. We have the speed in the race but if I cannot get the qualifying right, really, we'll end up every race in the same situation like here and the last race. So we need to sort it out. If we can be in the front then we can fight for wins, but in this position, we just follow people and we cannot use the speed."

Raikkonen started and finished sixth at the German Grand Prix.

Alonso came fourth ahead of Hamilton, who earns a measure of points-paying redemption after earning a reputation as hard on tires, Renault teammate Nelsinho Piquet, Trulli and BMW Sauber's Kubica in the points positions. Piquet's points finish was his second in succession. Kubica's eighth was his lowest points place of the season.

Finishing on the lead lap thereafter were Red Bull's Mark Webber, BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld, and Red Bull's David Coulthard. Jenson Button for Honda, the Williamses of Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg, and Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella were shown a lap down. Rubens Barrichello was two laps down for Honda. Sebastien Bourdais for Scuderia Toro Rosso and Massa were shown three laps down. Adrian Sutil parked his Force India with four laps left. Sebastian Vettel made nearly as brief a race appearance for Toro Rosso as he had Friday practice laps, when he completed nine; he put the STR3 in the garage after 23 laps.

Start, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-23 and Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari, F2008.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Kovalainen's victory let McLaren Mercedes move ahead of BMW Sauber and close a 19-point gap to Ferrari in the constructors' chase, 111-100. Toyota's double points payout meant a surge in the battle for fourth. Toyota stays ahead of Renault, 35-31, after both teams' drivers earned points. On 24 points, Red Bull fails to keep pace.

Hamilton's fifth-place points kept him ahead in the drivers' race with 62 points; Raikkonen (57) moved ahead of Massa (54) with Kubica (49) remaining fourth, Heidfeld (41) fifth and Kovalainen (38) sixth.

The race focused all competitors on the difficulties of tire wear on the hot -- 115 degrees Fahrenheit -- track surface. Only Coulthard started on the softer of Bridgestone's two compounds. But as pit stops progressed, focus turned to pit fires. Bourdais, whose grid spot dropped five places after he was penalized for holding up Heidfeld in qualifying, was sprayed with fire suppressant twice when his car went alight. Nakajima and Barrichello also suffered worrying flareups.

The form book always goes out the window at Hungary. Perhaps the unexpected (read: exciting) was a factor in F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone signing the Hungaroring to another eight years of races. Look for the Hungarian Grand Prix to be staged at least through 2016. Then hope your driver gets lucky.

The circus reconvenes in Valencia, Spain, after a three-week holiday.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Sébastien Bourdais , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen , Robert Kubica , Timo Glock , Sebastian Vettel , Kazuki Nakajima , Adrian Sutil , Bernie Ecclestone
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Toro Rosso , Williams