Like a flamenco dancer stamping the earth to emphasize life's sensations, Felipe Massa on Sunday stamped his imprimatur on the European Grand Prix's new venue, the harbor streets of Valencia, Spain, with victory from pole position and fastest lap...
Like a flamenco dancer stamping the earth to emphasize life's sensations, Felipe Massa on Sunday stamped his imprimatur on the European Grand Prix's new venue, the harbor streets of Valencia, Spain, with victory from pole position and fastest lap as the Brazilian ramped up his bid for an FIA Formula One World Driving Championship.
Massa, who credited his second stint with putting away victory, overcame teammate Kimi Raikkonen to move from third to second in the drivers' race.
McLaren Mercedes drivers' championship leader Lewis Hamilton was left to chase Massa throughout, finishing second nearly six seconds behind. Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber came third after having to back off a run at Hamilton into the first corner. McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen came fourth, Toyota's Jarno Trulli fifth, Scudera Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel sixth, Toyota's Timo Glock seventh, and Williams's Nico Rosberg eighth.
Fourth-starting Raikkonen was on target for a points finish when his Ferrari F2008 comprehensively blew its engine 11 laps from the end. The only other nonfinishers were Force India's Adrian Sutil, who overshot a corner into a tire wall, and Spaniard Fernando Alonso, whose Renault was bashed into by Williams's Kazuki Nakajima barely a third of a lap into the race. The R28 lost its rear wing and suffered suspension and gearbox damage too great to continue.
Massa's victory was not without threat. Stewards elected to consider a Ferrari pit-lane infraction after the race, leaving watchers to wonder if victory might be stripped for Massa's pit team releasing him from his second stop nearly straight into Sutil.
Instead, stewards imposed a 10,000 euro ($14,800) fine on Massa, who took the entitled defense.
"It wasn't very clever for Sutil," Massa said. "Even if he goes out in front of me he needs to let me by."
The second round of pit stops weren't very clever for Ferrari. After Massa's irregular re-entry, Raikkonen seemed to jump the team's light system and headed away from his box with fuel hose in tow and mechanics spilling in his wake. One mechanic was stretchered away.
Losing Raikkonen to engine failure let McLaren trim Ferrari's constructors' points lead from 11 to eight points, 121-113. BMW Sauber remain in solid third with 96 points. Raikkonen's drivers' title chances dimmed as he dropped 13 points behind the leader Hamilton.
Hamilton had a grippy complaint by race time, but he survived to score points. "I can't complain with second place today," he said. "This was a strong weekend for us despite my having a few problems healthwise, but we pulled through. The track was pretty difficult to overtake on, but I maintained the gap. Our lap times showed that our overall pace was good, which was encouraging. Heikki and I scored 13 points today, which is very positive for the team, so I'd describe it as a satisfactory weekend for us."
Kubica's drama involved a rush off the starting line with ambitions of passing Hamilton into Turn 1. But Massa braked early, forcing the Pole to back off. He settled in behind Hamilton only to have a plastic bag puffing on the breeze blow beneath his F1.08.
"I couldn't steer for two corners, which was extremely dangerous,:" he said. "Fortunately, most of the bag soon flew away, but my confidence was very low over the next sector, and I lost around three seconds. Eventually, I think my good qualifying result yesterday was crucial for today's result."
Kovalainen started well, overtaking Raikkonen into the first corner, then suffered grip problems that kept him from reeling in Kubica. "At least I scored five points, but a podium would have been much nicer," Kovalainen said. "Having said that, it's good that the team scored a lot of points with Lewis's second place and my fourth place."
Trulli led a double-scoring Toyota effort with head cold-hampered teammate Glock in seventh. "The team is still pushing with the development work, so I'm confident that we can maintain the form in the coming races and keep the points coming," Trulli said. Toyota gapped Renault by a race victory, 41-31, in the chase for fourth among constructors.
Vettel remained the prodigy of the family, leading all Red Bull runners with sixth place and the only points for the drinks company teams. Toro Rosso teammate Sebastien Bourdais, slowed after a wing-jarring bump with Heidfeld, came 10th as Ferrari's customer engines proved reliable. Renault-powered Red Bull RB4s came 12th with Mark Webber driving and 17th with David Coulthard at the wheel. The young German called his result a perfect day.
"Incredible," he said. "We can be very, very happy with this result. We made no mistakes, no mistakes all weekend and maximized our performance. The whole team can be very proud of what it has achieved and, hopefully, for the next races we can be in the top 10 again."
Rosberg's points placing was his first since the Turkish Grand Prix in mid May. "I'm pretty happy with that," he said. "It's good to be going home with a point today as it's been a long time since it happened. The race went quite well for me, and I was giving it my all, driving what felt like qualifying laps one after the other. The result is also good for the team as it sows we are getting back on track. Once again, I would like to say that Valencia has done a great job here, and the race was good fun."
Nick Heidfeld just missed points for BMW Sauber, finishing ninth. "This was one of the worst races ever for me," he said. "To finish ninth in a car which is obviously good enough for third is a disaster. After qualifying, I was pretty confident because we realized we could go well. But in the race I had big problems with the harder tires during the first two stints, and it was only better at the end with the softer compound. I lost on position after the start and later in the race I couldn't gain any. The pace wasn't there."
Renault's junior runner Nelsinho Piquet came 11th after also suffering wing damage in early pack jostling. Webber, in 12th, complained that the car was too slow. Jenson Button, who gained three places to 13th, lost the advantage of a one-stop strategy when he couldn't pass Heidfeld then suffered brake overheating. Giancarlo Fisichella finished 14th for Force India citing positive gains from pace and a new, seamless gearbox.
After shunting Alonso on the Turn 4-5 complex on the first lap, fan nonfavorite Nakajima followed Honda's Rubens Barrichello, who had started from the pit lane. The Japanese passed the Brazilian late on as the most experienced driver in the field battled brake problems.
Coulthard took a hit on the opening lap, rearranged a barge board on what has become a signature move, an overly optimistic overtaking effort into a corner, then spent the balance of his race struggling with balance.
Biggest groan of the day belonged to Spanish fans whose home hero Alonso was put out of the race on the first lap. Alonso had earlier in the weekend incurred a fine for crossing a white line.
"After qualifying yesterday, I knew that my weekend was going to be difficult," Alonso said. "At the start I was touched by Nakajima and I lost my rear wing. My mechanics did everything to try and allow me to continue, but my race was already compromised. I am extremely disappointed because I was hoping to have a special race in my second home grand prix and for the supporters who came here this weekend to support me."
The circus moves to beloved Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, a driver favorite, in a fortnight.